Tuesday, November 24, 2015

3 TIPS for Obtaining a Literary Agent

Everyone would agree that the journey to becoming a successful author whether independently or via representation takes guts and guile. Book publicist and literary agent Dawn Michelle Hardy has spent the past thirteen years building the platforms and launching the writing careers of many authors in both fiction and non-fiction. An energetic publishing professional Dawn has dual careers in the industry. As the founder of Dream Relations, PR & Literary Consulting Agency she creates and manages publicity campaigns for a variety of authors who are either with a house or self published. As an Associate Agent with Serendipity Literary Agency she negotiates deals, creates book concepts and manages the writing careers of her clients.

Here are 3 ways that she suggest a writer could go about obtaining an agent, note some of these are ways that she has built her roster at Serendipity Literary Agency.

Strike Up a Smart Social Media Conversation: Now-a-days most literary agents and agencies have Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram profiles. Following and engaging literary agents is a good way to connect virtually. One night I was in a social media mood and I began tweeting for about an hour about my experience as a new agent and the type of projects I was looking for. I shared how my background in publicity served useful. My ideal clients would be members of the media, folks who I knew were strong writers and had established relationships in their respective fields.  During these tweets an editor-in-chief from a national lifestyle magazine reached out and said he’d love to talk to me offline regarding some book ideas he had from his decade as an entertainment journalist.  This exchange resulted in us meeting and discussing his work. He became my first client and my first deal was his book, Nicki Minaj: Hip-Hop Moments for Life by Isoul Harris (Omnibus Press 2012).

If You Write They Will Come: Most people who meet me learn in the first 10 minutes of interaction that I love sports.  Basketball, football, baseball, the Olympics, marathons, etc. As a sports fan I read up on my favorite teams and players. One day I read an article about a 16-time NBA All-Star and his fall from grace. I was truly heartbroken. I looked and saw the article was shared over 20k times. I did my research and contracted the journalist from the Washington Post who wrote the piece. I introduced myself as an agent with Serendipity who enjoyed his article. We talked for an hour about the former point guard of the Philadelphia 76ers, Allen Iverson. The journalist explained he had always considered writing a book someday, but didn’t have a subject in mind. I said write about Allen Iverson, I know this will sell! Not a Game: The Incredible Rise & Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson by Kent Babb published June 2015 with Atria/Simon & Schuster. Keep writing. Agents and editors are always looking for strong writers with established audiences in place.  Write well, build your audience and we will  find you.

The Industry Co-Sign: Do you know of anyone who has already garnered an agent and a book deal? Do you have any friends who work in the publishing industry, at a book store, for a magazine, etc? First person referrals are one of the top 3 ways I prefer to get new clients as an agent. Any one of my clients can refer someone to me and I will gladly take a look at that person’s content. Why? My clients already have an understanding of what I am looking for and they fully understand how I work as an agent. If they send someone my way, they already know the person is a credible pen that they themselves would co-sign for.

The Reasoning: Do you want to be prosperous or popular from your book?  You must be clear on why you are really doing this. It will determine the direction you go to promote and distribute your title. You need to know the answer to why you are taking the time, resources and energy to pen a book.

The Competition: Take a moment to shop the current books in the market that have been written on your topic or targeted toward your audience. Is your book unique? How does it compare to what’s already been done?

The Audience: No matter how worthy you believe your subject matter is, every person that reads books will not buy/read yours. Define your audience so that your message and outreach can be clearly understood. Many self-published authors make the mistake of spreading themselves too thin and never really capitalize on their target audience. Make a primary and secondary list of who your readers are.

The Cost: There are multiple ways to self-publish including print-on-demand or selling e-books only. Do your due diligence and research the most cost effective way to introduce your book to the market. A living room full of boxes of books can be somewhat disturbing if you haven’t fully considered all the cost involved to move the units.

Dawn Michelle Hardy is the recipient of the 2010 “Book Publicist of the Year” honor awarded by African Americans on the Move Book Club. Dawn Michelle has worked with bestselling authors Teri Woods, Danielle Santiago, Miasha, Kiki Swinson, Niobia Bryant and a host of others.
Twitter @DreamRelations

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How I Got My Literary Agent

- Boyd Morrison

It’s been 13 years since I finished writing my first novel. Three weeks ago, I got my first US publishing deal, and my debut thriller novel, The Ark, will be released in 12 different foreign markets and counting. So every writer who talks about persistence being a defining trait of published authors is absolutely correct. Listen to them. Keep writing. Don’t stop at that first novel. Don’t rewrite it over and over. Move on. You’ll improve your chances a hundredfold by writing that next book.

