Thursday, July 20, 2017

Writing The Follow Up Query Letter

So, you pitched at a conference and an editor or agent has asked to see more. Now what?

First of all, send the darn thing. We have found that barely 30% of people will send in projects following a request at a conference. IF you took up a time slot and pitched and IF someone said to send more, then DO IT!

This letter though will be different from any other query letter though. You are not going to just crank out your old query letter and you are not going to just repeat everything you said during that 7-10 minute speech. This is about reminding the editor or agent why they thought you were totally amazing.

Begin first with a reminder of when you met and what you pitched. Thank them right from the start and tell them what you are sending to them.

Next, briefly remind them what the story is about. Tell them the characters, the premise, the conflict and maybe the solution.

I should note, that with each of these sections, use terms such as "To remind you..." When we are at a conference, we see a lot of people and hear a lot of pitches. We often do not remember these things. This works in your advantage because you are going to do one more thing.

Continually remind them of all the things they said they liked during the meeting! For example...

As a reminder, this was the story about the little girl who finally emerged from the foster care system and the struggles she faced with becoming adjusted to a family who really cared. You noted that this story was truly inspirational and it reminded you of a friend of yours from high school...

By doing this, you are priming them with only good thoughts so when they read the story, they are already thinking good things.

Now, as you give them the premise/pitch, do not use the memorized version you used. Just give them the basics.

Finally, make sure in the last section to mention the other projects you are working on and can't wait to share these ideas with them as well. Also, if you are only sending a partial, tell them that you would very much love to send them a full manuscript. You can also make sure to tell them to call you if they have additional questions or want to see more. Be accessible!

And one last thing. Send it IMMEDIATELY after the conference. DO NOT go home and start edits or want to send it though your critique group one more time. It should have been ready when you pitched. Even if the editor or agent said that he or she would not get to it immediately because they are taking a couple of weeks off, it will be in the email AND they will see the time stamp of when you sent it. This shows follow through.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Attention Writers: Critique Opportunity!

During the months of July and August, Greyhaus Literary Agency is helping out this great cause. 

During the months of July and August, Greyhaus Literary Agency is giving back to authors out there an supporting a fantastic cause. My daughter, Catherine Poppen-Eagan has been fortunate to compete in hunter/jumper equestrian programs. It is that involvement that got me interested in this program.

The EQUUS Foundation, also known as Horse Charities of America, is the only national charity in the United States solely dedicated to horse welfare and fostering the horse-human bond. Our efforts are focused on closing the gap for America's horses currently at risk, and those potentially at risk when their competitive careers are over by funding programs focused on the rescue, rehabilitation and re-training, and re-homing of America's horses in need, and on increasing job opportunities for horses, including those serving the special needs and veterans communities.

During the month of July and August, Greyhaus is focusing its attention on helping out this great program through critiques. All money raised will go directly to The EQUUS Foundation.

  • Query Letter - $25.00 Donation
  • 3-5 page Synopsis - $50.00 Donation
  • First three chapters - $100.00 Donation

Authors participating in this fund raiser will receive the following:
  • Query Letter - Line comments for the query letter including some general feedback about the over-all project/
  • 3-5 page synopsis. - Line comments as well as some general feedback about the over-all project.
  • First three chapters - Chapter by chapter feedback focusing in on character and plot development. An emphasis will be placed on how the story draws the reader in, in terms of the voice and the pacing. 

For all three projects, this is not going to be an edit looking at grammar, punctuation and spelling. If issues such as this do arise, the critique will mention to look for these items.

NOTE: Please understand that any author submitting material for a critique is not going to be considered for representation. Should an author wish to submit the project at a later time, the author would be free to do so. 

Please also note that the feedback provided in the critique does not guarantee that the author will be published by Greyhaus Literary Agency or any other agency or publisher. The comments and feedback are just the opinion of one person.

I also want to note that this is open to ANY writer. BUT, it is also open to non-writers. Should you be interested in supporting this cause, simply follow the procedures for submitting a manuscript to be critiqued. When I contact you with how to submit, simply reply back and let me know your intent.  

Monday, July 17, 2017

Making The Most Of The Conference Experience

Heading to your first writing conference can be a bit daunting. There is a ton to do. You will feel as if your head is spinning. Your critique partners will be pushing you to push everything you have to every editor and agent out there. You will hear of all of these workshops you want to attend... Ugh, I am exhausted already. Although a conference is and should be tiring, there are approaches that will make the trip well worth it. I am going to use the RWA National conference being held at Disneyworld this year as my model.

First of all, you need to know where you are at in your writing career. Are you still working on that first manuscript? Are you 100% certain that project is ready to hit the shelves? Have you written a couple of manuscripts and changing directions. Each will shape what workshops you attend and what you do. In other words, do not try to do everything.

If you are new to writing, stick with those craft sessions, but only focus on those sessions that you know you are weak in. There will be a tendency to head to these sessions with powerhouse speakers. Look to the topic first.

The topic of the workshop should be something that will help guide where you are at right at that moment in your career. Now, I know there are sessions where you can sit with these big name authors and they chat about their career. While this is certainly entertaining, it is not worth the hour you are spending. Listen to it on the CD after the conference. You paid a lot of money to be there so make it all worthwhile.

