Monday, October 25, 2010

Planes, Trains, & One Automobile: My journey to SIWC

flying into Vancouver, BC

The journey to Surrey International Writer's Conference started at 03:30 a.m. (central time).  Two flights, two trains, and one bus ride later I walked through the doors of the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel at 1:27 p.m. (pacific time), which left me three minutes to do the conference check-in before my first Master Class.  
I drug my luggage up two flights of stairs, because I was in too much of a hurry to look for the elevator, and parked myself at the back of the room--secretly hoping no one noticed my grand entrance.  I've tried to transcribe my notes, but I hope you'll bear with me, knowing what all I went through just prior to the class :)

Disclaimer:  My apologies if these notes seem erratic.  Looking back over my own version of short hand, trying to link up marginal notes, and deciphering my chicken scratch might have weakened the effect.  Please understand that things occasionally get off topic when unrelated questions are asked throughout the workshop.  If you have any questions, I can try to expand.  (These aren’t necessarily her exact words. I’ve improvised.)

Pitchcraft--Katharine Sands 
Good news: Content is KING. If you have great content, you’ll do well.  There is room for all genres/content right now-never been a broader market.
Bad news: Very competitive market.
Common mistakes
1.  The agent is not “for hire.”  Don’t treat them like an employee.  Don’t waste their time with half-assed work.  GIVE THEM ONLY YOUR BEST!
2. Leave the backstory in the back.  They do not need to know, and don’t care to know, how long it took you to write this manuscript…how many drafts you’ve done…the obstacles you’ve faced along the way.  
3. Don’t try to present a theme.  They all boil down to “redemption” anyway.  They’ve likely heard your theme a hundred times this week. 
4. Too much humility or hubris.  Don’t be overly cocky or humble.  Be proud of your work but realize you are NOT Stephen King, Anne Rice, Ernest Hemingway, Diana Gabaldon, etc. 
5. Don’t initially mention a series/sequel.  You wouldn’t talk about marriage on a first date, would you?
Pop Quiz:  In one sentence, tell what your book is about.
I’ll give you a moment……
Now.  Consider this…why does the world need this book?  Why are you the best person to write it (especially in non-fiction)?  Is the idea Fresh, Unique, Different?
When you’re writing and rewriting your pitch or query, think about the protag/setting/problem (Maass) or, as Katharine calls it, Person/Place/Pivot.  
Imagine your pitch as a movie trailer.  Setting—do you have first-hand knowledge of the place/time?  Person—zoom in on the character, specifically give name and age.  Problem—what sets things in motion?
When looking for an agent…
*Now, you didn’t hear this from her, BUT homework isn’t everything.  New agents are popping up all the time.  Interns and assistants change agencies, maybe even start their own, and they’ve read the query letters. An agency might have hired an editor or new agent mere days before you send out queries.  They might be looking for something just like your WIP.  It can’t hurt to ask.  In reality, it’s just one NO to add to the list. (She gave an example:  rec’d a query about non-fiction book using poetry to study for SATs.  She had zero interest in poetry or SAT books, but the idea was so fresh and unique, she loved it)
*DO NOT use generalized greetings:  Dear Agent or send the same query with 50 agents in the address line.  Not Good. 
*Apply Everywhere.  You never know who might lay eyes on that query letter.  
Questions to ask an interested agent…
*Why do you want to be my agent?
*What is your strategy for selling it?
*What is your prognosis?  What are the odds of selling it?
*What is your experience with this kind of book?

I will try to post a few classes worth of notes per day, but right now I.Am.Beat.  More to follow in the next few weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo.  I expect you won't be hearing from me in November.

No comments: