Looking Back on Published Novel #1

Novel 1

Here are 10 things, in retrospect, that I think/feel about my first novel, and/or how my first book makes me feel about publishing in general. How’s THAT for a random lead-in for a top 10 list?

  1. When someone tells me that they’ve picked up The Next Door Boys, I cringe a little. I didn’t know how to write. I was given almost no edits. I only HOPE that the reader gives me another chance so they can see that I got better! (Every time I hear “got/get/getting/feel better” I think of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I don’t see this as a problem, more like a delightful brain-quirk).
  2. There is nothing like getting that first big YES – I don’t care where or who it comes from. SOMEONE LIKES YOUR IDEA ENOUGH TO PUT MONEY AND TIME AND EFFORT BEHIND IT! That yes never gets old, BTW. And if it does, you should probably step back for a reality/gratitude check. (That sounds way more judgy than I mean for it to, but I’m leavin’ it anyway).
  3. Boy, did I have no idea how little most authors make. And by most, I mean about 95% of authors. (I’m going to exclude category romance authors here b/c their sales are distributed slightly, but just slightly, more evenly)
  4. My first royalty check (for ebook pre-sales) was 42.00. I was still thrilled. My second check for about 1250, was actually less thrilling because it made me realize how little an hour I made on those words.
  5. The characters in my first novel will always hold a special place in my heart, even though I wish with the power of a thousand fiery suns that I could re-edit/re-work the language. The lesson I’ve learned the hard way again and again is this: DON’T RUSH YOUR PROJECT.
  6. I’ll be honest and say that I knew nothing about contracts and also that I would have probably signed away my life to see my book on the shelf. Fortunately, I wasn’t asked to do that.
  7. My first novel was not the first of my novels I saw on Barnes bookshelves, it was one I co-wrote with Nyrae Dawn. My first novel saw the inside of LDS bookstores, and a few Barnes and Nobles in Utah. I lived in Alaska at the time, so…
  8. The impatience to get a second book of a series out in the world, is a force to be reckoned with.
  9. I wish I’d have stood up for myself more in edits, timelines, etc. I wish I’d have spent more time on my novel BEFORE I submitted it for publication. I wish I’d have gotten an agent before I signed my first contract (Only not my first agent, an agent who knows what they’re doing).
  10. As much as I wish I could tweak the inside of my first novel, I do still love the outside. And the longer I’m in publishing, the more I realize that a good cover is something to be cherished, because authors rarely have much say in the final version that comes out into the world.

So, this has been fun reminiscing. I wish I’d have gone to conferences and found more writing partners and friends BEFORE I signed that first contract. I wish I’d have dared to have bigger goals before that first book came out. I wished that I had sat down at some point to see where I wanted my writing to go, rather than being so consumed by the story. At the same time? I do miss the days when I could write with reckless abandon, without hope or understanding of  the heartbreak and/or work that would come after. That being said, I wouldn’t change what I do for anything.

Happy Writing!

~ Jolene Perry

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 6.17.25 PMJolene Perry is an author of young adult novels who was recently transplanted from Alaska to Colorado. She now climbs red rocks, rather than cold, grey ones. Her latest novel, ALL THE FOREVER THINGS, is a 2017 Whitney Finalist, and her teenage heart is happy.

You can find Jo on her website at jolenebperry.com. But at this time of year, most of her time goes to her duties as Chair of the Storymakers Writing Conference, held in Utah each May. And for that community, she is grateful.

Being Courageous & Vulnerable: Writer Edition

I have had numerous conversations lately with people who have had questions about something related to publishing, something that their agent or editor might know, but for reasons including mental health issues, insecurity about writing, or a desire to not be that client, they have each paused and let the stress fester a little.

It can be a very scary thing to send an email to someone who you respect, but with whom you have some feelings of frustration, whether it be something that you don’t understand as well as you should, feedback that wasn’t provided when you thought it would be, or writerly imposter syndrome in general.

