Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An Agent's Advice on Finding an Agent

In my last post, I told you about a web seminar I attended given by literary agent Mark McVeigh. (To visit The McVeigh Agency website, click here. To visit Mark's blog, click here.) Several people commented that they'd like to hear what I learned in that seminar, so today I'd like to share some of the highlights.

* When querying an editor, don't mention several projects, just your strongest. You can let them know you're a versatile writer by saying something like "I write middle grade and chapter books as well," but query only one project at a time.

* Have a few projects going on at once (Side note: this is something I've been doing for a while now, and it is so helpful!)

* Think outward to your letter's recipient. Ask yourself what this person wants and then give it to them.

* You can find out what people in the industry want by checking sources such as Publisher's Marketplace, Google, SCBWI, and Verla Kay.

* An author should be prepared to describe their work in three different ways:
#1 - A one-sentence summary that invites discussion and leaves the listener asking for more.
#2 - A 50-word pitch that tells the whole story: beginning, conflict, resolution, main character, secondary characters, time period, etc. (This is what you'll use in your query letter.)
#3 - A 100-150-word synopsis that gives a sense of character development, setting, how your story connects to today's readers, etc.

That's just the basics, there was a lot more great information shared at the webinar, but I don't have the time or space to cover it all here. Mark is offering more webinars on a variety of topics. His webinars include ample time for Q&A and a homework assignment for which he provides feedback. If you're interested in this opportunity, just let me know so I can point you in the right direction.

Side Note: If you'd like to find out a FREE and EASY way to donate a book to a child in need, click here.

41 comments:

Robby said...

Thanks for the tips! They will certainly come in handy. :]

Creepy Query Girl said...

great info! thanks for sharing!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great post! I think I've finally come up with my one line pitch. At least for this week. It seems to change as often as the weather.

JustineDell said...

These are some good tips! Thanks. I've been trying, but I don't think I'll ever get a good one-line pitch for my book worked out. It's hard!

~JD

Old Kitty said...

Hi Susan

Thanks for sharing these tips. I particularly like "An author should be prepared to describe their work in three different ways" section. These are very useful things to try and do and they're things I'm very bad at doing but know I need to perfect.

Thanks too for the info about "the donating books to children" link It really was such an easy thing to do!!

Take care
x

KarenG said...

Thanks for sharing! It sounds like you learned a lot!

Aubrie said...

Thanks for sharing! I need to work on my one sentence pitch!

Joanne said...

Thanks for sharing these. Sometimes that brief synopsis is harder to compose than the novel, but it's so important in communicating our work.

Bossy Betty said...

Thank you so much for sharing these tips!

Jai Joshi said...

These are good insightful point. Thanks, Susan!

Jai

Christine Danek said...

Thanks for the tips and will keep you in mind when I need direction. I'm so scared for my query and when I send this baby out. I must finish revising first.
Thanks!

Jen said...

Wow Susan this is awesome information I really appreciate you taking the time to share it with us! I could really use this helpful advice when it comes to querying. I'm not there yet but when I am I'd love to be prepared, so I think I'll be pocketing this information for sure!

Genie of the Shell said...

Thank you for passing along what you learned! Knowing a bit about what is expected makes the query process so much less intimidating.

Susan Fields said...

You're so welcome, everyone! I'm glad you enjoyed the tips. I'm working on a 150-word synopsis today and it is so hard! I haven't even started thinking about the one-line pitch yet. Like they say: if it was easy, anybody could do it. :) It's nice to at least know what's expected.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Great stuff, Susan - thanks! :-)

Talli Roland said...

Great advice, Susan. It's so nice to get it right from an agent! Thank you!

Theresa Milstein said...

Excellent post. Great tips. While I have a good written pitch (I think), when asked to say it, I find it difficult. I guess I should practice!

I'm glad it's good to have a couple of projects going on because I do.

That book donation link is great. My choices were The Lorax and Charlotte's Web. I guess they'll choose one.

MT said...

I appreciate this information. It's good to know exactly how we need to be prepared when it comes to describing our book. I knew about each of these items, but this post solidifies it for me. Thanks. :)

Julie Dao said...