I started writing my first novel, The Adamas Blueprint, while I was finishing my PhD dissertation. Why I thought I could do both at the same time, I have no idea. It took a year to finish the book, and in 1996 I queried four literary agents. Yes, only four. Out of those four, one of them asked to read a partial manuscript and gave me some positive feedback but ultimately decided not to represent me.

One out of four was a stellar percentage, but I didn’t realize it at the time, and I stopped submitting it.  My wife thought I gave up too easily, and she was absolutely right (I listen to her much better now).

At the time, she was just starting her pre-med courses in anticipation of applying to med school. It meant that I would be supporting her during her training, so I put my writing on hold to concentrate on work. Yes, I could have done both at the same time, but my job consisted of sitting at the computer for at least eight hours a day, and the thought of coming home to spend another two hours in front of the computer writing was horrific to me.

So the deal was that I would support her through nine years of pre-med, med school, and residency, and then when she was a full-fledged doctor, I would be able to quit my job and get nine years to become a published author. Not a bad deal, eh?

In January 2005, I left my job to crank up my writing again. I finished my second novel, The Palmyra Impact, in 18 months. Now it was 2006, time to do the agent search again. This time I was more savvy. I went to writers’ conferences like the Las Vegas Writers Conference, Thrillerfest, and the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, and pitched my novel in person. I also queried the traditional way.

I would say my success at getting an agent to ask for a partial manuscript was approximately 1000% better when I pitched my book in person than by query letter. I would strongly advise anyone looking for an agent to pitch them in person at a conference. Putting a face to a book gets the partial through much faster than if it’s a query letter from someone the agent has never met.

At least four agents asked to see the entire manuscript of The Palmyra Impact, but no takers. They liked it, but not enough to represent it. I know I got over 50 rejections, but after you get above that, do you really need to know the exact number? Suffice to say, I queried every agent who I thought would be remotely interested. None were.

Back to the keyboard. I finished my third thriller novel, The Ark, in 2007. This time, I didn’t bother to query. I went straight to conferences to pitch it. The very first time I pitched the story was at Agentfest, a pitch session at Thrillerfest. It was the first year they’d done it, and it wasn’t the kind of pitch sessions where agents talk to a new aspiring author every five minutes.

At the 2007 Agentfest, agents only saw authors during the lunch session, and it was arranged that one agent would sit at each table. Who you were sitting with was totally random. I was talking with author Jon Land at the time, and we were late to the lunch, so we sat at the very last table in the room, which was about six miles from the front.

Being late to that lunch changed my life.

At that table was Irene Goodman, a very well-respected agent who has been in the business for 30 years. She had been representing primarily romance and non-fiction but was looking for thrillers to add to her portfolio.

When we were all seated, she went around the table and asked each writer to pitch their novels to her. Here’s the exact pitch I gave her for The Ark:
A relic from Noah’s Ark gives a religious fanatic and his followers a weapon that will let them recreate the effects of the biblical flood, and former combat engineer Tyler Locke has seven days to find the Ark and the secret hidden inside before it’s used to wipe out civilization again.

As soon as I said “Noah’s Ark”, she asked to see the first three chapters. I told her I still had some slight editing to do, but when it was ready and polished, I would send it to her. I would advise anyone pitching a novel to have a pithy one sentence summary of what your book is. If you can do that, it’s clear that you know what your story is about, which is more more attractive to an agent than a rambling five minute recounting of the plot.

During Thrillerfest and then the PNWA conference that year, I found ten more agents who wanted to read a partial of The Ark. Two months went by as I got feedback from some trusted friends and family on how to improve the book. I also got blurbs from James Rollins and Jon Land, both of whom generously agreed to read an early copy. If you want bestselling authors to give you blurbs, go to conferences and spend time with them. Again, writers’ conferences are where it’s at.

By this time, Irene (she tells me now) wondered if I had forgotten about her. I hadn’t. She was among the first agents I sent the sample chapters to. I mailed them on a Thursday in September. On the following Monday, she called me. CALLED ME! She was the first and only agent to ever call me, which made quite the impression.

She told me she loved the opening, and would I be willing to Fedex the entire manuscript to her? Uh, let me think…Yeah! I would have driven it there on a unicycle if she wanted me to.

Irene received it on Tuesday. I got a call from her on Thursday offering me representation, which was about the most amazing phone call I’ve ever gotten. I chewed it over for a day (I’d sent it to other agents who weren’t quite as quick to respond). On Friday, I accepted.

