Tag: get an agent

Book Proposal Workshop Woes

A professional spends time and money on education. It’s no different for me as an author. I’ve spend money on conferences, retreats, online classes, books and most recently a workshop. This particular workshop claims to show me the best way to write a book proposal.

Fiction writers don’t generally have to write proposals. As the instructor of my workshop—literary agent Wendy Keller—is fond of saying, a book proposal is like a nonfiction book’s business plan. Because a nonfiction book is selling knowledge and the publisher who puts it out there wants to be sure the plan is sound (meaning has a good hope of making money).

This spring, I attended an online writing conference and one of the sessions advertised this workshop. Of course, like any good marketing campaign, it made it sound like there was a decent chance any sound proposals would be snapped up by the agency presenting the course.

Or not.

But what’s $199 among friends? Or would that be agent and possible future author client?

Or maybe, it’s a six-session course that gives feedback on every part of the proposal. By the time I finish, the whole proposal will have been seen by this agent and multiple editors. It should be as close to perfect as I can make it.

After that, I’ll be able to actually shop my nonfiction book Through the Valley of Shadows to my top agency choices. It might have the chance to be sold.

And this is one of my writing projects for 2020.

If only I wasn’t in the middle of writing first drafts and revising beta drafts and working eight-hour days teaching freshmen about refugees and imperialism.

If wishes were pennies, I’d be rich.

The Sessions

The first two webinars were horrible. Not because the information shared wasn’t good, but the first one had such horrible audio quality that it gave me a headache. The second one, the slides that the presenter shared weren’t actually shown. Not helpful if you’re trying to take notes.

After that, it wasn’t too bad. There was a combination of ideas and encouragement, but I didn’t feel encouraged.

Seriously. She basically said if you didn’t have a platform, her agency wouldn’t pick you up. And if you self-published your book, you were only hurting yourself. Unless you had a ready-made clientele.

I got the message…but not the T-shirt

Yes, she did give the framework necessary for writing a proposal. She had a few unique tips I hadn’t heard elsewhere, but in reality, there wasn’t much here.

Unless the idea that I “fabricate” speaking dates (nine to twelve months in the future) is to be considered an excellent piece of advice for a Christian author. (I wish I was joking.)

The Homework

The assignments were directly related to the lessons. The coursework divided the proposal into parts and each lesson covered one of these. The corresponding homework involved writing that part.

One of the pieces of the proposal that I hadn’t completed before was the comparative analysis. This involves reading as money books similar to the one you’re writing as possible. Our first week we had to find these books in the top 150,000 on Amazon.

During the following six weeks, we were supposed to read these six to eight books.

Yeah. Right.

A re-enactment of one of my THREE TBR piles before they collapsed

I read two books per week, but I didn’t want to read six books on the topic of grief. Not when the skies were gray and I had writing to do.

So, I’m still working on the last two of those books. Because I need to have read the by the time I send my proposal out. I can hope that the books will STILL be on the Amazon charts at that point.

The End Result

At the end, I had every piece of this proposal written. All except the final piece—Marketing Plan, also the second most important section of the document—had been read and reviewed by professional editors. I’d had the opportunity to rewrite each section according to the recommendations from said editors.

The entire proposal had final input from an editor. After implementing these suggestions, I would have the best book proposal I could possible write.

What I didn’t have was an agent.

But then again, did I truly expect the road to be easy? It hasn’t been this far.

And no matter what this agent says, if I don’t sell this book to a publisher, I’ll create an online course for it. I’ll get it out to people because I believe it has a needful message.

I know it’s helped me in the aftermath of grief, and I believe God can use it to help others find hope and healing, too.

What is something you’ve signed up for that didn’t have the expected outcome?

Pitching my novel and how movie loglines help

Image from www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk
Image from www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Everyone talks about how important it is for writer’s to have a single sentence pitch for their novel. Apparently, anytime you’re stuck in an elevator, you spew forth this sentence, hoping an agent or editor is trapped with you in that itsy-bitsy space.

Of course, your captive audience will love your idea and produce a business card. “Send me the full manuscript right away,” the amazed agent/editor says.

In every writer’s dream. I’m 99 percent certain it has never happened that way in reality. Okay, maybe once out of a million encounters.

The idea of just pitching my story to every stranger unlucky enough to get stuck with me in an elevator sounds insane. Granted, to be a professional writer is the number one indicator of insanity, but let’s not dive off the deep end here. You might not want to practice your pitch on every stranger you meet at a writer’s conference, but you should practice your pitch.

Bottom line: it’s essential you know the heart of your story well enough to sum it up in a minute or less. Since I have an appointment with an agent at the Willamette Writer’s Conference, I’ve begun devising the pitch for my novel. Once I perfect it, I will repeat it over and over until I can deliver it smoothly in a single breath.

Boiling a 60,000 word novel down into one sentence is not an easy task. Obviously. If the story could be told in a single sentence, why bother writing over 300 pages? (It could be that insanity thing again.)

Elements of the Pitch

Last summer, my Writing Jedi Master, Kristen Lamb, offered up a simple formula for a pitch. This information was included with a fantastic online class she offers about antagonists. I highly recommend the class; it helped me get into the mind of my bag guy and understand the true problem in my story.

Master Lamb calls this brilliant sentence a story log line. This sentence describes the conflict at the heart of your story, as well as the hero and antagonist.

Here’s the formula: Name the protagonist of your novel (Blake Snyder suggests you use an appositive to describe this character) as well as the antagonist. Now state what the hero must do and what the antagonist hopes to do, including the timeframe for the stakes if possible.

Here’s a basic sample for my Gates of Astrya trilogy (and I’m not saying it is incredible):

Jacinth Krick, orphan and awaited Daughter of Water, must collect three amulets, disenchant statues of her family and face three dragon trials before Chaermeny, the Dark One and enslaver of human souls, returns from exile on the Ides of October.

What do you think? Do you understand the premise for my series?

Movie log lines

The awesome Jedi Master suggests studying log lines from your favorite movies to perfect your ability to summarize your own story in this way.

Here are a few log lines from movies you have surely watched. Can you name that movie from this simple sentence descriptor?

  1. During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok.
  2. When a woman’s long-time friend says he’s engaged, she realizes she loves him herself… and sets out to get him, with only days before the wedding.
  3. When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.
  4. Five high school students, all different stereotypes, meet in detention, where they pour their hearts out to each other, and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought.
  5. Los Angeles police officer Brian O’Connor must decide where his loyalties really lie when he becomes enamored with the street racing world he has been sent undercover to destroy.

Hopefully you can see how each of these follows the formula Master Lamb gave to her apprentice writers during her class. In each case, the reader understands the central conflict in the story and the opposing forces.

Why don’t you give it a try for a book you’ve read recently? Practice makes perfect. And log lines make the perfect pitch for your novel.

What other advice do you have for pitching a novel?

(Movies: 1. Jurassic Park; 2. My Best Friend’s Wedding; 3. Jaws; 4. The Breakfast Club; 5. The Fast and the Furious)