The First rule about Springfield Writers Guild is “You do not talk about Writer’s Guild!” I originally posted this on the 31st of August but there was much speculation as to whether or not it was classified as plagiarism. Guess what, it’s me reporting verbatim what she said AND giving her credit for it, so it’s NOT. Now that the drama has been swept under the rug, I will continue with my original post.
I didn’t see any rules (for the guild), but I’m sure they do exist. I got there pretty early and was starting to do some critiquing of a burgeoning septuagenarian writer’s latest piece of sci-fi work, but then my co-hort arrived and we went out to the restaurant part of the meeting place and ate lunch instead. Probably not in the spirit of the guild and all, but I was too excited to see my friend and unfortunately, couldn’t care less.
The only real interesting part of the Guild meeting was the speaker, Angela Drake. She talked to us from a 10 point outline about HOW TO GET AN EDITOR AND AN AGENT. I will now relate the particulars of that as I found it thought provoking and useful as I’m sure you will. These are all points that get you ready to make a pitch to a publisher.
1.) HAVE THE BOOK DONE: This is mainly true when writing fiction, nonfiction is a different animal. A lot of publishers aren’t just asking for partials anymore. A partial is essentially the first three chapters of your book and a well written synopsis. They want the whole thing, and they want it NOW. Take the time to write, edit and polish your book completely before setting out to meet with a publisher. Can’t buy the cart before the horse now can you?
If you finish your book and start doing research on publishers (To be discussed in more detail in section 3) and find that they are not willing to take unsolicited material, then the next step is to get thyself to some conferences! These are an excellent way to meet agents and editors and get your personality in there to work for you. Whatever you do, DON’T TAKE YOUR BOOK TO THE CONFERENCE! They have too many people to talk to. If you do get them to agree to read it, go home and email it or if sending by snail mail, do that right away.
If you were at one of these conferences and they asked you to see your book and you only had a partial, you would have to go home, write the rest of the book (which could take 6 months or more) and THEN send it to them. When that much time passes, they forget about you and you will likely lose the 5 minute window you had to show them your work. Keep in mind, these people get inundated with manuscripts every single day, so if you do get a chance to have them read yours, TAKE IT.
2.) KNOW YOUR QUALIFICATIONS: If you go to a job interview, you’ve got your qualifications for it running through your head as you wait for the interview. This is no different. You need to let them know how you are uniquely qualified to write whatever piece of fiction (or non) you are pitching to them.
For example, a nun probably wouldn’t be an ideal candidate for writing a trashy romance novel. Then again, maybe the lack of sex would make her the best romance novelist ever. Wow, that’s a bad example. All right, let me try again. How about this, I am a landlord and one of the books I’m working on is a series of short stories from a landlord’s perspective… I AM uniquely qualified to write this book! 5 years and hundreds of grating and horrible residents worth of qualified!
My friend Kitty just published a book about a young Indian girl and her dog on the Trail of Tears. Kitty is obsessed with native american history and has a deep family heritage rooted in it. Plus, she and her husband own an Indian trade post and make various relics related to that subject. The dog in the story is a Jack Russell Terrier, and Kitty has three of them as well as a not so small obsession with the breed. She is well qualified to write her book. Shameless plug here: Her new book is called Wheezer And The Painted Frog and will be available on Kindle in September 2011 for FREE for a limited time! Check it out!
3.) KNOW THE HOUSE: For heaven’s sake, do some research!If you are aiming to get published by a certain publisher then you need to know who they are, what they have published in the last 6 months, how many new titles and authors they have signed in that time. You could even go and get some of the books from the local library, or buy them if you have the dough, and read them! Remember: These people had what the publisher was looking for. You can find a lot of this info on the publisher’s website.
4.) KNOW THE EDITOR OR AGENT: This one goes hand in hand with #3. Look up the editors that have signed books of authors similar to you! How easy is that? The editor may also have a blog, check it out! Facebook stalk them, Tweet them! Just do some digging and know what they want so you can be prepared to wow them with your knowledge at the pitch!
5.) KNOW YOUR COMPETITORS: I’m thinking points 3, 4 and 5 are a trifecta. This is again just encouraging you to research who you write like and who signed them because these people will most likely be the ones to sign you. Inquiring to agents who publish stuff that is completely different from yours will likely be a waste of time. Check out their books and blogs. Don’t just sample one, sample several different authors from the same house. Another way to do this is by reading their blogs! Many writers now have blogs (refer back to section 2!) and those are an indication of their writing style. Every person has a unique voice that seeps into or takes over their writing. Know what your publisher likes, find who you are comparable to, and use it as a selling point for yourself.
Here is link to a cool widget where you can paste a sample of your writing and find out who your style most resembles. I don’t know if it’s entirely accurate, but it sure is fun! Check out this post about it by Karen Nelson, one of my current inspirations and a dear friend! I will be putting a link to her blog on mine. She is a fascinating creature… I want to study her habits and migratory patterns! 🙂
I also found this article had a lot to say on this subject and indeed, the entire scope of my article here, even better than I am saying it. Check it out: How I Got My Agent: By Amy Reed
And here’s a thought, start blogging NOW. The more you blog, and the more of a following you get, the more clips of your writing a publisher will have to sample. A following tells them the answer to their main question about you: Will your books sell? YES!
