Tuesday, October 29, 2013

SIWC 2013 Workshop #3, Queries that Work

I had my agent pitch session during this workshop, but awesomely enough, left just as the presentation portion ended and she started taking pitches from the audience.

Queries that Work (Adrienne Kerr)

In pitching, harness your enthusiasm, it takes you 50% of the way to the sale. If you aren’t excited about your own work, no one else will be either.
Not enough to know where they work, what they acquire, if you’re pitching, should try to find out what they have acquired recently, what has sold well. Under pressure to repeat good sales like that. Most recent one is a psychological thriller, so another psychological thriller might be a good fit. BUT, that’s not all she represents. Other books will let you guess she’s a sucker for hope & healing stories in Africa.
So, refine your list instead of mass querying. Think of it like interviewing a job. You don’t spend all the time pushing yourself, a significant amount of time is spent figuring out whether it’s a job/company you want to work.
Writers have a tremendous amount of power now, so act like it.

How to research?
Look at the contemporary books on your bookshelf and read the acknowledgments. (IF you don’t read contemporary, you’re missing the biggest trend/etc that people are loving and reacting to right now). Add to your targeted list.
Head to the library and check out authors in your genre who you don’t necessarily like, but are selling well. Add to your targeted list.
Fire up Google and make sure you follow the query guidelines to the letter, and 
I for one would be flattered and appreciate you know my recent sales, which means the author does their research, is thoughtful, etc, -> in other words, a delightful author to work for.

How to find editors?
They are hiding from you! For a long time, editors have been passive, waiting for agents to bring them what’s ‘worthy’ of their attention, but now they are taking a more active role in ferreting out the next big thing. The business is too fast moving now to not pay close attention to everything that’s coming in.

Publishers Marketplace
You can search any deal since 2004? And each comes with a tagline/etc. -> plug in Adrienne’s name and check it out.

Tells you what she’s been selling, but also, there are noticeable missing areas, like she says she accepts sci-fi/fantasy, even though on PM, she hasn’t acquired/sold any. That means she’s unlikely to get excited to get your sci-fi/fantasy novel.

Now that the research is done, time to refine the query/pitching. Here’s some advice:
1) “What if./so what”  -> must be able to sum up the plot-line in 25 words. The ‘so what’ must be in there to show why we should care.
example: What if a cyborg is sent back through time to kill the future savior of the world? - The Terminator
What if a young girl risks her soul to love a vampire boyfriend?
  1. Hollywood style -> compare a couple well known movies/books
  2. Save the Cat method -> sentence or two that includes: irony/humor, paints a compelling picture, genre, killer title
example: A businessman falls in love with a hook er he hired as his date for the evening -> Pretty Woman
  1. read book backs as a reference and adapt them to your purposes.

If you focus too much on plot instead of emotional impact/character, you’ll lose your audience. Answer the question, “Why should we care?”

Now, have elevator pitch, so want to know how they fit in with the genre, so need comparable titles. If you throw in sales numbers for those two books, and everyone will sit up and pay attention. BUT, be subtle and accurate titles, not JK Rowling/Stephen King, etc.
Want to know all writing related things, blogs, Twitter, followers, self-published, (EVERY one should be on Good Reads), are you in writing partner/groups, do you write fanfic, etc. If your job relates to writing in any way, include that.
The more info the editor (and agent) knows, the more information she has to sell your book.

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