For these kinds of situations (and so many others in my life) I reach into the vault of brilliance provided by Brené Brown – this time from her book Rising Strong.  In it, she states over and over about the importance of us acknowledging the story we are telling ourselves. Please note that this isn’t the story that is true or the story that is rational – it is the story we are telling ourselves.

For example, I endure depression. I don’t like to say I suffer from it, though sometimes I do. So, the voices that tend to visit me circulate around being enough of whatever the flavor is of the day. I talk to myself as I’m getting ready for the day, greeting those thoughts when I am able to recognize as depression thoughts by their name (our theme song for this meeting is The Sound of Silence. The Disturbed version is best for me). If I am able to tell when I’m in a depression cyclone and when I am having valid concerns, it helps.

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Then, I choose key moments to share this reality with the professionals I work with. I do NOT recommend this conversation take place at the beginning of the relationship; however, it is something that I think should be shared in close partnerships, and a quality agent or editor relationship should be a close partnership.

With that out of the way, the courage comes in. There are some key things to keep in mind when starting such a conversation:

  1. DO NOT WRITE/CALL WHEN YOU ARE ON AN EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER. There are going to be times when the initial response to something sends your thoughts and feelings on unpredictable loops and that is not the time to talk. I have a colleague who has a sticky note on her computer that says “24 hours.” As soon as she has an email/voicemail/hears of a conversation that gets her heart racing, she looks at it and waits. This is wisdom for many situations. Practice it often and even in excess.
  1. Always, always, start with a humane greeting, a sincere inquiry into how things are going, an expression of gratitude for what has been done. Agents and editors work very hard for a lot of people, and you have the opportunity to be part of that. That’s amazing. Express your gratitude often.
  1. Lay the foundation for where you are coming from:
    • “One of the things that I was wondering . . .”
    • “I’ve always been the kind of person who . . .”
    • “A question that I have had for a while is . . . “

One of the things to remember with this part is that you can come across as accusatory VERY easily. That is not what you want to do.

This is where Brené Browning comes in. You have to convey the story you are telling yourself. It can be incredibly scary. It can feel terrifying. But honest, true expression wins over and over and over.

  1. Present options for resolving the issues you feel need to be addressed. This can be asking for some particular document that you have heard about but not seen. This can be a request to talk more in-depth in the future. This can even be an estimated timeline to receive feedback.

Some candid advice about this kind of openness: one big course correction every once in a while is necessary, but equally necessary is that you, as the author, do everything in your power to make the minor modifications as the journey toward your publication goals continues. It is not healthy for individuals within the relationship or for the relationship in general to lock everything up, let it build, send an email full of courage and vulnerability, and then start over.

There is so much uncertainty within the world of publication – the relationship you have with the people who are help you meet your goals should not have that uncertainty. And if you aren’t certain if what you are sharing has the appropriate tone, ask a trusted confidant/friend/spouse to do a read through for you. For many writers (too many writers) these kinds of moments have made them realize that the relationship they have with their agent or editor isn’t what they thought it was. That brings a whole other blogpost for another time, but please remember that you are working together in a professional partnership. If the relationship you have with your agent/editor is as strong as you’d like it to be, vulnerability and courage will reward you with peace of mind, and that is priceless.

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Tasha

Tasha Seegmiller believes in the magic of love and hope, which she weaves into every story she creates. A co-founder of Thinking Through Our Fingers, she is the managing editor of the writing-focused website as well as a contributor to Writers in the Storm. She is passionate about helping women nourish their creativity and is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, where she serves as a board member. The former high school English teacher now assists in managing the award-winning project-based learning program (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. Tasha married a guy she’s known since she was seven and is the mom of three teens. She is represented by Annelise Robey of Jane Rotrosen Agency.

Finding An Agent

A few months ago, I finished my novel. After multiple revisions and edits, I felt confident about moving on to the next step. Time to find an agent! The excitement to be in this new stage of the writing journey, was both exhilarating and completely daunting.

