Tag Archives: agent

Conference Prep

If you’re attending the Las Vegas Writers’ Conference (you are, aren’t you?) you’ll want to attend the first three Monday evening meeting at Community Lutheran Church, 6:30pm. We’ll be refreshing everyone’s memory about Log Lines, Elevator Pitches, and Synopsis, and then helping members with those items. Then, we’ll have practice pitch sessions.

These meetings are extremely helpful in preparing for pitching to the agents and acquisition editors at the conference. Practice builds confidence. Practice helps you present your best effort. Practice helps you look and sound like the professional writer those agents and editors are searching for.

And, HWG members will be voting on Board positions on Monday, April 3.

FREE adult SciFi-Fantasy contest

This is the 26th FREE Dear Lucky Agent online contest with agent judges and super-cool prizes. Here’s the deal: With every contest, the details are essentially the same, but the niche itself changes-meaning each contest is focused around a specific category or two. If you’re writing any kind of fantasy or science fiction novel (for adults), then this 26th contest is for you! The contest is live through end of day, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. The contest is judged by agent Mike Hoogland of Dystel & Goderich. (Dystel and Goderich will be repped at the 2017 LV Writers’ Conference.)

All you have to do is submit the first double-spaced page of your completed work of adult speculative fiction. Read more at Writers Digest

Then if you decide to go forward – what hav eyou got to lose, it’s free! – send E-mail entries to: dearluckyagent26@gmail.com.

Please paste everything. No attachments.

Attn: YA authors

Leviosa is a 4-day non-profit Harry Potter, Young Adult Lit & Writing conference at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, NV, July 7 – 10. They thought some of you might be interested in the Writing Track, and the literary agent
one-on-one pitching sessions available for an additional fee of $25 beyond day pass/registration costs (prices $60-$450: vary from one day pass to VIP level).

They also have over a dozen YA Lit authors coming for lectures & signings.

Registration deadline has been extended: http://leviosa.org/register/

SciFi NOW

If you’re a serious writer, you are at least familiar with the name Chuck Sambuchino. He does a lot of good things for writers, and he’s been faculty at our conference. In particular are his timely updates on Agents open to new submissions.

I know we have several writers amongst us who write SciFi and Chuck has guest authored on Writers In the Storm blog about 14 – count ’em 14! – agents seeking Sci-Fi novels right NOW.

Here’s the link: Writers in the Storm

Pitching to an Agent #6 by Fred Rawyworth

file000638526308PITCHING TO AN AGENT

PART 6

THE FACE TO FACE

 

LIKE A JOB INTERVIEW

I’ve always considered the pitch session as a job interview. That’s exactly what it is. The difference is that it’s a two way street. Not only will you be working for the agent and/or publisher, they’ll be working for you. When you get right down to it, you’re also interviewing them. The biggie right now though, is that the person you’re about to sit down with is holding all the cards. They have the power, the knowledge, and the abilities to take your hopes and dreams and turn them into a reality. Okay, maybe I’m laying it on a bit thick, but isn’t that why you’re there?

To make this less dramatic, you have a product and you’re looking for a manufacturer to produce, distribute and sell that product. That bland enough? You’re the inventor of said product. It’s your job to try to convince a corporation to take your product, refine it and produce it for mass consumption.

I think all of you have seen the movie somewhere where a guy in a business suit nervously tugs at his tie, briefcase in one hand, as he sits outside a boardroom to pitch his idea to a bunch of stuffed shirts. Is this all ringing a bell? Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, let’s lighten things up a bit and get to the reality of pitching to real people at a writer’s conference.

If you’re lucky enough to attend a good conference, you might have a scenario similar to what we have at the Las Vegas Writer’s Conference. I’m using this conference as an example not only to once again plug it (it takes place 24-26 April), but also because I have intimate knowledge of how this conference works.

MILLING ABOUT

You’ll sign in, and for the price of admission, get to pick at least one agent appointment slot, maybe more, depending on the schedule and the number of people adding in names. From personal experience, I’ve never had a problem seeing any agent I’ve wanted to see. These appointments might be the first, second, or third day, first thing in the morning through the end of the day. Because of that, there’s a good chance that during any sessions you pick, during breaks, and during meals you might find yourself talking face-to-face with the very agent you’re going to be pitching your book to. These are good times to get to know them, feel them out, find out what their likes and dislikes are. Get to know them as a person. You’re more than likely going to find them great people. Once in a while, you’ll find a total jerk. That’s happened to me a few times. I pitched to them anyway. Most of the jerks actually had me send them something and I got the expected results. One took two years to respond. I’d totally forgot about him, then out of the blue, I got a letter. “Not for me.”