Fantastic tips, Susan! I plan on querying this summer and will have to put this advice to good use.

Crimey said...

I can never get enough of hearing agents' takes on querying. Great post. Like Julie, I'm planning on query this summer.

Lisa and Laura said...

Fabulous tips! Happy querying everyone!!!

Donna Hosie said...

The 3 different descriptions is something Nathan Bransford has also been blogging about.

Very helpful advice.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Great tips. I'm going to make sure I've got all these things going now. :)

Stephen Tremp said...

Thanks for sharing the wealth. I'll be querying very soon and recently had my letter edited. I use Publisher's Marketplace. Its a great site IMHO. I have the one-sentence summary:

A scientific breakthrough of such magnitude it could radically alter the future of humanity—for better or worse—is in the wrong hands.

Stephen Tremp

Jackee said...

Hooray! This was so helpful! Thanks, Susan. I've been looking forward to this post. And he makes so much sense about what to say when submittng, I think I might have just found my new agent hero. (And now I'm off to make sure I have a one-sentence, a hook, and a synopsis in the manner he's listed... for all my books....)

Have a great day!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Wow, Susan...you're typing is so much easier to read than my handwriting! Thanks for typing it up and posting it for all of our writing friends. :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

And you used a key phrase - "querying an editor." Writers need to know that they can submit directly to most small to mid-range publishers directly without an agent.

Hema P. said...

You did a great job summing up all the important points that Mark shared with us, Susan!

Susan Fields said...

Stephen - That's a great one-line pitch! I'd certainly want to read that book.

L. Diane - You make an excellent point. I didn't actually mean to say "editor," but you're right, these tips are equally applicable to submitting directly to publihsers. Thanks for pointing that out!

Everyone - I'm so glad you all found the tips helpful!

Jemi Fraser said...

Wow - that's great advice. I'm bookmarking this page for future reference! :)

Sandy Shin said...

Thank you for sharing all these great advice! I'm definitely keeping all of these in mind. :)

Lola Sharp said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed the webinar! Technology is kinda yummy in some ways.:)

May I make a suggestion (that works for me)? Start with the one sentence pitch. Once you have that down, build on it to the two para. pitch. Do the big 150 word synopsis last, building on the 2 para. version (adding more subplots and details, etc.). I have to tell you, this way helped me tremendously (note the adverb usage ;)
The big one is the hardest for me, but I used to think it would be the easiest. In truth taking things away from what you have is a lot more difficult than adding to them. Try it and let me know if it helps.
Wonderful post, Susan! Thanks for sharing.
Love,
Lola

Susan Fields said...

Lola - It's funny, I was working on this today and I did the exact opposite. I started writing down everything I wanted in my synopsis (500 words). Then I cut it down (painfully) to 150. I haven't even tried the 1 liner yet. Thanks for the advice, I'll give your way a try.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

You're right, Susan. Your post is amazingly like mine today. Great minds run on the same frequency. And thank you for sharing what you heard. As a battered blood courier, I never get to go anywhere.

Did I just whine? Sorry.

And Stephen, that sounds like a great one sentence hook, Roland

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Myrna Foster said...

Thanks for sharing what he taught, Susan. I always have more than one project going. :o)

Lynn said...

Great tips to pass along! I didn't know about just mentioning your strongest project only. Like, Jemi, bookmarking this post for when I'm ready for this step!

Shelley Sly said...

Those are some great tips! I never thought about the advantage to having multiple projects at once, but I'm glad that's recommended -- because I certainly have a ton of ideas. Thanks for sharing!

Catherine A. Winn said...

This is soooo helpful! Thank you, Susan, for posting this.

notesfromnadir said...

I'm glad I stumbled upon this as I always enjoy reading what the experts have to say.

Thanks for sharing this helpful information.

Slushpile Slut said...

Hey Susan!! OMG! I just checked out Mr. Mark Mcveigh yesterday. How freaky! It's a sign I tell you :)

In all seriousness, Thx for the great post and Thx for signing up for my Next Top Title Blogfest. I took care of those Mr. Linky kinks and we're all good to go!

Have a great w-end!!