Now what? Years of working on my craft, and now, in a sense, I was starting all over again in a new space. Where I had tools in my pocket for plotting, character development, dialogue, writing description and more, I didn’t feel like much of a girl scout on “finding an agent.”

  • Was there a right way to do this?
  • How do I find an agent that loves my work?
  • How many agents should I query at the same time?

The unknown of the new process brought many unanswered questions and concerns for me, much like giving yourself a diagnosis from google before going to the doctor. I wanted to find an agent that would see my potential, love my work, and would pursue it. One that would fight for the stories I’d send them.

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How do you go about getting that agent?

1. Figure out what genre you’re writing. This is super important, so that you make sure you’re sending your story to an agent who’s actually looking, and wanting your style and genre of work. This also helps to allow you to lower your search down some. If you’ve written a mystery, don’t send it to agents that aren’t interested in mystery. Even if you think it’s the most amazing story next to Sherlock Holmes, DON’T DO IT.

2. Go to conferences or workshops. A lot of times, there are opportunities to do pitch sessions, manuscript evaluations, and to speak one-on-one with an agent. If you get that opportunity, take it. Not only are you able to build confidence and talk about your story, you get to know the agent, and they get a feel for who you are. Seeing someone’s personality and if you click, what you like about them, even how you feel around them . . . a good start. This allows you to pick out different things you’d want in the future from an agent as far as personality, work ethic, and mannerisms. It’s nice to know that your working relationship could be a good fit.

3. Social Media Sites. We live in a world where you can get to know a lot about publishing companies and agents through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The things that they post show you as an author who they are, what they like, and who they represent. At conferences, when you meet agents, make sure to get a business card with their info, and give them one of yours. This is a great way to make a connection, so you both can find each other online.

4. Online websites. There are so many resources you can find that will give you a list of agents, and what their specific needs are.

  • Querytracker.com
  • Manuscriptwishlist.com
  • Writers.net
  • Writersmarket.com

5. Books are a great tool as well. Writers Market puts out multiple additions every year with updated information on agents and publishing companies. The two books I typically get are Guide to Literary Agents 2018 and Writer’s Market 2018. They’re available now through Writer’s Digest. They have multiple additions with articles on how to write a query letter, what an agent does, and writing a synopsis.

6. Once you find agents who are interested in your specific genre, make a list and research each one even further. Go to their websites. Read everything you can about them. Check out their company motto, what’s important to their business, and what their main focus for authors is. Visit the submission guideline section. Get acquainted with what the company and agent would like you to send to them. Read up on foreign rights, who they represent, and news on what books or movie rights they’re selling. The more information you have about each agent, you can more fully find the best fit for what your author and story needs are.

7. Ask friends in your writing community who represents them and what they like about the company. Pick their brain about the market, questions they asked their agents, and things they’ve learned along the way.

Enjoy this new stage in your writing journey. Remember, the only way you move forward is by taking the first step.

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Lauri Schoenfeld’s first love is her little clan of three silly kidlets and her wonderful hubby, Andy. Writing is a close second. She began writing poems at the age of nine, and her love for literature and music developed into composing thirty songs.  In 2014 her short story, Christmas Treasure, was featured in an anthology called, Angels from their Realms of Story.  Her favorite genre to write is anything dark, psychological, and suspenseful, but she enjoys expanding her horizons and dipping her feet in other genres as well.  Lauri teaches summer writing classes for kids and mentors teens throughout the year. She’s a Child Abuse and Scoliosis Survivor. Lauri runs a group for teen girls with Scoliosis called, The S Squad. Their motto is Strength, Support and Self Confidence.  She’s been known to dance around the house with a spoon as her microphone and sneak toppings from the ice cream bar. Lauri’s taken online classes at the Institute of Children’s Literature and was the President of the League of Utah Writers, Oquirrh Chapter for two years.  She’s a member of Crime Writers and International Thriller Writers.

So You Want to Write a Novel?