As greedy and unromantic as that seems, it is the reality. Think of every person that follows your blog as someone who will eventually buy your book! That’s right, you are promoting your own book before you even write it! Gain your following now! Be witty, make them laugh, be educational. Be CONSISTENT.
Even though you may be worried that no one will read your blog, you may end up being surprised at how many people on your facebook or twitter friend lists will! There’s a reason these sites are called “Social Networking” sites! They are ideal for marketing yourself and your blog, so do it! It’s easier than you think and even your “boring” life is more interesting than you think. Plus, it’s all just good practice for writing, and we could all use more of that.
6.) PREPARE THE PITCH: Write an intro letter to the person you are going to be pitching to. This should consist of all your personal info, but mainly the back copy of your book, which should be roughly two paragraphs, 50 to 75 words total. In order to write a good back copy you may want to visit your local library or book store and check out the back copy of several of your favorite authors who have recently been published, and maybe even some you have never read to give you some scope and variety. Make notes on particulars.
7.) BUSINESS CARDS: These are not your ordinary business cards. They shouldn’t be flashy, especially not tacky, and would be best if you stick to black print on a white background. The simpler the better. The purpose of this business card is only to give them all your contact info. Keep in mind that your card will probably be thrown away after given to a secretary to add to a rolodex, so again, don’t be flashy or tacky, their only purpose is to PROVIDE INFORMATION ABOUT YOU. So, keep them simple.
You will take two of these into your pitch. One of them will have the title of your manuscript, the target line or theme of the book, and the word count written on the back so you can give it to your interviewer. This will set you apart from the numerous others that pitch to them that day. The second card is left blank so after you finish your pitch you can write down the name of your interviewer and any pertinent comments they made in your pitch. You will put this with your manuscript when you send it in for them to read. This makes them remember who you are and again, makes you stand out from the others.
This is important: When you send in your manuscript, make sure you follow their directions precisely! Some of them may give you a code or a few words to include in you headline. Some of them may do something different. This is how they pick your work, that they actually did want to see, out of the barrage of stuff they get sent that they didn’t request to see. If all else fails write “Requested Material from _______” and of course fill in the blank of where and when they requested to see your work. This is a good rule of thumb with requests you get at conferences too. Refer back to #1 for that info.
8.) DRESS APPROPRIATELY: This is important. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so make it a good one! Remember that this is a business venture for them as well as for you. If you treat it like you are in your lounging attire, meeting a friend for coffee, they will likely think that your goal does not reflect theirs. That goal is to MAKE MONEY. You must convince them that you want to do this for a living, not a hobby.
Business attire is best. For ladies, a suit, dress or skirt. Nothing too flashy. Be conservative. Navy or Black are nice options. No perfume. No gum. Keep the jewlery to a minimum. For gentlemen, same rules, except you probably wouldn’t want to wear a skirt or dress. 🙂 Nice, new, pressed jeans and a blazer may be acceptable for you guys as well.
9.) BE ON TIME: Why not be early?!? 10-15 minutes early is best! WHY?Say the person whose appointment is just ahead of yours freaks out in a nervous spasm and leaves, your appointment just got pushed ahead and if you aren’t there, you may lose your place. Above all: DO NOT BE LATE!
10.) BE COURTEOUS & CONFIDENT: When you sit down to your interview, make sure to shake their hand and thank them for taking the time to do this for you. This is not brown nosing! It is good manners and will, again, set you apart from the person who just went before you by starting the meeting anew.
Regarding being confidence, just remember that you are here! They have chosen to give you 3-5 minutes of their time and that was not by chance. You earned it. Feel good about that. If you are stressed you won’t come off your best. (I made that up, sheer poetry, you’re welcome.) Be at your best and let your personality and passion shine through. Here is a little tidbit that I picked up while working in property management/sales: To be sold on your product, they must first be sold on YOU. Just be at your best. Practice what you are going to say ahead of time, possibly in the mirror, so you can gain confidence in your approach. Hey, it works for my sims, it will work for you too.
Here is another vital thing to remember: They aren’t just hiring you. You are also hiring them to represent your work. A writer’s work is often like their child. That’s right! You are hiring them to see to the well being and proper care and treatment of your child! Also, important: Know who your target audience is. They will ask.
Hope you learned something new, I know I did.
Comments are appreciated!
Here are some additional websites I found while researching this that I thought were pertinent and useful:
Angela Drake’s Blog: http://angeladrake.blogspot.com/ Hint: She was the speaker at SWG and this is HER outline. You may ask her more questions on her blog.
Writer’s Digest: www.writersdigest.com
Predators and Editors: http://pred-ed.com/
If you like the pictures in this post, you can check them out and buy merch on this website: http://www.despair.com/