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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015

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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

Writers meeting--Dos and Don'ts of Dealing with an Agent

We're meeting at Barnes and Noble tonight and Robert Dugoni is the speaker again this month. First we have to get through the welcoming words. I'm blogging live from the presentation.

Started with his pitch for "Damage Control." That's what we all have to do. Prepare the pitch and then try it on people who have no idea what your book is about. Not your spouse. Pitch to someone who never heard it. Check out places where authors are speaking and see how the store has summed up their book.

Several new agents and editors attending this year's conference. Several sold books from NW authors after last year's conference.

Common sense. Most agents Bob has met are pretty ordinary. They aren't impressive. Agents ask Bob to tell people that they get rejected, too. A lot. More than most authors. Bob just had a book rejected six times on his next book. The agent wants to say yes because they know what it is like to hear "no." Second, they are looking for the next great novel. They want the next DaVinci Code. But they have lives like we have. They read querries and synopses late at night. You have to be perfect. At the conference, you get ten minutes with them. That is more than you will ever get with them on a querry. Ten minutes is a really long time and it is even longer if you start off poorly. Take your time, be on time. Introduce yourself. Be able to pitch your book in less than five minutes. Screen writers in one or two sentences. Be honest with your pitch. Don't make it sound like its a sci fi if it is a western. Be able to classify the genre. Where would it fit on these bookshelves.

Know your main character. You should be able to pitch your book through your main character. Be prepared to answer questions about your background. Show how it connects to your novel. If your resume is interesting, bring a copy of it. Be ready to answer if you are working on any other novels. Don't necessarily focus on writing a series. (This is the first of six. Not unless this one sells.) Have you been published before.

Do you talk about self-published books? Tough to answer. There is a stigma about sp books. Assumption that no one else would publish it. But if you've sold 3000 copies, let them know. It's suddenly positive.

Dress for success. You won't look foolish if you are dressed well. You will if you aren't. Not necessarily dressed up, but not like a slob. Be confident, but be humble. You probably haven't written the next great novel. If you have your agent will know soon enough. Don't tell him you write exactly like Steven King. Nobody writes like Steven King but Steven King. At the same time as you are humble, be excited about it. You have accomplished something.

Be prepared for rejection, but look at it positively. If they say it doesn't fit their needs, don't start arguing with them. They aren't the agent you want. Say thanks and move on. You want the agent who calls you up and says "Don't sign with anyone until I get there." If they say send it to them, don't whoop. It's a long journey and this is just one step. If they say yes, don't be afraid to ask them questions about their agency so they know that you are serious about them as well.

Is there a fundamental difference between pitching to an agent or to an editor? Not really. Some editors only want to work with agents. But otherwise, they are going to pitch about the same. Sometimes the editor will suggest an agent to work with. Agents really help with credibility.

Electronic publishing? Has heard stories about books being ripped off and stolen by other publishers with no revenue return. Doesn't really know what the standard is at this time.

Pitch while you are still revising? Yes.

Are there agents who collect writers hoping they will get someone? Probably exist, but pretty rare. Most agents don't want authors they can't sell. They don't contract writers to get them off the market.

Some of the dynamics that make the relationship work. Agent is always available, always helpful, always asking what you are working on next. She really knows what will sell and what you should work on or if you should be working on something else. You want the agent to be like a plumber. If you've got a leaky faucet, you want to talk directly to the plumber.

If you want editorial help, there are editors that are trustworthy and good and not just looking to make money off of you. The big places that want $10,000 to help you publish the book just want the $10,000. They don't want a percentage of your sales because they don't think you will have any. Not much in the way of stealing non-copyrighted material. There's a limited number of stories. Everyone writes the same story. It's all about how well you write it.

Literary or mainstream. Tell them mainstream. Literary has a stigma. If you call it mainstream and the agent loves it and says it's really more literary, let's market it that way, who's going to complain?

Agent doesn't want to do work on the manuscript, but many will. You want to be embarrassed and humiliated by the agent, not by the editor. Listen to them. The old-style editor no longer exists. The agents do a lot of that now if it happens at all.
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Comments

Hi, long time no hear! Thanks for the update, I'll be keeping an eye on what you'll be posting soon.
Thank you. I've been slammed at work lately and extra time has been spent getting the three writing projects I'm working on ready to go. Finally have my competition submission off in the mail and now am ready to move past the first three chapters.

Hope things have been working out for you. I was very concerned when I heard about your auto accident. --Best wishes.