Friday, June 09, 2006

Literary Agent Kristin Nelson in TWL Author Talks!

I'm happy to announce that literary agent Kristin Nelson will be fielding questions in TWL Author Talks on Monday, June 12, 2006 for the entire week! Last week, as you know, we had the talented Jenny Bent and the response was overwhelming! Fifty people signed up overnight, so now's your chance to get in on finding the agent of your dreams!

Now, here's the coolest news....Kristin has agreed to a pitch slam on Friday, June 16th!

So, what's a pitch slam?

A pitch slam is summing up your entire book in one sentence (in this case) and having one of our literary agent guests tell you if it's something they would be looking for or not. Not as easy as you think.

Last week, we had Jenny Bent giving her input on the pitches and you'd be amazed at how hard it is. While some of us walked away with out tails tucked between our legs, we learned just what it is that makes a pitch stand out and was an invaluable lesson!

Kirsten Mortenson, one of the members of TWL Author Talks, explains some of the things that Jenny didn't like in the pitches people submitted while she was a guest (thank you, Kirsten!).

Kirsten says:

"1. Not original enough/has been "done to death."
Takeaway: Make sure your pitch shows that you have the twist/color that makes your concept stand out from similar novels.

2. Pitch confusing. Couldn't tell who was doing what.
Takeaway: Edit out extraneous information. Make sure its clear to what/whom the pronouns of your sentences are referring. Maybe follow a fairly simple setup/conflict/resolution structure in your sentence to make sure it's easy to follow . . .

3. Missing story "arc."
Don't just list the characters and setting. Make sure you've also set up the main conflict and resolution.

4. Conflict not compelling.
Make sure the conflict you've presented is "big" enough to show that you've got a strong plot.

5. Bland title."

Jenny got me on #2. I totally confused her and I'm revising before the next pitch slam with Kristin Nelson.

Another member of TWL Author Talks, China, explains just what it might take to gain an agent's interest in a pitch slam:

"There are a few different ways, that I know of, to do a one sentence pitch. I'm not saying these are the only or best ways, or guaranteed to work, or anything like that. These are just a few of the ways we learned to do them at the creative writing program from which I graduated.

**Note--my examples are not real, and shouldn't be held against me. ;)

The first technique: Character, Conflict, Hook

Describe your character, why we should care about him or her (ie the conflict), and what makes this book different from any other with a similar theme or storyline.

A lot of times the different parts of your pitch blur--your conflict can also be a hook, or your hook can also be a conflict.

Example: A struggling single mother (character and conflict al lwrapped into one) loses her job (conflict) and finds the only way to support her family is to become a stripper (hook, conflict). That's a little low concept and a whole lot rough, but I hope itillustrates the technique.

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The second technique: GMC (Goal, motivation, conflict)

This is pretty similar to character, conflict, hook. It's simple--your one sentence should introduce your character, explain his or her motivation, his or her goal, and his or her conflict.

Example: When a waitress (character) is inadvertently sucked into another dimension (conflict), she must battle not only the forces of darkness but her own inner demons (conflict AND motivation) in order to find her way home (goal and motivation). As with the CCH style pitch, sometimes the goal, motivation and conflict can intertwine.

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Third technique: The high concept pitch.

In this one, you mostly introduce the concept of your story.

Example: Martians and vampires fight for world domination, leaving astring of human bodies in their wake.

There are many other techniques, but I want to add in some general tips.

1. You don't need to give very much detail about your character, plot or world. This should be your story boiled down to its absolute barest bone structure.

2. Using a character archetype is more effective than using character specifics, and also cuts down on length. Use "a washed up musician," rather than, "Lenny Diamond, a struggling singer-songwriter in his 50s..."

3. Your pitch--even a single sentence pitch--should have a little bit of the flavor and tone of your story. If you write light and frothy, your pitch should be light and frothy. If you write with a quick wit, your pitch should display some of that. If you're writing humor, your pitch should be at least a little funny/witty."

Thank you, China!

I can't imagine doing this in person. I know many authors who have gotten book deals this way, but who knows, maybe there's a book deal or two that will be result out of our virtual book slams with our agent guests. If nothing else, it gives you invaluable input by professionals in the field. See you there!

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