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Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Posts Tagged ‘book marketing’

Tips for the Hot Pitch

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 27, 2017

Pitching Your Novel to an Editor/Agent

Are you preparing for a conference but your knees get shaky at the thought of an editor/agent appointment? Be prepared, not scared. Begin your ten minute pitch session by offering the editor or agent a handshake along with your name. If you have a business card, hand it over. Sit down and smile and state your story’s genre and word count. Mention which imprint at the publishing house you are targeting. Then continue with the following.

Do not bring your manuscript. Do not ramble on with plot details. Do have a completed book ready to submit. Do hit these high points and then let the editor do the talking.

interview

LOG LINE: When planning your pitch, think in terms of Key Words and Hot Premises for a one line summary of your work. Look at TV Guide for examples of log lines. Examples of key words are “humorous cozy”, “legal thriller” or “courtroom drama.” Be prepared to compare your work to movies or other authors in the same genre.

Facials Can Be Fatal: Salon owner Marla Vail’s new day spa hits a snag when a client dies during a facial in this killer cozy mystery.

Warrior Lord: A fantasy wedding in Las Vegas turns into a nightmare when contest winner Erika Sherwood realizes she’s married an alien.

CHARACTERS: Don’t crowd your pitch with too many character names. In a mystery, stick with the sleuth, victim, and killer. In a romance, just the hero and heroine count. Identify your main characters by means of an adjective and a noun. i.e. sassy hairstylist, scandalous socialite, shy schoolteacher, reckless ranger, dashing detective.

OPENING HOOK: Describe the initial set up or how the story opens.

Permed to Death: Hairstylist Marla Shore is giving her client a perm when she goes into the back room to get some clean towels. She hears a loud crash, rushes back into the salon, and finds her client dead in the shampoo chair.

Warrior Prince: Mythology student Nira Larsen receives a summer job offer she can’t refuse—to act as a tour guide for a team of warriors from another planet.

MOTIVATION: In a romance, this is the internal conflict that keeps the couple apart. In a mystery, this would be why the sleuth feels compelled to get involved.

Hanging by a Hair: Marla’s husband is implicated in the murder of their neighbor. A police detective, he’s removed from the case. She means to find the killer, clear her husband’s name, and make the neighborhood safe again.

Warrior Lord: Magnor is a Tsuran swordsman who has been shunned by his tribe. Evidence pointed his way when his brother-in-law was found murdered. He took the fall for his sister, who lied him to gain his property. He doesn’t trust women who might betray a man, nor does he consider himself worthy of love since he lost his honor.

RESOLUTION: How will your characters grow and change by the end of the story? In a romance, what compromises will each person make to bring about a HEA ending? In a mystery, what insight does the main character have about herself by the final chapter?

UNIQUENESS: How is your book different from others in the genre? What special knowledge or fresh angle do you have to offer? Does the theme deal with any issues in today’s news?

SERIES OR SINGLE TITLE: If this is meant to be a series, give the overall series title and brief blurbs for the next books. If you have an overall arc for your main character, here’s where you can mention your protagonist’s inner journey.

If the editor or agent shows interest, you can briefly mention the continuing characters that will populate your stories. In the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, these include Detective Dalton Vail, who becomes Marla’s love interest. There’s her mother and other relatives, her salon colleague Nicole, and her friends Tally and Arnie. These people are part of the world you are creating. They’ll become friends to your readers.

MARKETING: What is your series marketing hook? i.e. “It’s Murder, She Wrote in a beauty salon with a South Florida slant.”

Do you have a platform? A niche audience? How do you plan to promote the book? When I was starting out with my series, I might have said: “Besides appealing to mystery lovers who like humor and a touch of romance, I’ll target people in the beauty business such as hairstylists, manicurists, and salons owners. Plus, Florida is a popular site for mysteries. People who’ve visited here or who live here like to read about familiar places.”

Are you set up with a website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter? Are you prepared to do a virtual blog tour, book trailer, and more? Show that you’re willing to work hard as a partner in marketing your work.

