Tag Archives: agents

Pitching in a Good Way

If you are going to a writers’ conference to pitch a book, here are some  “pitching rules” that I discovered in an article by Kerrie Flanagan, the director of the Northern Colorado Writers and a freelance writer.

1) Remember: agents and publishers want to find good writers as much as writers want to find good agents and publishers. With that thought foremost in your mind, act confident even if you don’t feel it, and try to stay relaxed. The more desperate you seem, the less you will be taken seriously.

2) Make sure you’re pitching to the right person. You don’t want to pitch a young adult book to a publisher who only handles romance.

3) Practice your pitch many times before giving it, and be prepared with a notecard of memory triggers if nerves make you forget where you are. It helps if you can explain the story in one sentence, giving character, goal and conflict. Maybe “The Hunger Games” could have been pitched like this: “Katniss is a teenaged girl from a futuristic, ravaged America who must win the Capital’s twisted and bloodthirsty version of the Olympic Games to stay alive, but whose win would mean the death of her good friend—possibly boyfriend—Peeta.”

4) After your hopefully stunning one-sentence pitch, use the rest of your time to explain what makes your book stand out, and which writers you can compare yourself to in terms of style.

5) Dress professionally. You don’t have to look corporate, if that’s not your style, but make sure that whatever your style is, it’s well-groomed and projects confidence.

6) Be polite. Take time to shake hands and make a bit of small talk before jumping into the pitch. Continue being polite afterward by sending a thank you note—regardless of how the pitch turned out. You want to make a good impression and cultivate relationships, even if this pitch didn’t go as you wanted it to. Leave editors and agents with a positive impression for next time.

7) If all or part of your manuscript is requested, make sure you send it out in a timely manner. Don’t let more than a week go by before sending it (which is why you have to have it finished before you pitch it).

Does anyone have any other suggestions? I’d love to hear them!

Lucy Balch, author of

Love Trumps Logic

Second Wind Publishing

Also available at Amazon.com

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What Viral Media can do for Authors

I have a serious case of author-envy. The subject of my fascination: Jason Pinter, bestselling author of the Henry Parker crime series including THE FURY, THE STOLEN, THE GUILTY and THE MARK. He’s also working on a young reader’s series, which makes me think he’s got caffeine swilling around in his veins.

Did I mention he’s incredibly young, by writers’ standards? He’s 30. I was told in Journalism school and later in other presumably knowledgeable writing circles that a writer has to really live in order to write. Okay, scratch that. It seems one only has to have mojo, a strong imagination, and good story-telling skills. Contacts within the publishing industry don’t hurt, I suppose. Pinter worked as a book editor with three major publishing houses in New York. That may be a cynic’s view. He claims that knowing publishers and agents might get a writer in the door, but if the work’s no good, it won’t get published no matter whose name is on it.

Shortly after getting a three-book contract at age 26, his publisher’s faith in his ability to produce like James Patterson netted him a seven-book deal. Soon after, film rights for The Mark were optioned by an Irish company, Treasure Films. And now it seems he’s turned into an agent himself, working with Waxman Literary Agency as of this month. He’s specializing in commercial fiction, pop culture, sports, and young adults/middle readers. I promise I’m not making this up.

What makes Pinter’s trek even more titillating is that his books have an incredible viral appeal. I was told about him by someone who is really into social media (I’m a casual user compared to most). He said that Pinter’s books took off overnight because of a simple video, a few well-placed blogs and tweets, and a fan base that swelled like a blister ready to burst after a full day in stiff new shoes. By my source’s account, Pinter (or his publisher) sold over 40,000 in a matter of hours upon a release of a new book thanks to his fan base. Kinda takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

There are companies claiming to position writers and their books in the blogosphere for similar results (Author Buzz is one such company). Fees for launches begin around $1,000. Interestingly enough, Pinter did it organically rather than hiring a company, so this is a case study in what works.

Wonder if he’ll have time to blog/tweet/post/write/sleep now that he has a full-time gig with Waxman? Oh wait. Did I mention he’s a native New Yorker? They seem to know how to do all that, since NY is the city that never sleeps. Guess it’s inhabitants only need more coffee to get it all done.

Laura S. Wharton is the author of the upcoming Second Wind Publishing release, The Pirate’s Bastard. Her blog is laurawharton.blogspot.com.

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What agents like and don’t like by Lucy Balch

One of the things I did at the Virginia Festival of the Book this past Saturday was attend a free agents’ roundtable discussion. It was very enlightening, and I’d like to share the notes I took with you.

There were four agents: Simon Lipskar of Writers House, Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency, Laura Rennert of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and Erin L. Cox of Rob Weisbach Creative Management.

Some of what I share might be obvious, but if someone gets even one jewel out of the tidbits of information, this blog will have served its purpose.