I recently asked friends on social media what they’d most like to know about writing—the most popular response had to do with writing a book. How do you start? What do you do when you’ve finished?

Since we’re heading into NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), the beginning seems like a very good place to start.

Where do you start?

How do you grow a baby idea into a full-fledged novel? There’s no one right way to start; some people start with plot, others with characters. Today on NPR, I listened to Jennifer Egan explain that she often starts with a setting and works out from there. The method you use may vary from book to book.

Starting with Plot

Some people (also known as pantsers) prefer to discovery write their story–that is, they might start with some idea of how they want the story to end, but they figure out the story as they write.

In this case, not much prior planning is needed, but if you get stuck, I find Mary Robinette Kowall’s method for pantsers helpful. She suggests that when your character attempts to do something, ask: what’s the smartest thing my character can do here? Did it work? The answer to this should follow a yes/but or no/and sequence: Yes, but complications ensued. No, and this aspect of the story got worse.

Most writers (aka plotters) use some form of pre-plotting before they write, though the level of detail varies immensely. When I’m plotting, I like to use Dan Well’s seven-point story structure, which gives me enough structure to hold the story together, but still lets me discovery write between major plot points.

Author Jami Gold offers lots of useful beat sheets on her website–these give you basic plot points to help shape the story (and generally an approximate idea of when in the story you should hit these points). They work for plot driven stories and romances alike. If you’re looking for more details on plotting, Janice Hardy’s Fiction University has great posts on brainstorming, developing the idea, plotting, and all kinds of other craft stuff.

Starting with Character

Although most novels have a whole host of characters who make up the pages, when you’re starting with character, we’re really talking about the protagonist(s) and the supporting characters who help or hinder (or both) the protagonist through the story. In choosing the protagonist, you generally want to consider who has the most interesting story to tell–most often, this is the person with the most at stake in the story, but not always. (EK Johnston’s wonderful Story of Owen features a protagonist who is not the main actor in the story, but the hero’s bard).

If you’re starting with the character, you’ll want to flesh out the character enough that you can figure out what the character wants–because your character’s pursuit of a goal will be the backbone that grounds your story. K.M. Weiland has one of the best series I know on building a story around the character’s arc (their growth and change over the course of the story).

Matt Bard at the Cockeyed Caravan has a series of useful posts on building a compelling character. Janice Hardy at Fiction University is currently running a series of posts on building a novel in 31 days: recent posts addressed creating characters and developing the protagonist. The website Writers Helping Writers also offers a variety of posts to help you flesh out and understand your character. And of course, we’ve got lots of posts on character that you can find through the search bar on your right.

I’ve got a story idea. Now what?

Once your plot and character are in place, you write. It’s both as simple and as hard as that. I find that one of the hardest things is pushing forward while drafting and resisting the urge to go back and edit what’s already been written. Everyone’s process on drafting is different, but I see lots of beginning writers (and some experienced writers) get stuck fine tuning early chapters and never finishing. I’m a strong proponent of pushing through the draft until you’re done, and then making it pretty. A first draft just has to exist to be perfect–that’s really it’s only purpose.

If you’re having trouble breaking down the large scale of the novel into manageable chunks, try thinking about the action in terms of scenes and sequels.

I finished a book, now what?

*Let it sit for a while. Really. Put it away where you can’t see it. (Do NOT on any account send it to an editor or agent at this stage.) A significant part of good writing is good revision, but re-vision can’t happen until you have the distance to see the thing clearly.

While you’re waiting, read something that fills your creative well. Or read some writing craft books. Elaine has an excellent list of TToF contributor’s favorite craft books.

Once you’ve gotten enough distance to see your story, revise what you can. Jenilyn has some useful tips on getting through a revision, and I’ve got specific tips for breaking down your revision in terms of plot and scene. Go revisit your earlier notes on your characters, and make sure they behave consistently through the story.

