Tag Archives: pitching

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.

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/

The dreaded query

Oh, that dreaded query! We all hate doing them. We fret, we sweat, we swear – well, I do. But, if we want representation, if we want to be traditionally published, pitching that query the right way improves our chances of avoiding the Slush Pile or, worse, the Round File.

Putting together a good query letter, with all the proper components, is the hardest writing any of us will ever do. But, there’s help; an App for that, as we say.

Head on over to Get Published Now for Agent Shark Tank, Molli Nichols’ wonderful new YouTube series. You can watch and learn. you can even get your own query package evaluated.

Here’s how it works: Use the submission form on the Agent Shark Tank Page, and submit your query, following her exact instructions. If your query is scheduled for on-camera evaluation, she’ll contact you for permission before placing it on the schedule.

With the upcoming LV Writer’s Conference, this is an excellent resource for preparing for those pitches with the agents and acquisition editors on this year’s faculty.

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.