Then again, the agent you’re pitching to might be teaching one of the sessions you signed up for. That’s another good way to get to know them and what they stand for, what they like and dislike, and how you might approach them. Meals are a good place to talk shop and hear the latest gossip in the publishing world. You can learn the trends and even find out what’s going on with your genre. That could help you slant your pitch when you sit down with them.

THE SIT DOWN

When it’s finally time to sit down, even though you may have met face-to-face before, sit down, shake their hand and introduce yourself. Then, when they ask you to tell them about your book, start out with your slug line. Those are the one or two sentences that should be the first one or two sentences that introduce your story. From there, if you wrote them well, the agent should ask you to tell them more. That’s when you give them a brief, and I mean brief, synopsis of the story including how the story ends.

Do not, and I mean do not ramble on and get off on tangents! Watch the agents’ body language. If their eyes start to wander or glaze over, you’ve lost them. You have to give them a one-two punch. You have to make them want more. When you sit down, your pitch letter, with the short synopsis on the back, should be slipped over to them first thing. They may glance at it, they may not. They may actually read it as they listen to your pitch. However, the chances are, they won’t actually take it. They’ll have you mail it to them. If that’s the case, make sure you revise the letter at the first paragraph to include that it was really nice to meet and talk with them at the Las Vegas Writer’s Conference bla bla bla (or whichever conference you attend). That paragraph is key, so that it puts a time and place on your meeting. Also at the bottom of the letter, make sure to include “I’ve attached … sample chapters and a … page synopsis per your request.”

One more thing, never ever pitch your book in casual conversation. Don’t be pushy. That’s a great way to turn them off. However, if you’re talking at lunch, dinner or wherever, the subject of your writing comes up and the agent says, “Well, tell me about your book,” they’re inviting you in. Otherwise, leave the pitching for your appointment.

Pitching to an Agent #4 by Fred Rayworth

file000638526308PITCHING TO AN AGENT

PART 4

THE PITCH LETTER (QUERY LETTER)

(One That Worked)

 

Now I’m going to show you a pitch letter that worked. Below is the letter that I handed to the publisher that gave me the contract for my upcoming novel, Meleena’s Adventures – Treasure Of The Umbrunna. Keep in mind that I handed it to her at the Las Vegas Writer’s Conference and pitched to her in person. After I sold her on the idea, she had me send it along with the first 50 pages plus a synopsis, which was on the back of this letter.

I have included notes of explanation where appropriate, and left off the headers and dates and a photo, which is something (the photo) you shouldn’t put on a letter you are mailing out! Also, I modified parts of it so as not to give away the actual plot in case anyone wants to read the book.

Re: Meleena’s Adventures – Treasure Of The Umbrunna

Fantasy – 79,500 words

Pen name: Ray Brooks (I have since dumped this idea and will go with my real name).

 

All she wanted was to get rich, but in the end, will she sacrifice all to help another? If she isn’t careful, people may start to think she’s a decent person. (This is the pitch line, the first thing I said to her after introducing myself.)

 

Meleena goes through life one picked pocket at a time.  With a wild heart, she spends each night with a different man, and often wakes up in a strange place.  When she goes after a valuable pearl hidden in a lost city called Slab, she figures this is the way to the easy life.  An old magick user named Grel may hold the key to finding this pearl, and he insists she not go alone if she hopes to survive.  Despite second thoughts and an aversion to working with others, she gathers a team and heads for the lost city.  However, she’s not the only one after the pearl, and Meleena enters into a race to get there first. (This is the body of the text. It should be one paragraph, but I broke a rule and made it two short ones. It worked. They were condensed from the original. The whole point was that the entire letter had to fit on one page, letterhead, spacing, signature, credits, all of it. Keep it brief!)

 

As she fights her way to the lost city, Meleena discovers she’s out of her element in the wilds. Her companions help her survive, and she learns to trust others. After a hazardous journey, she reaches the pearl first, but is betrayed by one of her friends. After escaping, she learns that Grel has been manipulating her all along, and the pearl is not what it seems. Besides the monetary value, it is the only way to provide a cure for the queen of her kingdom, Grel’s former lover. She’s now faced with making a huge profit or helping the queen. This wasn’t the easy life she envisioned.