Once you’ve revised what you can, the story is ready to get outside eyes on it. I often tell my students that we write for ourselves, but we revise for others. (I recommend doing some of your own revision first, because otherwise, you’ll do what I did with an early novel–sent it to readers as soon as I’d finished the first draft, and almost to a person, they told me to fix stuff I already knew was wrong with the story. Fix what you know is wrong, so you can get feedback on the stuff you don’t know).

Almost all writers need readers as they revise–but not just any reader will do. You want someone who can point out the places that the story needs work, but ideally do so in a way that motivates you to keep working, instead of crushing your soul.

Some writers work with alpha readers, people who read the story in progress. I’m part of a regular writing group that meets every two weeks to read each other’s work.

Some writers work with beta readers, or people who read the story once it’s drafted and somewhat polished–these people give holistic feedback on the story, what works and what doesn’t work.

If you don’t already have people in your life who can read creative work and give critical feedback, Melanie has some great suggestions where to find beta readers. Brooke MacIntyre also has a pretty comprehensive list of places to look for such readers (on Jane Friedman’s website–another excellent resource for writers).

I’ve revised and polished my book, now what?

Once you’ve revised (usually multiple times–my book that sold had been through 9 revisions before my agent saw it), then it’s time to consider publication.

The first thing you need to consider is publishing options–do you plan to self publish your work? Publish through a small press? A national press?

I can’t say much about self-publishing, not having done it myself, but there are lots of great resources out there on how to approach it. Indie author Susan Quinn has a ton of posts on getting started.

Many smaller presses will allow you to submit your work to the press directly, without needing an agent. If this is the best route for you (particularly if your work is something that appeals to a niche market), then you’ll want to spend some time researching presses before querying them. Robert Brewer has a helpful post considering the pros and cons of small presses.

For most national publishers, you’ll want a literary agent to represent your work. Some presses won’t look at unagented submissions; and while others do, your book might languish in the slush pile for months. Literary agents can typically get your work seen faster and help you negotiate a better deal for your book, in exchange for (usually) a 15 percent commission. Jane Friedman has a helpful post about how to find an agent (and how to evaluate if you really need one); and in this post I talk about my experience querying agents (with links to finding agents and writing query letters, which have much the same function as cover letters for job hunters–to persuade the reader to take you on; in this case, represent your book).

Once an agent agrees to represent your book to editors, you might do additional revisions, or you might move directly to submissions, where your agent sends your book to editors who might be interested in publishing the book.

If you’re lucky, someone will offer to publish the book! If not, you try again, with another book. If this seems like a daunting process–it can be, but it can also be a lot of fun. I find writing a book feels a lot like gardening some days: I finish the work dirty, sore, but deeply satisfied at having created something new, at bringing order from chaos. (The garden analogy is particularly apt if you’ve seen my garden recently–overgrown with thistles and the zucchini has taken over the world. My garden, like my writing, is a constant work in process).

If you’ve written a book before, what sources have you found most helpful? If you’re new to this, what questions do you have?

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Rosalyn Eves is a part-time writer, part-time English professor, and full-time mother of three. She loves all things BBC, especially costume dramas and mysteries. When not wrangling children (and sometimes when she should be wrangling children), she’s often found reading. Her debut novel, BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, is now available.

 

Querying Is A Numbers Game

The internet is filled with resources on how to query, how many queries to send at a time, and how to write a query letter. But today I want to talk about something that I haven’t seen discussed nearly as much:

The fact that many querying writers shelve a manuscript without actually having sent out all that many queries.

Let’s start by talking about job applications. I know, totally unrelated, right? But bear with me here for a minute. My husband graduated from college in 2010, with a degree in computer programming. Because programming is a field with immense turnover and an average employee job length of three years, and because he’s done a few years of contract work, he recently started his fifth job in that space of time. Some of these jobs have come without much effort or application, but some of them have come after months of intense job searching.

In the latter situation, when he’s actively putting out applications to companies he doesn’t have connections at already, we’ve discovered that it takes a certain number of applications put out in the ether before things reach a critical mass, at which point things really start to move and he finally ends up with a job offer.