That was September 2007. It took another two years to get a publishing deal for The Ark and now we’re in negotiations to publish The Adamas Blueprint and The Palmyra Impact (I’ll put the story of how I got published in a separate blog post). But Irene believed in me, my book, and my writing career. That, my friends, is what you want in an agent: someone who is going to be just as persistent as you need to be.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

What NOT to Say to a Literary Agent (or Editor)

There are many dos and don’ts in pitching an editor or an agent. Some are obvious—like don't pitch a book to an agent in the bathroom, or don't tell them your mother loved it. But some of these might not be so obvious, or maybe you hadn’t thought about it from the agent’s/editor’s perspective before.

Either way, I want you to have the tools to succeed, so here is some advice I’ve heard directly from agents/editors. This article is geared toward nonfiction writers.

Side note: When we talk about editors here we are referring to acquisition editors in a publishing house, not freelance editors.

The DON’Ts:

Don’t say your book is the next best seller.

Don’t be informal. Address the agent by name in your query (or in person). This means DO NOT send a mass email to a hundred agents and editors, not even three.  Each letter must be for the sole intended recipient.

Don’t pitch a book in a genre/subject matter the agent doesn’t accept.

Don't say, “My book is for everyone.” That’s just not possible. No book is for everyone. Think about the audience that would actually want to read your book. Feel free to include that in your query – such as my book is for teenage boys in small towns.  

Don't ask an agent/editor to sign a NDA. It doesn’t benefit them to steal your idea. What are they going to do with it? They need the writers so they can sell the story. And agents will not go through extra hoops to read your work. They have hundreds, even thousands, of submissions to look through.

Don't start your query with a question. This has become too commonplace and too cutesy. Agents just want to get right into the meat of your work, not futz around with authors who are trying to be clever.

Don't say how many books you’ve self-published. Unless you’ve SOLD over 5k for one book, the number of books you’ve published before does not matter to an agent. 

*97% of self-published books sell less than 100 copies.

Don't say your book is completely original and unlike anything else. No one's book is 100% unlike anything else. Even Shakespeare’s works were variations of similar stories told time and time again before.

Don't say you are the next "so and so". Let the agent decide how to place your book when selling to an editor.

Don't say you can get X celebrity endorsements which are clearly out of reach. That is a wish list. If you can truly get an endorsement from a celeb or someone important in your field/genre, state enough to show how this claim is actually obtainable.

The DO’s:

Do know your platform. In nonfiction you must not only sell your subject matter, but also why you are an expert in this field—why you are the person to represent this book. You must show your expertise, your current platform (website, social media, speaking gigs, and more).

Do understand the guidelines and expectations required in proposals. Agents do not expect you to have the entire book written (unless it’s a memoir, in which case it is treated like fiction). For nonfiction you can include a beginning sample of your writing, but the content and goals of the work (and your platform) are the most important aspects. Often times, publishing companies will bring in a ghostwriter.

Do have a professional look over your proposal before pitching.

Do list the (correct) genre, and list only one. Genre, in the most basic explanation means where on a bookstore shelf would this book belong? If you aren't sure—go to a Barnes and Noble, look at the shelves and the labels for each, and figure out where you'd put your book. 

Do follow the agent’s guidelines. Each agent has a different set of expectations for queries, so be sure to read their requirements before submitting. Don’t start on the wrong foot by pitching them a book they would never read, or sending items they did not request.

KATIE McCOACH is a developmental editor working with authors of all levels. Her motto is, “Let’s work together to create your best story!” In the past, she worked at a publishing house and apprenticed at a literary agency, where she evaluated agent queries. Her specialties are young adult, new adult, fantasy, romance, and Christian fiction. She is a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and Romance Writers of America. She is a participating editor in Pitch to Publication, and recently judged the 2015 Golden Hearts Awards and the 2014 Stiletto Contest. Katie is also a writer, with essays published in TrainWrite and Kalliope, and is currently working on a contemporary romance novel. She is based in Los Angeles.

Visit her blog for more advice for writers http://www.katiemccoach.com/blog, or connect with her on Twitter: @KatieMcCoach

Monday, July 27, 2015

Getting Your Book Out There

PR Tips for Writers
Tools for promoting and publishing your dream book
By Michelle Tennant

So you have written that book you have dreamed of writing for years and now want to get it published. What next?

For more than 20 years, I have represented numerous authors through my company, Wasabi Publicity. I also worked in a publishing house soon after graduating college. I have seen many publishing strategies, some more successful than others.

The Web gives you opportunities not only to publicize and sell your book, but also to develop your work interactively with your readers. Give yourself the best chance for success by using both traditional and online PR tools to build interest in your book.

