Archive for the ‘query’ 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.”

Pointers from the Pros: Agent Michelle Brower Offers Query Tips

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 James River Writers conference in Richmond, Va., in October.  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!)

This was the first year JRW offered workshops (they usually have panels only).  Here is what Folio Literary Management agent of awesome Michelle Brower had to say about queries during her (fabulous) two-hour workshop.

ON THE HOOK

  • She reads queries for about 20 seconds, so speak with authority, panache and charm to hook her immediately.
  • It’s all very subjective, so do your research.
    • She tries to be all over the Internet, letting people know what she wants to see.
    • She likes when writers say they’ve targeted her—they have read her client’s work or interviews, etc.
  • The purpose of a query is to make anyone want to read it—like the back of the book cover.
  • She notices too many queries are too vague.
  • She likes to see market comparison (“It’s like Ahab’s Wife meets The Time Traveler’s Wife“) because she has to do this comparison when she pitches it to editors. What would it be next to on someone’s shelf?
    • However, avoid comparing your work to Twilight, Harry Potter, The DaVinci Code, the classics—or two things  that just don’t fit together.

ON STRUCTURE

  • Set-up
    • Where does the book start?
    • It should be interesting and different in some way.
  • Conflict
    • She doesn’t see many queries with this, and it’s important.
    • It should not just be EMOTIONAL—that’s a pet peeve of most agents.
  • Bio
    • Why are you the right author for this book?
    • Awards, conferences, publications, life stuff that makes you an authority on the subject matter, etc.

Example:

Moby Dick

Set-up—Ishmael, a man who has never been to sea, signs up to go on the Pequod.*

*We can see there is conflict even in the set-up.

Conflict—Ahab is crazy and wants to get the white whale; Ishmael is caught up in this madness.

  • For nonfiction proposals, it’s about:
    • The idea
    • The writing
    • The platform—your bio applies 100-fold here.
      • Do you have TV or radio connections? A mailing list? Media access? Social media, etc.

ON NONFICTION AND MEMOIR

  • The stronger your platform, the less of a NF book you have to write for the proposal—you still submit the proposal and tell people how you will sell it.
  • Memoir is “a weird mix”—like a new genre, she says.
    • You write the whole thing before you send the proposal/query.
    • You need a GREAT platform or a literary presence (like with fiction), and your book should be good
    • It’s the art of fiction but the business side of NF.

OTHER WORDS OF WISDOM

  • Querying is tough, but remember that not every agent is for you—you want your agent to be energetic.
  • It’s to your detriment if she took on the book and didn’t love it.
  • Keep the faith—one of her clients was rejected 80 times!
    • Now he’s sold two books and one is being optioned as a film with Coté de Pablo!

Click here for more “Pointers from the Pros.”

In the Blogosphere: 10/19-10/22

“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 over 100 links saved, dating all the way back to the summer (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

At yingle yangle, in one of Paulo Campos’s awesome 20 questions installments, he offers 20 great main-character-shaping questions for you to ask your hero.

On her blog, author Janet Fitch gives 10 writing tips that can help writers of any genre.

Looking for markets to sell your writing?  Susan Johnston over at the Urban Muse suggests 8 alternatives to magazines.

If you’re looking to start a writers’ group, here are 7 questions Colorado writer Molly Anderson-Childers says you should ask yourself in her guest post over at the Guide to Literary Agents blog.

Here, made of awesome up-and-coming YA author Michelle Hodkin gives the 4-1-1 on 3 of what she calls the best industry blogs you may not be reading.

ASK AN AGENT

Here on her blog, author and D4EO agent Mandy Hubbard lays out the process of getting a book published from “the end” to book in hand.

Over at Kidlit.com, Andrea Brown lit agent Mary Kole talks boy protagonists in young adult lit.

On Rants & Ramblings, agent Rachelle Gardner dishes on what the author is responsible for paying . . . for.  (Yeah, there was no great way to write that.  Or, there *was*, but my still-stuffy brain couldn’t find it.)

A subject that seems to be on everyone’s minds lately: Querying a series.  Here, Linn Prentis of Linn Prentis Literary weighs in.

TIME MANAGEMENT

Think you’re busy?  Author Jody Hedlund offers suggestions on how a busy mom can make time to write.

Here’s an interview Andrea Zimmerman over at Babble did with hella-awesome author mom Jennifer Weiner.  It’s more about parenting than it is about writing, but it’s a fun read and good for all the author moms out there.

WILL YOU MARRY . . . I MEAN, QUERY ME?

Here, another GLA guest poster, author Christine Fonseca, gives her take on writing nonfiction book proposals.