 

I’m a member of the Henderson Writer’s Group in Henderson, Nevada.  My short story, The House, appeared in the anthology Between the Pages, 2003.  The Walk Home was published in the story collection Writer’s Bloc 2006, The Basement in Writer’s Bloc 2, 2008, and Fun In The Outland in First Voyage, 2008. (Remember, relevant writing credits, which should include a writer’s group, if you’re in one. Though none of these stories are actually fantasy, the chances of the publisher checking, or actually finding those books were pretty slim, so I took the chance. Turns out, many of those books were for sale at the conference! Also, the titles could mean anything, and at least they show I’m a prolific and published writer. Just make sure if you do this, you don’t put something down that is obviously not relevant.)

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

 

Fred B. Rayworth

There you go. An example, a visual aid, without giving away too much of the actual story, but hopefully, enticing you to read it. This example also gives you an idea of one way to successfully pitch to an agent.

Pitching to an Agent #3 by Fred Rayworth

file000638526308PITCHING TO AN AGENT

PART 3

THE PITCH LETTER (QUERY LETTER)

(What Not To Do!)

 

In this part we’ll get down to some technical thingies. We’re going to go over what not to do.

NEGATIVITY

I mentioned never to use negativity or put yourself down. Here are a few examples. Some are overt, while a few may be a bit more subtle.

I know you get lots of submissions, but before you throw mine in the slush pile, I’d appreciate if you’d give me a chance.

Ding ding ding! Red flag! You’re starting negative right out of the gate! Don’t even bring the subject up! In the first place, you should be starting with your slug line. Second, you’re giving the agent the perfect excuse to do just what you are hoping they won’t do.

I’ve been submitting to lots of agents, but was hoping you’d be the right one for my work.

Do I have to explain this one?

I’m a struggling writer and found your agency on line. I would like to present my character…

A little more subtle, but saying you are a struggling writer is not only a cliché, but it’s a given and also a negative. No need to voice it. Scratch the first sentence.

Thank you for considering my work. I may not be the best writer in the world, but I know I’ve come up with a winner here.

You had him or her at the first sentence and blew it with the rest. Hack off that second sentence.

IRRELEVANT MATERIAL & FLUFF

Now for a little biography sample.

I’m an accomplished writer with high grades in English grammar in high school and college. I excelled at all of my term papers and almost had an article published in the alumni newsletter but due to budget constraints, the issue was never printed. I had a short story called The Flag printed in Mystery Journal for Fiberglas Press, 1989.

She’s a mystery writer. The only relevant credit is the last one. The rest of it is pure fluff and irrelevant. Trash it. Inflating a bio with irrelevant material is no way to win friends with an agent. If you only have one credit, so be it. In the good old days, it was okay to throw in the kitchen sink. Nowadays, agents don’t have time to slog through all this crap looking for gems. You’re better off to keep it tight and right. Besides, almosts don’t count.

BRAGGING, SARCASM

I’m sure you get lots of really “great” stories at your agency, but now get ready for a real treat. XXX will blow you away.

Oh, please! Sarcasm, conceit, bragging, grammar problems, the list goes on.

That’s it for now. Next time, an example of a query letter that worked. From there I’ll discuss other forms of query letters and why they may or may not work.

Pitching to an Agent #2 by Fred Rayworth

file000638526308PITCHING TO AN AGENT

PART 2

THE PITCH LETTER (QUERY LETTER)

 

I need to tell you up front that this discussion pertains to pitching fiction and not non-fiction. When it comes to queries, they’re two different animals. I’ve never pitched non-fiction and don’t have a clue how to do it, so if that’s what you’re after, sorry! They’re called proposals, by the way.

WHAT NEXT?

Now that you’ve heard the inevitable (you’re going to have to do one), how are you going to go about it? The easy answer is to tell you to go to the bookstore or the wyberry (library, sorry, I like to play with words) and stock up with literally (if that isn’t a metaphor) hundreds of books on writing query letters. Or, I could condense it all down for you and let you know what’s worked for me and what hasn’t. Keep in mind that you can come up with a generic letter, but trust me, you’ll have to modify it for each agent. Not only is it good to personalize each one, but many agents have their own ideas of what a query letter should contain. A generic query letter smacks of impersonalization. That, my friends, is a big red flag with a trash can bulls-eye right in the middle of it!