One of the topics was query letters. Each agent had a slightly different take on them, but they all said that they like to hear a writer’s voice in the letter. Simon Lipskar went so far as to say that traditional query letters bore him. He wants the writer’s voice to “jump off the page,” which means that the letter cannot succeed if it is following a generic formula.
Jenny Bent said that, while some agents hate gimmicks, she rather likes them. She once accepted a client who wrote his query letter in the voice of one of his characters.
Laura Rennert wants to know who, what, how and why should I care? She likes to know the story behind the story, and if you have credentials to go with your story, be sure to share them with her. For example, if the private investigator in your story solves the crime in an unusual way, let her know. What makes your book stand out?
Erin Cox appreciates the one-line pitch, since she has an advertising background.

All the agents agreed that submission guidelines need to be researched and followed. Know which agencies represent which genres, and know which agent in the agency to submit to, as well as the correct format for submission. For example, Simon Lipskar wants queries to be e-mailed, and they need to take up no more than one page, if printed out.

So what happens once that stellar query letter has hooked an agent? The writer needs to be prepared to answer the question, Is this agent right for me? The answer to that question can be found by answering, Is this agent expressing a genuine interest in my work? Is this agent from a qualified agency? And is this agent successful?
A good way to find out about an agent’s record is to subscribe to the Publishers Market Place (www.publishersmarketplace.com). It costs $20 per month, but it’s a worthwhile investment while you are searching for an agent.
It’s also good for unagented writers to have a list of questions prepared ahead of time, based on what they know about themselves. It will be an uncomfortable partnership up front if the agent likes to work over the phone, but the writer prefers to correspond via e-mail; Or, if the agent likes a strong hands-on approach, but the writer wants more space. It’s good to find out the style of an agent, to see if their style of working is a good match. And, of course, never accept an agent who is asking for money. No reputable agent will ever take money from a writer directly. Visit the Association of Authors’ Representatives website (www.aaronline.org) to review the canon of ethics for agents.

Finally, a list of things that writers should never do:
1) Never “drop in” to an agency, even when you are signed with them. Your agent is a very busy person (hopefully) and will not appreciate it.
2) Never tell an agent that your book “has good movie potential,” or that your husband/wife/mother/sister, etc. loved it. Let the agent be the judge of its lovability.
3) Don’t be too humble. If an established, well-known writer has endorsed your book, tell the agent! They like to know such things. (A running joke at the roundtable was that if anyone in the room knows Oprah, tell them. Immediately.)
4) Don’t think of writing as a hobby. Writing is a job. Take it seriously.
5) Never send a query if you do not have the completed and polished manuscript to back it up.
6) Never send your manuscript to a second agent if you have promised exclusivity to the first agent. Agents move in a small world, and word gets out. A writer does not want to build a reputation as a liar.

The relationship between writer and agent is similar to a marriage. While many agents are reputable, a writer hopes to sign with the agent that is truly the best match. So, writers, do your homework and have your list of questions ready. And write the best book you can, of course!

Lucy Balch
Author of Love Trumps Logic
Available on Amazon.com and http://www.secondwindpublishing.com

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Never take a dare?

            As a child I was warned never to take a dare and I thought I had learned that lesson pretty well.  When my playmates dared me to hop over fences that restrained bad dogs, when buddies dared me to race my ’68 Malibu down main street of the little Oklahoma town where I grew up, when college classmates dared me to try certain chemicals to “expand my consciousness,” I always refused those dares.

            Then, in the spring of 2008, decades after anyone had challenged me to do anything, along came a dare—and for the first time I wasn’t smart enough to refuse it.

 

Someone ought to do something!

            By way of explanation, let me say that I entered one of the famous novel contests on Gather.com.  I heard about the First Chapters Romance contest on the next-to-last day to receive entries.  It seemed simple enough: all I had to do was have a completed romance novel and to submit the first chapter of it.  Hey, it was free.  As it happened I had a novel that, if you closed one eye and held your mouth just right, you could pretend was a romance.  It wasn’t “traditional,” with a pure (and beautiful) heroine and a virtuous (and muscular) hero, but it was more of a romance than it was anything else.  I sent it in.

            The upside of the contest was that I got to read and interact with nearly 300 other writers who submitted the first chapters of their romance novels.  I was struck by the variety and quality of their work.  My novel, I quickly discovered, was not the only “non-traditional” entry.  In commenting on the first chapters of others and in responding to the comments made about mine, I began to make friends with a number of other writers.  I considered it an honor to be included by these romance folks, in part because I was often the only guy.

            A couple important realizations came to me during the FCR competition.  First, if your romance didn’t “fit the mold,” it wasn’t going very far in the contest.  After all, first prize (“only prize,” we were told) was a publishing contract.  The well-known publisher—who reserved the right, incidentally, not to publish any of the books—certainly was not interested in a manuscript that did not conform to the romance mold.  The second realization, that became even more onerous to me as the FCR progressed to its second round (twenty-five semi-finalists submitting their second chapters), was the recognition that only one of these authors was going to get published.  I had long since decided that more than a dozen of the writers in the contest were deserving of publication, most of whom had manuscripts that fit the traditional romantic mold quite well.  That only one writer would emerge as a published author did not seem fair to me (by way of complete disclosure, there were actually two publishing contracts awarded at the end of FCR).