In my experience, querying is much the same. If you pay attention when writers who’ve recently signed with an agent share query stats, you’ll notice that much of the time, they’ve sent at least fifty queries for that book—and often much more than that. I know a fair number of talented writers who’ve signed with big-name agents… but only after they’d sent a hundred or more queries.

While preparing for this post, I asked a group of agented authors about how many queries they sent before signing with their agent. The responses ranged anywhere from 4 to 125. For those who went on to sell that book, there also was no correlation between how many queries an author sent and how quickly the book sold to a publisher; many of the ones who sent the most queries sold within weeks, while some who sent the smallest number of queries got the largest number of publisher rejections. It’s also pertinent to know that for many of these authors, the book that ultimately landed their agent was not the first book they’d queried.

Personally, I sent 43 queries on my debut, which is a fairly small number for my track record—and the only reason it was so relatively few was because I got an agent very quickly after the first #DVPit contest, which made things move much faster than they otherwise would have. On the book I queried before my debut, though, I sent more than 110 queries in total before finally shelving the book.

Why am I sharing all these stats? Because so often, I’ll talk to aspiring authors who are feeling overwhelmed by the query slog and hear that they’re considering shelving books after a relatively small number of queries. Many shelve before reaching the 50-query mark, and a good number shelve even before that, at 30 queries or less. But if you consider that the vast majority of authors send several dozen queries before signing with their agent, and some send a hundred or more, shelving a book when it’s been seen by such a relatively small number of agents isn’t giving the book a true chance.

Viewing querying as a numbers game also helps take the personal sting out of rejections. When you query expecting to have to send out a lot, it’s easier not to get attached to each individual agent you send to, and easier to move on again if you receive a rejection.

Of course, using this query strategy leaves two important questions:

1. How do you know you’re not just throwing away your queries on a book that’s not strong enough?

The answer to the first question is a matter of pretty simple game strategy. I’m a small-batch querier: I typically send 5-10 queries at a time (usually closer to 5, since sending queries takes time!), then wait to see if I get requests from that. A 20-25% request rate while I was querying was usually my sign—if I had that many requests, I could be fairly confident that my query was working well, so I sent out more. I’d send out one or two more queries every week or two, provided I was still getting requests. Over several months, I’d build up to the point where I had a few dozen queries out in the world—at which point, I’d start to get responses on the fulls I’d sent out to the early requesters. Full rejections can be a perfect time to pause, evaluate feedback given, and figure out if it’s time to revise before moving on with more querying.

2. How do you even find that many agents?

Since I write young adult and middle grade, my favorite resource when I’d get ready to query a new book was the Literary Rambles blog, which has a database of literary agents who represent picture book, middle grade, and young adult titles. I also would make note of Writer’s Digest New Agent announcements, check the acknowledgments of my favorite books or Google my favorite authors to see who represented them, and pay attention when my friends talked about the agents they were querying. I also highly recommend QueryTracker as a resource to track and organize queries. For my first queried book—which got sent to only a few agents because it was clear early on that I wasn’t getting any requests and I’d had specific feedback from several industry pros saying that my book just didn’t stand a chance in the current market—I literally kept track of the agents I was querying on a sticky note. I do not recommend that!

So, if you’re querying and starting to get discouraged because you’ve hit twenty, thirty, forty queries—or much more—without an offer, take heart! Remember just how many successful writers didn’t land an agent until they’d sent out a lot of queries. Take those rejections, archive them, eat some chocolate… and send out more!

 

Cindy Baldwin is a Carolina girl who moved to the opposite coast and is gamely doing her part in keeping Portland weird. As a middle schooler, she kept a book under her bathroom sink to read over and over while fixing her hair or brushing her teeth, and she dreams of someday writing just that kind of book. Her debut middle grade novel is forthcoming from HarperCollin’s Children’s in 2018. Find her online at www.cindybaldwinbooks.com and on Twitter at @beingcindy.