Traditional PR opportunities include things like radio and TV interviews and print book reviews. Online tools include email, blogs, social networking and free media query services such as PitchRate.com that connect you with journalists seeking experts in your subject area.

The Internet offers all kinds of ways to get your book published that weren’t even dreamed of a few years ago. Just be aware there are pros and cons of self-publishing online or through on-demand printers versus the traditional route of going through a publishing house.

Many people choose to self-publish because it is cheaper and allows them to keep a higher percent of profits. Some authors create their own companies and then have their books printed on demand through a company such as Bookmasters (www.Bookmasters.com).

Bookmasters, iUniverse (www.iUniverse.com) and Lulu (www.Lulu.com) are a couple companies that can help you self-publish. Keep in mind that some self-publishing companies, like major publishing houses, take a large share of profits, so carefully review any contracts you sign with your lawyer.

If you don’t want to publish yourself, you can go the traditional route of putting out queries to publishing houses and keep self-publishing as a fallback if you don’t land a deal. I always advise aspiring authors to get a book called Writer’s Market. It allows you to see what books are planned for publication in the coming year and what kinds of books publishers are hot to publish.

A third choice that is becoming more and more popular is to publish your book initially in a digital format only.

Books can be great marketing tools, a way to parlay who you are to a larger audience. Combine them with speaking programs, book signings, radio interviews and Web seminars and you have an overall publicity program that both promotes and draws from your published work.

Many of the clients my company serves are experts in various fields who get national publicity, some before they ever published a book. One client used a series of TV appearances around the country to build a platform for a book and later got snatched up by an agent.
Several of my current and past clients are self-published authors. Dr. Jill Murray, a California psychotherapist who specializes in domestic violence, published her book on Iuniverse and had great success getting publicity. We were able to get her on Dr. Phil, and she was also on Oprah and 20/20.

Another client, Dr. Amy Tieman, created her own publishing house called Spark to publish her works. She was later picked up by a larger publishing house. The PR and media platform we helped her develop helped attract the larger publisher willing to invest money to print her book on a larger scale.

However you choose to publish, keep in mind the tremendous potential the Web affords you to make your book a truly interactive experience for readers. Compile email lists of people interested in your work and share useful information, surveys and newsletters with them. Use interactive blogs to let them give input.

Use free online services such as PitchRate and HARO to connect with journalists interested in your area of expertise. Use social media to build interest and get ideas for your work.

Some authors, even ones already carried by large publishing houses, have taken to publishing a chapter at a time online or even allowing readers to give them feedback on first drafts.

Interacting through blogs, social media and traditional media, such as radio call-in shows helps you reach the largest possible audience. Take advantage of every opportunity to build relationships with individuals who will make up a community of supporters for your book. All of these tools will help you to produce the best, most meaningful and relevant work.

Tips to keep in mind:

§                  Use all media opportunities to direct people to your website. One great way to entice visitors is to offer checklists, questionnaires or book excerpts to draw their interest and keep them engaged.
§                  Find out who’s clicking in. The most effective sites today ask visitors to share their email addresses to receive newsletters and information. Compile these lists of interested site visitors and potential customers. You can do many things to develop their trust and loyalty. It might be asking them to participate in research or surveys, special reports or feedback on your products and services, or offering them free advance excerpts from your book.
§                  Offer free Web seminars. Publicize them free through social media sites, and of course you’ll want to notify everyone on your email list.
§                  Get to know the needs of your local media. Don’t just send out press releases. Cultivate relationships with editors, reporters and producers. They may be thrilled to print an expert column if the only “payment” they have to make is to mention your website.
§                  Use free weeklies and alternative health publications. These will often welcome free content and give you valuable exposure. You can find free lists of the media in your area at www.USNLP.com.
§                  Have a catchy and thorough online press kit to make the media’s job easier. At Wasabi Publicity, we help clients develop online press kits using Online PressKit 24/7, a program developed by us. These include ready-to-use biographies, background information, suggested story angles and interview questions.
§                  Use social media and blogs to reach your audience. In today’s rapidly changing media environment, these can help give you an edge (not to mention, credibility).

About the Author: Good Morning America Producer Mable Chan calls Wasabi Publicity’s Chief Creative Officer a “5 Star Publicist.” Michelle calls herself a “storyteller to the media.” For 25+ years, media friends have solicited her help in crafting news stories by requesting sources, sound bites, and statistics. An award-winning writer, Michelle peppers campaigns with insight from her master’s degree in human development, BFA from a top 25 drama school, and expertise seeing PR transition from typewriters to Twitter. She’s either spinning stories or spinning at the gym. After hours, she savors the Smoky Mountains with her husband, husky, and backyard chickens.