SELL YOURSELF: Ultimately, it’s your energy and enthusiasm that count. You have to be someone the agent or editor wants to acquire as a client. Be professional and courteous at all times. It may even be that you speak about something else you have in common, i.e. trying new recipes or touring the city sights. Then when you send in your proposal, your cover letter can state: “I enjoyed our discussion at the XYZ conference about seafood. If you recall, I’d mentioned my book….”

Restrict your pitch to the above essentials. Avoid descriptions of plot details, physical character traits, and your own personal history unless it relates to the story.

CONCLUDING THE INTERVIEW
Thank the editor or agent for their time. If they request you send them something, ask if they want to see a query letter, proposal, or the full manuscript. Also, do they prefer an email or snail mail submission? Ask for their business card before you shake hands again and depart.

FOLLOW UP: At the editor or agent’s request, mail your work to them afterward. If it’s via snail mail, which is unusual these days, mark the package “Requested Material.” If it’s an email, be sure to put in the subject line a reference to where you met, i.e. SleuthFest Conference Author. Then cross your fingers and hope for the best!

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Did you miss my earlier posts on Getting an Agent? Go here for Part 1 and Part 2.

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Posted in Business of Writing, Fiction Writing, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Getting an Agent – Part 2

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 24, 2017

In Getting an Agent – Part 1, we discussed how to find a literary agent. Let’s say you’ve made the connection. Here’s what to do next.

Questions to ask a potential agent

How many agents and staff work in your agency?
How many clients does the agency represent? How many clients do you handle personally?
How long have you been an agent? Are you a member of AAR?
What is your particular area of interest?
How many new authors have you sold in the past year?
What is your average response time for a completed manuscript?
Do you prefer emails or phone calls?
How long does it take for you to return a phone call or email inquiry?
How do you feel about multiple submissions?
How long do you wait after sending an editor a manuscript before following up?
Do you give your client an update on the status of their projects, or do they have to contact you?
How many rejections would it take on a manuscript before you stop marketing it?
Do you handle subsidiary rights, such as translation, foreign sales, film/TV, audio?
Do you offer a written or verbal contract?
What percentage do you charge? (15% is standard for domestic sales)
What happens if you die or are disabled?
Do you deposit money received into an escrow account for clients?
How soon do you pay clients after receiving a royalty check?
How do you keep track of submissions?
Do you submit to digital first publishers?
Do you allow an author to do indie projects separate from the work you represent?
What do you expect from your clients?

Contracts

contract

Not all agents offer written contracts. If you do get one, be careful to read the terms before you sign. See if the agreement covers only this project or everything you write. You may request changes, such as to specify novel-length works of fiction only. If you want to do indie projects on the side, make sure the agent is agreeable and that you’re not obligated to pay him any part of this income. The agent should get paid only for rights he sells on your behalf.

Be careful of committing yourself for more than a year, and make sure you can disengage with a written notice. If you terminate, you should have no further obligation to the agent except for works which the agent has submitted or sold.

Beware of “interminable agency” or “perpetual agency” clauses in your publishing contracts. This clause grants the agent the exclusive right to represent your work for the length of the copyright. Terminology like “agency coupled with an interest” is also to be avoided. Do not commit for sequels or subsequent works or the length of your copyright. Also examine the clause an agent puts into a publishing contract when the time comes. Some of the professional writing organizations have sample contracts online, so get involved in the writing community and ask experienced authors your questions after you’ve done your own research.

How to tell if your agent isn’t working out

agent2

A. You never hear from him.
B. He doesn’t answer your calls or emails.
C. You don’t receive copies of rejection letters if you’ve requested them.
D. The agent turns down your new ideas.
E. He claims to be busy with more important clients.
F. You find out he never submitted your manuscript to an editor as promised.