            Just about the time the FCR ended, along came a second Gather.com competition, the FCC (First Chapters Crime—for mystery and detective novels).  I just happened to have one of those lying around as well.  So I entered the FCC.  My experience confirmed the two observations I made in the romance contest: genre publishers are only interested in books that fit their mold perfectly and there are plenty of quality books that fit the mold but never get published.

            From these observations, I began to see the whole publishing industry in a different way—or you might say I began to see it as it truly is for the first time.  At the risk of overstatement, I came to view the traditional publishing industry as a great, heavily fortified castle surrounded by a moat and abiding in the center of Literatureland.  At certain points around the moat there are drawbridges where the ordinary peasants of Literatureland may theoretically seek entrance to the castle, bearing their humble manuscripts.  These entry gates are manned diligently by a special group of guards called “agents”(surprise; turns out the agents may get paid by the writers, but they’re really working for the industry).  To gain admission to the craggy castle of Literatureland, one must bow down and surrender one’s cherished manuscript to a guard.  The guards, more often than not, will refuse the entreaty of the peasant and encourage the humble writer to go find another guard who’s having a better day.  Lot’s of writers go all the way around the castle and never find a guard who’s willing to deal with her or his manuscript.  It should be noted that, on those occasions when an author does find an agent who likes the manuscript enough to take it across the moat, there is no assurance the guard will actually be admitted into the castle with the manuscript.  Apart from getting a portion of whatever financial reward the peasant may receive from the nobility in the upper reaches of the castle, the main function of an agent is to provide an extra barrier to prevent publishers from actually having to deal with writers. Okay, that’s enough whining about Literatureland.

 

The Dare

             As I moved on through the first chapter contests, I continued to complain to my fellow writers about the difficulty quality writers have in getting a fair hearing and about the “homogenizing” effect of the industry.  Finally my friends got really tired of listening to my complaints and issued a dare: “Mike, if you don’t like the system works, then why don’t you start your own publishing company?”

            What was I thinking?  I took the dare.  At the end of May, 2008, Second Wind Publishing, LLC, came into being.  By the end of July, I had accepted a dozen and a half manuscripts.  By the end of September, the first batch of books was in print.  As we close in on the end of 2008, about seven or eight more are about to be published.

            You can find out about our brand new company and you can even submit one of those not-quite-traditional, previously-overlooked manuscripts you have lying around.  Just go to the website.  There aren’t any castles, moats or guards.

 

Mike Simpson, owner and frog prince of Second Wind Publishing.

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E-publishing , Print on Demand (POD), and Kindle Markets-Are They The Wave Of The Future?

Ms. Danzo writes fiction and has twenty years experience working in Sales and Marketing and has published various articles on a variety of subjects, including articles on professional/fictional writing and marketing. 

E-publishing , Print on Demand (POD), and Kindle Markets-Are They The Wave Of The Future?
by Sia McKye Danzo

For most of us, writing is a driving force within us. A passion. I’ve written and told stories all my life, but have only gotten serious about it the last couple of years. Some of you have been writing for many years.

Our goal, of course, is getting published. Getting noticed by an agent or publisher. We write to entertain others, to take them on a journey. To do that we have to have an audience, which means being published. We’ve worked hard towards that goal. We’ve entered contests, are trying short-stories and articles to build up our credits to get noticed. We’ve used other writers to read our stories and give us back constructive feedback all with the goal of getting published. We’ve queried. We’ve gotten back rejection letters and we sigh. We keep going, yet sometimes it’s discouraging. We get excited about an agent who requests more of our manuscript-almost afraid to hope because haven’t we all been there? Waiting on pins and needles for them to get back to us, hoping that maybe THIS time, it will be the one who gets our story published.

I get discouraged. I know some of you have as well. How many of you have really considered publishing to Print on Demand (POD) publishers or places like Kindle? It’s the wave of the future, I’m sure. One good indication of that is the hoopla with Amazon and e-books. Most major publishing houses have an e-publishing section because of reading the trends. Granted some of the e-books they offer are a bit out there. I know Harlequin has had down loadable stories, for a small price, for some time. I rather think they saw the handwriting on the wall and were testing out the market for e-publishing. They now offer some of their authors through e-publishing and some authors are strictly e-published.

A benefit of e-publishing and POD, is a bigger share of royalties, than with a traditional publisher-but not advances-as a rule. Your work is out there, but not necessarily on the local book store shelves like you pictured in your mind. Unless you are willing to promote yourself and your writing to get it there. You have to market, via blogs, websites, and social networks. Authors have to do that regardless of the medium, but the marketing is pretty much on you rather than assistance from a publisher.

Self-publishing/Vanity Press is where the author paid someone to print their book and not always a good quality of book either in writing style or subject matter. Unfortunately, some negative stigma of Vanity Press books still color people’s perception of e-publishing or Print on Demand publications.

Is e-publishing, not self-publishing, a good thing? Or do you think it’s harmful for an author in the long-run? Some of you have gone that route. What are your experiences now that you’ve done it? Have any of you been approached by an agent or publisher? Have any of you heard of anyone getting picked up by a publisher going this route? Does it count as being published when doing our queries?

Any thoughts?

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