Over at Aspiring Mama, Pauline M. Campos likens the query process to finding love.

WHAT YOU NEED TO SUCCEED

Here at Write for Your Life, writer Iain Broome answers the question many folks have asked: Do you need a degree in writing to be a good writer?

On his blog, the Bacharach Blog, Samuel B. Bacharach talks about the three must-haves for proactive leadership for any successful artist.

CONTEST!!

And . . . don’t forget to enter my “Scare Me in 1,000 Words or Less” contest—ends Sunday, Oct. 24, at 11:59 PM EST.  Click here for the details.

Have a great weekend, everybody! :)

In the Blogosphere: 8/23-9/3

“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 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?

I decided to do something a little different today.  I give you: FROM IDEA TO AGENTED IN 15 POSTS

NAME GAME

Before you can get that agent, that book deal, you must first—you know—write the thing.  And before you can do that, you want to make sure you’ve done everything in your power to make every detail as perfect for your story, your project, as you possibly can—from concept to execution.

And your characters’ names are no exception.  These take just as much care and thought as anything else in this process because they give readers certain connotations right away.

Do you think Stephenie Meyer chose “Bella Swan” by accident?  What if she had been Bella Swanson instead?  Katie Swan?  Bella Bwonton?  (<—Bwonton, incidentally, was the name I used for characters all the time when I was in grade school.  I have no idea where I got it or why, but it could have had something to do with my love for wonton soup . . . ).

What about Gretchen Bwonton?  Would the series have been as successful?  (Yes, because someone along the way would have made her change the name.)

Writer’s Digest to the rescue! (Thanks, guys!Here, Devyani Borade talks about this very thing and gives some great advice on how to pick the perfect names for your characters.

SCENE IT

Once you’ve figured that out, you want to make sure your manuscript is filled with memorable scenes.  Why have memorable characters in blah scenes?

Have no fear—Martina Boone of Adventures in Children’s Publishing is here to help!

THE QUERY STAGE

When your MS is looking fantawesome, you’ll want to tackle the next annoying hurdle—the synopsis.

Here, the Michelle-Andelman-repped Kate Hart uses Disney movies to help you boil down your book and make it less daunting.

Now that you have that pesky stuff out of the way, whom will you query?  The Michelle-Wolfson-repped Tawna Feske suggests stalking people (and it’s OK, she says, because all writers are stalkers :) ) in order to find your dream agent.

Once you’ve found him or her, tailored your query, and you’re about to e-mail it . . . you’ll want to clean up that formatting so your message doesn’t get all wonky from cutting and pasting.  Here, WD’s Chuck Sambuchino hands you a broom.

Once your first—and second—and third—form rejection rolls in, you might start screaming,“Why? Why?? Why can’t I get some detailed feedback???” Curtis Brown Ltd.’s Nathan Bransford tells you.

And once your skin is a bit thicker, Writer, Rejected suggests you make it a game.  This will probably save your sanity.

THROWING IN THE TOWEL

At some point, you’ll have enough of the game, and doubt will undoubtedly (<—see what I did there?) creep in.

kt literary’s Kate Schafer Testerman offers some tips on what to do when you fail.

Likewise, D4EO Literary’s Mandy Hubbard helps you decide when to give up (or not to).

A FRESH PAIR OF EYES

Perhaps all you need is some betas to give you some feedback, which can help you give the editing one more go . . . because perhaps you rushed the whole querying thing.

But what is a critquer’s responsibility?  Award-winning writer Jason A. Myers is here to tell you . . .

. . . and up-and-coming YA author Maurissa Guibord gives a “F.R.E.S.H.” perspective on the subject as well in her guest blog on Adventures in Children’s Publishing.

Once you’ve figured that out, Paulo Campos of yingleyangle suggests 20 questions you should ask your betas.

BLOGGING

While you wait for agents to recognize your genius, you blog.  A little platform building can’t hurt, right?

But then you wonder how to increase your readership, so you start reading other writing blogs—whoa!  There are other writing blogs?—and you start to wonder if people think you’re a blogging snob.

So Jody Hedlund helps you decide.

And you realize she’s right when Pat Flynn of Daily Blog Tips gives you five reasons you should respond to all your blog comments.

HUZZAH!

And then someone likes you!  They really like you! An agent offers representation!  And then another! And then . . . what do you do??

Here’s Andrea Brown’s Mary Kole on getting offers from multiple agents.

It’s all just that easy, right? ;)

Have a nice weekend, everyone—and I hope you’ll check out The Write-Brained Network!

