Archive for the ‘pitching’ Tag

Pointers from the Pros: Chuck Sambuchino Talks Pitching Agents in Person

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.*

I attended the 38th annual Society of Southwestern Authors’ Wrangling with Writing conference in Tuscon, Ariz., in September.  Although I couldn’t go to all the faboo sessions being offered, I took a ton of notes at those I was lucky enough to attend—and I’m sharing some of those tips with my lovely blog readers. (Thanks for being so fabulous, BTW!)

Here is what Guide to Literary Agents editor and Class-1 Gnome-Slayer Chuck Sambuchino had to say in “Pitching Agents in Person”:


WHAT IT IS & HOW IT WORKS

  • Essentially, you’re reading your query letter out loud—except you’re not actually reading it. Have it memorized.
  • You should be done in 60 sec. Generally, this gives them time to ask questions, etc.
  • You pitch can be anywhere from 3-10 sentences.
  • A pitch is NOT a synopsis.  He points to the backs of DVD boxes, Netflix descriptions, and book jacket flap covers as examples of short pitches yours should emulate.

DO

  • Introduce yourself and state any connections you might have to the agent right away.
  • It’s not like a query letter pitch, where they can read things again if it’s confusing, so be as clear as possible.
  • Give the logline first (a one-sentence description of your manuscript so they understand what it is right away) Then, you can go into the details.
  • State the genre, word count—especially if it’s appropriate to your genre—the title, and that it’s complete.
  • Start with your main character. He says sometimes there is a tendency for writers (especially in sci-fi/fantasy—really, anything with a lot of worldbuilding in it) to begin with setting, but he urges you to start with the main character (MC) and get to the inciting incident.  This propels your book forward—gives the conflict. What goes wrong? Every story is about something going wrong, he says.
  • Show the arc of the character in the pitch—we need to see the character changing.
  • Introduce the antagonist as well.  Show how the MC and antag clash.
  • If you are unsure of your genre, just take a stab at it. Sometimes agents will see your book in a different genre than you anyway.
  • Make sure the agent you’re pitching reps the kind of project you are pitching.
  • After the pitch, then get to the bio stuff—organizations you are part of, previous publications, awards, etc.  If you’ve ever been paid to write, say it—if you don’t have any previous publications, just don’t say anything about that.  They should be interested enough in your book without that stuff (the bio stuff), so don’t stress if you don’t have it.  The important thing is to mention whatever you have done quickly and humbly.
  • Memorize your pitch, but make it more conversational.  Agents are people.  It’s awkward if you just read something or rattle off something you’ve memorized.
  • Pitch them one project.

DON’T

  • Don’t give away the ending.  A pitch is designed to pique interest.  The agent *could* ask for the ending, after your pitch, but don’t offer it unless they’ve asked.
  • Don’t say it’s a series unless they ask.
  • Don’t be general (“highs and lows”—“twists and turns”—“circumstances out of their control”—“sequence of events”).  Give them something specific and concrete. (In his book, Save the Cat, the late screenwriter Blake Snyder talks about the “promise of the premise”when you say what the story is about, scenes pop into the audience’s head—you guess what will happen.  Chuck says, make your pitch delivers on these things.)
  • Don’t talk about your themes.  These should shine through. (Show vs. tell)
  • Don’t hand the agent anything.
  • Don’t spend time on names & quirks of secondary characters.  You don’t want to bog them down with details.
  • Don’t sing it!
  • Don’t mention movie adaptations—that it’s going to be a mega hit, NYT bestseller, etc.

NONFICTION PITCHES

  • These tend to be dry—they’re not designed to be entertaining.  So, talk about what makes the book unique or memorable.
  • You HAVE to have platform here. Who are you? What have you done? Why are you the person to write this book? Are you an expert in the field? A speaker? Do you have leadership roles with something connected to the subject matter? Previous publications?
  • When pitching memoir, try not to focus on the sad details too much.  Show how it can transcend to more than just people with that experience only.  Show it’s a story about X,  but it’s more than that. It can reach more of an audience.

QUESTIONS FROM THE CLASS

Q: Should you say it’s similar to a bestseller?

A: It’s tricky. If you do, avoid all the clichés—(Harry Potter, Twilight, The DaVinci Code, Eat Pray Love).  It’s probably better to say it’s X meets Y.  However, this can come off as kind of egotistical as well, depending on what you’re comparing it to.

Q: Should you pitch a short story collection?

A: Generally, no.  If you have those, you’re better off networking with them at conference—getting your face in their memory for when you query them with it later.  While we’re at it, don’t pitch articles or poetry collections in-person either.

Q: What tense should the query be in?

A: Third-person, present tense for the pitch sentences.

Visit Chuck at the GLA blog or follow him on Twitter.

*Click here for more “Pointers from the Pros.”

In the Blogosphere: 11/22-12/3

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m admittedly behind with my Blogosphere posts—I have about so many links saved, some dating all the way back to the summer (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’m getting there!

