January 18, 2011
WiCM Writers’ Group – Literary Agent Andrea Cascardi
(The Very First Event of 2011!)
This week marked the first event of the WiCM 2011 Season. Literary agent Andrea Cascardi delivered a very organized and thoroughly informative presentation on how YOU, a writer, can find representation. While there are other avenues available for writers looking to get published, the literary agent still represents the best way for most writers to find their publishers. Andrea focused specifically on the query, the method by which a writer contacts a potential agent.
Those readers who have had to wait before getting a tooth pulled know there’s no better way to recap a “dos and don’ts” session than with the guidance of our old friends Goofus and Gallant.
Yes, these two brothers (cousins?) have taught us much about when to do our chores, the value of respecting our elders, and the importance of combing our hair in the shadow of imminent Soviet attack. And now these two cousins (brothers?) will help me relay my understanding of the query letter process, based on Andrea’s tips.
How To Pitch to an Agent
1. Do Your Homework
Gallant checks an agent’s website to see what kind of material she’s looking for and what sort of query she’d like to receive. Goofus says “you never know” and sends his newest teen centaur romance manuscript to an agent who represents preschool writers.
2. Keep it Simple
Gallant keeps his query short and focused. Goofus loads his with irrelevant details of his life, like how he’s launching a new career after years as a lawyer that never felt right after his experience in the Peace Corps, where he had an inkling that his true passion was helping children, and that he should write children’s books, because…
Gallant makes sure his query is free from grammatical and spelling errors. He even has several friends review it before he sends it. Goofus says “whatever, she can spell check it if it’s so important to her. Click. Send. Booyah.”
Nobody says “booyah” anymore, Goofus.
4. Use Your Contacts!
Gallant uses his contacts to refine his search for an agent. Goofus would, but he doesn’t have any contacts because he’s such a jerk.
5. Know your Audience
Gallant spends plenty of time researching his target audience because he wants to learn the conventions of each specific age group. Goofus presents his manuscript and says “it’s for whatever age wants to read it. Let the market figure it out,” which demonstrates Goofus’ incredibly poor grasp of economics.
6. Don’t Be Tentative
Gallant is polite yet confident in his queries. Goofus, uncharacteristically, apologizes profusely throughout his query for taking up the reader’s time. It’s terribly annoying and I think we all know he’s not being sincere.
7. Follow Directions
Gallant learns what each agent is looking for in a query submission through each agent’s website. Goofus claims that he’s an artist and doesn’t have to burden himself with practical details. Oh, Goofus.
8. Don’t Ask For Favors
Gallant realizes agents are extremely busy and don’t have time to give copious advice or search for an agent for him. Goofus just asked if he could crash on his potential agent’s couch. Also, he forgot to bring shorts to sleep in so he’ll need to borrow some.
9. Don’t Pitch Until Your Book Is Complete
Gallant’s book is polished by the time he sends queries to agents. He took advantage of many editing resources to get it ready. Goofus approaches agents with an awesome idea and, like, most of a draft, sorta. “It’s gonna be super good,” he promises. “Trust me.”
10. Follow Through When an Agent Asks to See Your Work
Gallant is ecstatic when an agent expresses interest and promptly supplies the requested materials. Goofus will get around to it as soon as this weekend’s Three’s Company marathon is over.
In sum, Andrea gave us a great presentation full of insight and practical advice. If any of the attendees would like to share more, please post in the comments box below.
See y’all at the next event…