What No One Tells You About Pitch Sessions

If you’ve pitched at a conference, chances are you’ve read articles and blog posts about how to pitch. You’ve written out an elevator pitch. You’ve revised it until it shined. You practiced it in front of a mirror.

And you were scared out of your mind when your time came to face the agent across the table.

I’ve pitched at many conferences, but after the first couple of times, I started bending some of the supposed rules. While I’d had requests for pages before, I started getting enthusiastic requests for pages.

After I threw out the rule book on pitches, I got requests for full manuscripts. Continue reading

Eight Tips for Pitching your Book at a Conference

Next week I’ll be at the Storymakers conference, where I’m one of the agent liaisons. (I’ve spent more time than I care to think of in the last week scheduling pitch sessions and sending emails about said pitch sessions). As part of my job, I also get to field questions from attendees about how to best approach their pitch sessions.

Most of these tips can be summed up under be prepared and be professional.

BE PREPARED

Do your research. Before the conference starts, make sure you know something about the agent or editor you’re meeting with. What kinds of books do they represent?

Prepare your pitch. Even though most pitch sessions are ten minutes, you don’t want your pitch to take the full ten minutes. Your pitch should be a short introduction to your book—something that will encourage the agent or editor to ask more questions. A good pitch will convey the plot, genre, and tone of the book—as well as what makes your story unique.

There are lots of great tips for elevator pitches online, but my basic rule for pitches is to include character (who is the story about), goal (what does the character want), conflict (what’s keeping them from what they want), and consequence (what’s at stake if the character fails—and if they succeed). For example, for A New Hope, a young farmboy (character) must learn to control his newfound Jedi powers to destroy the Empire’s newest weapon (goal and conflict) before the Empire quashes their rebellion (consequence).

Practice your pitch! This is harder than it sounds, because you want to sound natural talking about your book. Even if you’ve memorized your pitch, you should be able to deliver it in a conversational style. Practice on your friends (especially the ones you trust to tell you if you sound robotic). If you’re feeling brave, try asking fellow conference goers if they’ll let you practice your pitch on them.

Prepare questions. As mentioned above, your pitch shouldn’t take the full ten minutes. But if the agent or editor seems to exhaust their questions with time to spare, don’t panic! Use the rest of the time to ask the agent questions about publishing, market trends, querying, etc. Their expertise is an invaluable resource. Don’t let it go to waste.

BE PROFESSIONAL

Dress and act as a professional. Look like the professional writer you aspire to be. First impressions do matter, whether we want them to or not.

Be friendly in the session—don’t jump right into your pitch. A few seconds of greeting and small talk can help you relax and set a warmer tone for the pitch. As you’re pitching, remember not to monopolize the conversation. Let the agent or editor ask questions about you and your book; try to keep your answers concise so that you can cover more ground in the pitch session.

Be timely. This means both arrive early to your session so you’re ready to go when the agent is, and also wrap up your session when you’re given the signal to do so.

Say thank you. At the end of the session, remember to thank the agent for their time. It’s a nice gesture that doesn’t cost much, and can cement a good impression for the agent.

Take notes afterward. You can cover a lot of territory in ten minutes—it’s a good idea to take a few minutes after your session to write down any thoughts and impressions before they’re lost.

(Bonus) Have fun! In the stress of pitching, it’s easy to forget that you and the agent share an important commonality: you both love books. This is a chance to meet an interesting new person, and even if they may not be destined to be your agent, you can glean some great tips from the session—and maybe even enjoy yourself. My very favorite pitch session was one where we spent fully half of the session talking about the books we loved. While the pitch itself went well, it’s that conversation that stays with me.

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Rosalyn Eves is a part-time writer, part-time English professor, and full-time mother of three. She loves all things BBC, especially costume dramas and mysteries. When not wrangling children (and sometimes when she should be wrangling children), she’s often found reading. Her debut novel, BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, is now available.