CREATING CHARACTERS

Heather Trese over at See Heather Write blogged some of her great notes from the SCBWI conference.  Here, she shares what she learned about creating characters from author Carolyn Mackler.

Over at Writer Unboxed, The Donald (Donald Maass) talks about how to write characters—ones who are on and off the page.

This fantabulicious post on creating memorable characters comes to us from author and D4EO agent Mandy Hubbard, in a guest post she did at the WriteOnCon blog.

What is Aladdin doing with Ariel! I'm telling Eric & Jasmine . . . oh wait.

RULES, OR A LACK THEREOF

Freelancer Kelly James-Enger talks about the 10% rule as applied to word count.

At There Are No Rules, Writer’s Digest and the University of Cincinnati’s Jane Friedman relays Dennis Hensley’s “12 things that matter to agents and editors when being pitched by writers.”

And while we’re on the subject of rules and percentages, Authoress Anonymous over at Miss Snark’s First Victim talks about the 25% rule, when it comes to plot.

TAKING THE BLAH OUT OF BLOGGING

Here, Paranormalcy author and popular blogger Kiersten White gives some blogging tips.

Here, author and speaker Jody Hedlund makes a case for blogging—and how it can help any kind of writer.

YOU’RE GROUNDED!

This post goes along with the one from the last “In the Blogosphere” post (about the “prime real estate” of your manuscript).  In it, the awesome Mary Kole talks about grounding the reader in all things your story—in every chapter.

Here, the Kole-ster does it again (that was supposed to be pronounced “KOLE-stur,” but, admittedly, looks like “molester.”  And kind of made me chuckle too much to fix.* Sorry, MK!) , answering questions about international writers and settings.

KID STUFF

Over at YA Highway, guest columnist Amna Mohdin says your taste in books is your own.

Here, Heather Trese gives some tips on writing for boys, of the middle-grade variety.

Mmm. Tasty

AGENT ADVICE

Tossing around the idea of submitting directly to publishers, sans agent?  YA author Hannah Moskowitz makes a case for why you want to have an agent.

Here is Greenhouse Literary agent Sarah Davies on how to find the best agent for your work.

Yes, I interview lit agents on the GLA blog, and I want to give props to this faboo interview with the aforementioned Sarah Davies (by Michelle Schusterman over at YA Highway).

JUST SO YOU KNOW . . .

In this post at Write Anything, Andrea Allison gives the straight dope on point of view, for all those who need a little refresher course.

Just can’t get away from it—voice!  Here, T.H. Mafi sheds some light on this somewhat intangible, but oh-so-important thing.

Have a newsletter? Sean D’Souza at Copyblogger tells you five reasons no one is reading it.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

In the Blogosphere: 9/12-9/17

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m admittedly behind with my Blogosphere posts—I have about 50 links saved, dating all the way back to June (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?

GET WRITING!

My weekend plans fell through, so now I will be sitting at home [probably with all the lights on all weekend because this will be the first time I'm staying home alone at my house---how lame am I?] with my computer and my beagle.  Which, as much as I love them both, can also both be time sucks!  But I’m buzzing on my WIP right now and would LOVE to get to 30,000 words by Sunday.  It will be a bit of a challenge, but I’m up for it.

Adorable little baby time suck. And a bunch of crap she'd dragged out everywhere and was chewing up. (And my husband's foot.)

All-grown-up time suck. :)

That said, here are some resources—some of which I’ve used and some of which I haven’t yet but might have to employ this weekend, in order to get words written.

  • Write or Die—You can set your word count and your time goals, and this interface will get IN YOUR FACE [well, if you set it that way] until you reach your targets.
  • WriteRoom—This is for Mac users.  It’s a full-screen writing environment that rids you of the “clutter” of word processing programs.  [Referred to by The New York Times as the "ultimate spartan writing utopia."]

  • WordWatchers—This has been working for me this month—and this isn’t just shameless self-promotion, as a number of writers have been getting tremendous amounts of work done using this writing program.  It’s through The Write-Brained Network and, like its sister weight-loss program, is something each individual designs to fit his or her lifestyle.  All us Write-Brainiacs participating have set challenging goals, and while we haven’t all been hitting them each week [guilty!] we have been getting tons of work done. And, some people have finished entire projects or gotten over slumps, due to the prodding encouragement of others.

QUERYING & SUCH

Here, literary agent Jennifer Laughran busts publishing industry myths that most writers believe or have heard.

Yeah, but this is real, though.

Two takes on the 5 stages of querying:

  • The first, a guest post by writer Anne Gallagher on the Guide to Literary Agents blog
  • The second, by the inimitable Tahareh

When when those rejections come, Holen Mathews at GotYA offers some constructive questions you need to ask yourself.

SOCIAL MEDIA TIPPAGE

Social media got you down? [If you're Greyhaus Literary's Scott Eagan, then yes.] Author Jody Hedlund offers some advice on how to use it effectively without allowing it to take over your life—and writing time.

And here, Daily Writing Tips lists 40 Twitter hashtags for writers.