I am a big fan of the Spotlight sessions. A lot of authors complain that all the editors do is to talk about their latest books and try to get you to buy their books. Ummmm, yes! They spend the time talking about what they liked about these books. LISTEN!!!! They are giving you hints of the voice and tone they really gravitate to. They will not tell you the plots of the stories they want, but they give you very valuable insight. And, I should note, if they open it up for questions, ask them things. Ask them what their last book was they bought from a new author and what led them to that decision. Ask them out of all of the books their line represents, what they would read on the way home from the conference. Ask them turn ons and turn offs when it comes to plots. On this last one, you'll get a lot of general answers but LISTEN! There will be hints there.

Networking is key. DO NOT travel in packs and just sit with friends. This is especially true at the lunches. Divide and conquer. Sit with new people. Talk. Discuss Shop. Share stories. You might be surprised who you meet.

Now let me explain the whole not traveling in packs. Editors and agents DO wander around. They DO like to chat. They DO come to the lunches. But if I see a larger group gathered together, I do not approach the group. It is just awkward communication. I have also come to lunches and found the entire table is taken up by a group of friends (who, by the way, have been hanging out together all day). Just a hint. I have asked to hear pitches at lunch... but if you want to turn away that opportunity...well that is up to you.

Do not pitch your book to editors and agents WITHOUT doing your research. This means not hanging out around the pitch room and waiting for ANY opening. Only pitch your story to people where your story TRULY fits. If you don't know and are simply guessing, then you are not ready to pitch.

Remember also, you are in public. Everyone is watching. This means to be professional at all times. Yes the bars are tempting, but people have ears.

I remember two conferences where it was just a bit awkward sitting there as an agent. In one case, I was talking to an editor friend and this author comes over. She had worked with this editor and wanted to say hi. She also had a bit more to drink than I think she knew. In any case, in the course of the conversation, she finally asked who I was. Now here is the catch. Her novel is one that I had written about on a post before. It was a book that I had said I personally had not liked but it was something potentially good for other people. Once she heard who I was, she launched into an attack on my thoughts. Hmmm? Not good!

In another case, I was at a reception for a publisher and was sitting at one of those round stand up tables they put up for these things. The idea is it is a place to just hang out. In any case, there were two other writers standing right there at the same table with me. They said hi but went on with their conversations. One author talked about how she was shopping for another agent. Apparently her 4th agent she had worked with was just being a complete jerk and she was looking for something better. Um, awkward, considering I knew who the person was and this author did not pay attention to the fact that my name tag also had agent on it.

Along the same lines, this is a professional conference so BE PROFESSIONAL. You can wear your casual clothes and flip flops at your local writing group meetings, but this is where the big guns are at. Business casual to full business is what you should be wearing. No costumes. No gimmicks. Professional.

The conference is not your writing time. I get really frustrated when I hear people say they sat in their room, or by the pool and got a lot of writing done. Again, you paid how much money to do what you can do at home? Keep a pad of paper with you. On breaks, jot down ideas. But please, leave the lap top at home. Don't think that right after that workshop on conflict development, the conference and your hotel room is the time to fix that issue in your novel. Let it sink in first.

Now the hard one, and this is really where the Disney thing comes into play. Yes, I know the mouse is tempting. I am a Disney Freak. I live for Disney. I met my wife at Disneyland. I have been on a lot of Disney Cruises. I collect Disney pins. BUT you paid money to attend this conference. DO NOT waste the time hitting the parks and skipping out on the conference stuff. Go before. Go after. DO NOT go during the trip.

The key to a conference is to think and use it wisely. These are where you need to be, but if you ignore these basic tips, you are simply wasting your money.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Navigating Proposal Writing

Coming up with ideas for stories can be difficult. Not only do authors have to struggle with finding the right characters and the write plots, it is also an issue of determining whether or not the idea will work well months in advance of when that book would hit the shelves. In other words, what works this month may be out of style when that book would finally be ready for publication. The additional struggle is that the time you are spending working on these new proposal ideas is probably taking away time from your current writing that is doing well.

To truly craft a strong proposal is not easy.  Just saying you have a story idea is not enough. To convince an editor or agent will require providing a lot of depth to that small paragraph or two of your proposal. There needs to be a sense of knowing what will hold that book or series together. There needs to be a sense of what the conflict will be that is going to create that dynamic tension within the story.

As you think of your book, try to conceive how you would market this book. What would the book buyers and the readers be thinking as they see the concept in a catalogue or in marketing campaigns by the company. There needs to be a lot to tease the reader into wanting to buy that book or series.

It is also important to consider what your strengths are as a writer. As you write that proposal, think of how you can blend your current voice into this new idea. Trying to dive into a project that is outside of your normal voice will take a lot more work. The goal is to stick with what you know and tweak it slightly.

Finally, think of the market. How does that story fit with what is currently selling now and what may be selling a year from now. This is going to take some guessing, but you can get pretty close if you are examining the current trends.

There really isn't one right way of putting this proposal together. I think the key is to always just think it though. You can't just wing this one. You have to think of all the nuances of the project ahead of time and be prepared with answers. To truly sell a proposal requires you knowing EXACTLY how you see that finished project looking.