How to switch agents

Send your current agent a letter or email and say your relationship isn’t working out as desired, and you wish to move in a new direction. Thus you are terminating your agreement. Keep a printed copy of his acknowledgment. Keep in mind that you remain under obligation to this agent for any work he has submitted or sold for you. To be clear on the termination terms, check your agency agreement. Once you are free from your previous relationship, you can seek a new agent.

Author/Agent Etiquette

interview2

  • Be prepared to suggest markets to an agent to show you are savvy about the business and have done your research. It’s hard to keep up with all the changes in the publishing industry. Consider your relationship as a business partnership where you each contribute.
  • Don’t accost an agent in the restroom at a conference or if they are in a deep discussion with another author.
  • Leave your manuscript at home. If an agent agrees to see your work, follow up with an email and ask for his submission requirements. Remind him where you met.
  • Don’t hound your agent. Responses from editors can take months. If you need someone to hold your hand, join a critique group. Remember that you are not the agent’s only client.
  • Always be courteous and professional. Keep producing new work at a steady pace. Listen to your agent’s suggestions even if you agree to disagree. Maintain a social media presence and keep up to date on industry news.

CLICK TO TWEET 

Coming Next: Tips for the Hot Pitch

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Getting an Agent – Part 1

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on April 20, 2017

How do you get a literary agent? Here are some tips to start your journey from writer to published author. First, complete your manuscript in the proper format. Look online at literary agent sites for submission requirements.

Where do you find an agent? Sign up for writers’ conferences with editor/agent appointments. If your group runs a local event, volunteer for the editor/agent committee. Enter writing contests where agents are the final judges. Note the acknowledgments to agents in books by your favorite authors to find people who represent your genre. Search the Guide to Literary Agents or Writer’s Market at your local library.

agent 

Follow agents on Twitter. Look for the hashtag #MSWL (manuscript wish list). You can get more specific for a particular genre (i.e. #MSWL Mystery). Also check out #Pitchmas, #AdPit, #Pit2Pub, #PitMad, #AgentsDay, #Carinapitch, #PitMatch for online pitches. Also use #AskAgent if you want to find agents who might be interested your story. Here are some places that might hold online pitch sessions:

http://cupidslitconnection.blogspot.com/
http://www.savvyauthors.com
http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/
http://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/

Also follow blogs by well-known agents and publishing industry professionals. You’ll learn who these people are by getting involved in the writing community.

Do Your Research

http://aaronline.org/
http://absolutewrite.com/forums/activity.php
http://accrispin.blogspot.com/
http://www.agentresearch.com
http://www.agentquery.com
http://www.literarymarketplace.com/
http://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/
http://mswishlist.com/
http://www.publishersmarketplace.com
http://www.querytracker.net
http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/alerts/
http://www.writersmarket.com/
http://www.1000literaryagents.com/

Follow the guidelines for submissions on the agent’s website. Write a snappy query letter introducing yourself, giving the word count and genre for your book, your writing credits, and a few sentences about your story. Make it read like back cover copy. Include a hot premise or marketing hook that makes your story stand out. This letter should be no longer than one page. DO NOT describe your life history or any personal details that do not relate to your writing career. DO include if you belong to a critique group, have won writing contests, or if you’ve attended writing workshops and conferences.

If you hear nothing for a couple of months, send a follow-up email to ask if the agent received your query. Be courteous and respectful of the agent’s time. Be aware that some agents won’t respond at all, and this can be taken as a rejection. But follow through at least once to make sure your email was received. As an alternative, you can request a return receipt for when the agent opens the mail.

If you receive a rejection letter with detailed suggestions for your work, write a thank you note. Remember, an author-agent relationship is a two-way street. Just as you want to hire the ideal agent, the agent wants to land the ideal client. Be courteous, professional, and savvy about the industry. Never pay an agent any fees. The agent will receive a commission on sales.

CLICK TO TWEET

Coming Next: Getting an Agent – Part 2

You’ve found an agent who interests you. Now what?

 

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Posted in Business of Writing, Conferences, Marketing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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