CRAFT

I was going through my saved posts for “In the Blogospheres” today and came across this little jobby, by Heather Trese at See Heather Write, on the importance of having a pitch . . .

. . . which goes hand in hand with the post I wrote this week on plot vs. situation.

It was really hard to narrow down which picture I found to be the chachiest. So I went with this one.

Here is a lovely post by Christina Mandelski over at Will Write for Cake wherein she discusses the importance of setting in a story.

And here, Writing for Digital talks about the value of a good editor.  One edit quite possibly changed the entire course of American history!

FANGIRL LOVE

I heart you, John Green.

I heart you, Meg Cabot. [the Allie Finkle #6, Blast from the Past, review she links to at the end of this post is MINE!]

PLUG!

Inky Fresh Press interviewed little ol’ me!

Grounding is important.

Happy weekend, everyone! Come harass me on the WB or Twitter and make sure I’m getting my words written!

In the Blogosphere: 6/21-7/2

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

BE CAREFUL

As Sarah Jane Freymann Literary’s Katharine Sands discussed at Southeastern Writers association last week, when pitching, it’s important to be ready.  Over at Self Editing Blog, John Robert Marlow discusses jumping the gun: suicide by submission.

Likewise, Nelson Literary Agency’s Kristin Nelson describes the dangers of starting your novel in the wrong place.

WORTHLESS WORDS

You know, I sort of think this is kind of a fabulous blog post.  Writer and part-time doctor Lydia Kang of The Word is My Oyster says: Stop apologizing! Chuck that qualifying language and strengthen your writing.

REALITY CHECK

Thinking of doing a little freelancing?  Down the Shore with Jen’s Jen A. Miller (@jerseyshorejen) explains four things you need in order to make it.  A must-read for all fledgling freelancers.

Aw, a baby freelancer.

QUERY STUFF

Here, award-winning fiction and nonfiction author JC Hutchins of Writer Unboxed discusses crafting killer pitches by offering and analyzing examples of good ones.

I’m a little behind with my Blogosphere posts—I saved this one two months ago!!—but it’s too good not to share.  Young adult fantasy author Jodi Meadows of the Query Project gave us a gift on her birthday: the query she wrote for Erin Incarnate that helped her snag fab agent Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency.

GET WRITING!

Looking for a little motivation to get words written?  The Michelle Wolfson repped Tawna Feske details a recent Twitter writing sensation, #1k1hr, where one must turn off her self-editor and get words on the page—1,000 of them, to be exact—in an hour.

If you’re looking for something just as satisfying but a little more flexible and a little more long-term, check out my new writing SWO program, WordWatchers. Pick a weekly word count goal, and divvy up the words written per day in a way that fits your schedule!

OMG

In honor of Eclipse coming out this week . . . if you thought the people who stand in lines for twelve hours to see the Twilight movies were wonky, you weren’t wrong—but there are wonkier folks out there.  Here, Great White Snark gives us a dozen such psychopaths.

SWA Presenter Spotlight: Author & Lit Agent Katharine Sands

As I announced in December, I will be teaching a workshop on journalistic writing* at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference in June 2010.

To gear up for that, I am featuring interviews and spotlights with this year’s presenters.**

Next up is author and literary agent Katharine Sands.

ABOUT THE PRESENTER

Each year, the Southeastern Writers Association conference hosts one agent in residence; this year, Katharine Sands of Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency will hold that spot.

Sands

As an agent, Sands represents authors in a variety of areas, including: literary and commercial fiction as well as nonfiction projects dealing with food/lifestyle, self-help, cooking, travel, spirituality, pop culture, film/entertainment, humor and home/design.

In addition to taking on and working with clients, Sands wrote Making the Perfect Pitch: Advice from 45 Top Book Agents (Kalmbach), which compiles pitching advice from several of the industry’s top agents.

At the conference in June, Sands will be teaching a class called “Pitchcraft . . . and Querial Killers: How Not to Get an Agent, Even If You Are a Talented Writer.” As well, she will hear pitches in one-on-one sessions and work with writers in group critique classes during the latter half of the program.

THE INTERVIEW

One of last year’s SWA presenters, editor Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest Books, posted a great interview with Sands on his Guide to Literary Agents blog.

Here is an excerpt:

GLA: Speaking of meeting writers at conferences, what do you think is the most common mistake writers make when they give a short in-person pitch to an agent?

KS: One of the things I believe people do wrong is to speak to agents as they would a tax professional or lawyer – somebody for hire who is there to listen to their process and backstory and get involved with their case in that way. Agents are listening in for a reason to be interested, first and foremost, and they’re not going to be interested in the writer’s (process), the word count, what is impeding, or why the writer doesn’t want to do extra work.

See the full interview here.

THE PLUG

For more information about the Southeastern Writers Association conference in June, please see their registration page as well as my recent post.  Don’t wait to sign up—you only have until April 1 to participate in contests and manuscript evaluations, so reserve your spot today!

*To learn more about the workshop I’m teaching, click here.

**For more SWA Presenter Spotlights, click the appropriately-named category in the right-hand sidebar.

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