In the Blogosphere: 8/16-8/20

“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 May/June-ish (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?

STORY OPENERS

Story openers is a topic we’ve touched on before, here on the blog (here’s the post from our Shenandoah Writers Online live chat on that very subject), but let’s see what other have had to say about it.

Here, D4EO Literary’s Mandy Hubbard dishes on the five things she looks for in the opening pages.

Over at his blog, Constant Revision, the inimitable Simon C. Larter explains the methods behind the madness in his very own opening lines.

And, for a little bit of fun, YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) lists a ton of first lines—so you can see a lot of these tips in action.

YOUR PITCH DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A BITCH

Think you’re ready to query or pitch?  Here’s a comprehensive pre-submission checklist from Martina Boone and Marissa Graff’s brainchild, Adventures in Children’s Publishing.  (<—post not *just* for kids’ lit, BTW)

As you go to write (or tweak) your pitch, check out Anne Brown’s four steps to battling the query in her guest post at Writer Unboxed.

And, why stress over the query?  WordServe Literary’s Rachelle Gardner divulges all the secrets to a great pitch right here!

ON SANITY

As kids and teacher-types go back to school, and as the summer comes to a close (can you believe it’s almost the end of August??), it’s time to start thinking about that evil time management thing again.

Here’s some advice on how to juggle it all from time management master and über-awesome young adult author Maggie Stiefvater.

COMMISERATE

And, if you’re feeling the rejection blues, you’re not alone:

Have a great rest-of-the-weekend!  I’m battling a cold (which is why this post was late).  Boo!!

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.

In the Blogosphere: 2/8-2/12

“In the Blogosphere” is a weekly series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week.  Most posts will be from that week, but if I find some “oldies but goodies,” I’ll throw those up here as well.

I never find as much time to read blogs as I want, but here are a few posts that struck me this week.

RESOURCES

If you’re entering the editing stages, this post by YA author Natalie Whipple is for you.  On her Between Fact & Fiction blog, Whipple discusses different ways to edit.

Stuck on structure?  Aspiring sci-fi author Andrew Rosenberg has a great series on story structure at The WriteRunner—and here, he’s begun another one on scene structure.

Need help with your synopsis?  The good people of Writer’s Digest have provided this checklist for your perusing pleasure.

There is a serious drought of boy books in young adult fiction, but before you try your hand at breaking your way into this area, check out this post over at YA Fresh.  In it, Tina Ferraro shares tips on writing for guys, as outlined by YA authors Michael Reisman and Ben Esch at a recent bookstore appearance.

This isn't the kind of boy book I'm talking about, but it's good too. :)

LITERARY AGENTS

If you’re in the query stages and you’re not getting any bites, see how your query stacks up against a really good one.  Here, Caren Johnson Literary‘s Elana Roth analyzes a query letter that grabbed her.

I know I’ve been linking to her a lot lately, but WordServe Literary‘s Rachelle Gardner keeps writing terrific posts!  In this one, she talks craft, story and voice.

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

In a world where real journalism is dying and blogs are taking over cyberspace, the folks at Hyper Modern Writing remind us of the importance of fact checking.

As well, at Ragan’s PR Daily, Christine Kent says short, snappy subject lines might be the key to freelancing success.

If you’re thinking about joining a writing group, Australia’s Marsha Durham gives you a few things to consider before making a commitment, over on her Writing Companion blog.

IN THE NEWS

I just added this link so I could post a picture of Taylor Lautner (just kidding).  In The New York Times, director of the American Indian Studies Center at the University of California Angela R. Riley opines about Twilight saga author Stephenie Meyer‘s use of the Quileute Indians.

Someone get this poor boy a towel!

INTERVIEWS

Over at Writer’s Digest, check out what 179 Ways to Save a Novel author Peter Selgin has to say about agents, writing and the publishing industry overall.

As well, The Knight Agency‘s Lucienne Diver had an interesting little chat with The Naughty List author Suzanne Young over on her blog, Authorial, Agently and Personal Ramblings.

In case you missed my post earlier in the week, I interviewed fellow Southeastern Writers Association presenter inspirational author Emily Sue Harvey.

Also, Shenandoah Writers Online member Katy Doman conducted our first Author Spotlight with nonfiction writer and poet Dana Wildsmith. You must be a member of SWO to access this interview, but e-mail me at ricki@rickischultz.com, and I’ll send you an invitiation on the double!

GRAMMAR HUMOR

Hehehehehehe.

FACEBOOK FUN

Think your Facebook etiquette is decent?  Better check, using this cartoon at The Oatmeal as well as this YouTube video.

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