THREE THINGS

The most successful query/pitch letters contain three things: The slug line (or pitch), what the story is about, and a bit about yourself (what makes you qualified to write the story). Of course, you don’t write just those things exactly. Remember, this is a letter to a person, not a machine. The key is that the letter should be brief, to the point and only contain relevant information. On top of that, it must be grammatically correct, contain no typos and something you might not always hear from others, it cannot contain any negatives or sarcasm.

Whatever you do, do not put yourself or others down! Do not use sarcasm! I must step back and say that if the sarcasm is part of the plot or storyline, that’s something else. If it’s about you or other authors, do not use it!

DON’T GET CUTESY-POO

Another thing never to do, well, something that is extremely risky and 99% of the time doesn’t work, is to write the query letter in character. Yes, I’m talking about your main character being a hard-bitten detective with a few screws loose upstairs. He or she writes the letter. It’s written on an old typewriter with a cigarette burn in one corner and coffee stains in another. The letter is folded wrong and you sign it with your character’s sloppy signature, typing your real name and address on the envelope. Cutesy-poo to-the-max, but most agents and publishers have been there and done that and can’t hit the trash can with it fast enough. Some may even respond with a nasty letter. A romance writer may send it on frilly stationary soaked in perfume.

Play it straight. No gags, no gimmicks to get yourself noticed. I’ve had more agents tell me they get extremely annoyed by these tactics and put these authors on their ***t lists. Keep that in mind.

REPEAT

I repeat, it’s extremely important the letter have no typos or grammatical errors. When an agent gets hold of it, if they see you can’t even write out a single page without an error, what will a novel or short story look like?

Next time, we break things down even further.

Pitching to an Agent #1 by Fred Rayworth

file000638526308

PITCHING TO AN AGENT

PART 1

THE PITCH LETTER (QUERY LETTER)

 

Probably one of the hardest things an author has to write is the pitch letter. I’m reminded of the teen who doesn’t want to finish high school and comes up with the excuse, “Well Axl Rose of Guns N Roses never graduated, and look at him. He’s a big rock star millionaire.” Well, there’s ambition and dumb luck. He could just as easily have failed and never would have had anything to back himself up with. Mr. William Rose Jr. (his real name) might be the guy cleaning your pool while you’re making the big bucks because you went on to get a degree. Why I bring this up is that some authors think their story is so hot they won’t need to sell it, that agents will be knocking their door down to buy it from them. A pitch letter, or trying to pitch their story isn’t on their radar. They can skip the hard work because their story is so hot, luck (agents and publishers) will seek them out.

THE REAL WORLD

Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen often in the real world. The funny thing is that I actually did see it happen once at the very first writer’s conference I attended in 2005. There was this teenage kid pitching a story he hadn’t even completed. He didn’t have a proper query letter or even any writing samples, as I recall. Yet when he pitched his idea to one of the young adult agents, she signed him on the spot! To this day, I don’t have any idea if anything ever came of that kid or his books (if he ever completed one), but it was one of those magic Axl Rose type moments where lightning strikes. I was there to witness it.

Do you think it will happen to you? Fat chance! You, my friend, are going to have to work for it like the rest of us, if the numbers bear out. So, suck it up and start listening (or reading, if you want to get technical).

NUTS AND BOLTS

The pitch letter, or as it’s more widely known, the query letter, is your way of getting the attention of an agent or publisher. It’s a way of tapping them on the shoulder and saying “Hey, I’ve got something to show you.”

Agents and publishers get literally hundreds, if not thousands of these letters per day/week/month. They’re always looking for the next best thing, something they can sell and from which they can make a ton of money. At the same time, they have to slog through all this crap. To get their attention, you need to be brief, to the point, no bull. Or as Jack Webb used to say in Dragnet, “Just the facts, Ma’am.”

TO THE POINT – FAST

It’s critical you keep your story to the point and be concise in a query letter. You’ve got just a few quick lines to blow their socks off, to pique their interest, to leave them wanting for more. By the time that agent or publisher reaches the end of that letter, they should know the story is a good fit for their agency, they should see that you have the chops to pull it off, and they should be intrigued by the premise, or pitch line. If you can pull all three of those things off, I can almost guarantee they’ll be asking for more.

Next time I’ll discuss the structure of the pitch/query letter and some of the various forms.