Win Big at Willamette - Pitching your book - Talk by Laurie McLean, Marni Bates, and Grace Ledding

Win Big at Willamette: 
How Marni Bates and Laurie McLean Saw, Signed, and Sold
Laurie McLean, Marni Bates, Grace Ledding
Willamette Writers Conference
WWCON11
  • Laurie McLean - literary agent. Last year was first time was WWCON.
  • Signed Marni Bates, who was a three time attendee
  • Grace Ledding is trying to get Marni’s book AWKWARD produced as a (movie)
  • Laurie
    • goes to 20 conferences a year
    • always looking for new clients
    • pitches are stressful, and often nothing like the writing or the person.
    • trying to figure out from a 3 sentence pitch whether their 90,000 word book is worthwhile
    • Thursday night: pitch practice. 
      • It’s highly worthwhile.
      • Not only to practice your pitch but to listen to others to see what works.
      • You want to boil it down to 3 sentences, not give a blow by blow of the torture you put your characters through.
    • Last year Marni comes to pitch practice
      • During the practice Laurie says “that’s great, send me 10 pages”
      • Marni goes to the next room over, and practices there, and an agent offers her representation on the spot.
      • Later Laurie sees Marni and Marni says “I would never take representation from someone who hasn’t read my book.”
      • Laurie needed to go above and beyond to compete with NY agents. And also knew that 15 other agents asked to read it.
    • Marni
      • three years
      • first year: came with a novel she wrote in high school. did have some agents interested. and even got an offer of representation. 
        • turned down representation because she felt the agent viewed her as a teen  with potential rather than a true client
      • ended up writing an autobiography, which was published at 20.
      • came to third year, it’s thursday night practice pitches
      • booked both rooms
      • completed botched first pitch. (couldn’t hold mic, moderator looked at watch halfway through)
      • second pitch went perfectly, best pitch she ever did.
      • got an offer of representation on the spot, from an excellent, really smart agent.
      • but felt like it was an offer based on the fact that she she came across well, as opposed to the book itself.
      • but she had paid for the conference... wasn’t going to sign without shopping around.
      • then she met laurie again, and laurie suggested a morning meeting.
      • at the morning meeting, laurie explained what she could do for her.
      • and said.... i can help you if you can write, but if you can’t write, i can’t do anything. that was what she wanted to hear.
      • Laurie read first 50 pages, then asked for more.
      • I didn’t have more edited to my level of satisfaction. So I asked to provide the rest two weeks after the conference.
      • Soon there was a three book deal with Kensington.
      • And she wrote during school. (full time student, and also spent a a semester studying abroad.)
    • Grace Ledding
      • Laurie me the book earlier this year.
      • Book seemed timely but also timeless. Coming of age books are always favorites, but it was timely because now for the first time all of this stuff is online. you’ll always carry your history with you. [referring to how the main character is spotted by a bunch of people, who record with their phones, and upload to youtube, and the video goes viral.]
      • Tricky to do YA books into movies, because sometimes you get Easy A, and sometimes you get [missed it, something meaningful]
      • That it was written by someone younger made it feel more authentic than if it was written by a 50 year old.
    • The thing about high school is that everything is 100% emotion, so it is all so vivid.
  • Questions
    • What you looking for in a pitch?
      • The book has to be similar enough for the reader to know they are going to have a certain kind of experience, but different enough that it won’t be the same exact experience.
      • Fresh and exciting, but something I can sell.
      • Something powerful: keep the pitch the short. If you can tell me in three sentences what it is, then I can pitch it to an editor, and the editor can pitch it to a book seller, etc.
      • When I heard Marni’s pitch: it was funny, it was YA, but it was different because it had this youtube angle.
      • You have to be able to stand behind your idea. 
      • If you go to Amazon, you made a decision based on a one line description. 
      • You can’t talk around your story. You have to be able to tell it. If you talk around it, then maybe you don’t know your own story. 
      • You can’t be a recluse. Maybe Hemmingway could do it, but now you have to be personable. 
      • “this is the main character. this is the internal and external conflict. this is what they go through to deal with that. this is the resolution.” all that in three sentences.
      • Be mindful of all the opportunities: by going to the thursday pitch session, she is pitching to 5 agents at once. by signing up for both rooms, she pitched to ten. then she marketed the hell out of it: Hey Laurie wants it, and so does Paul,”
      • Social media: it’s not enough to write. You have to do social media, you have to market it. Build your author brand. 
      • It may seem safe to eat with your writer friends, but don’t do that. Go sit and eat with an agents.
      • Even if you don’t think you are ready for pitching, do it anywhere. We put this expectation on them that they are the keeper of the keys and will do everything for us. But the sooner we break through that barrier, and realize they are just people, the better.
      • If you are coming to this conference, spend the $20 and pitch.
      • Marni stalked the board where the appointments are, looked for 
      • Structure:
        • Very simple log line
        • main character and what happens.
    • What should you not do?
      • Many, many things.
      • Don’t guarantee anyone anything: “i guarantee that this will win your awards”
      • Don’t say “my mom thinks I am a great writer”.
      • Don’t say something else said anything.
      • Do start with the log line.
      • Go into deeper detail.
      • A girl, whose embarrassing moment goes to youtube, and becomes famous.
      • Don’t short-sell yourself: “this idea isn’t very good.”
    • I’m confused. Some agents say to use names, some don’t. I went to the pitch practice, and I got contradictory advice from the agents. I have a log line.
      • there is no right or wrong answer.
      • Grace and Laurie are on the phone pitching all day long.
      • Just because you have two pitch meetings, doesn’t mean you wait for those. Pitch to the people around you all day long.
      • In a critique group, sometimes you get too many voices bombarding you, and you get contradictory advice. And you have to learn to trust yourself sometimes.
      • Not all the advice you get is good.
      • Some people said don’t bring material to the conference, but then Laurie asked for it on the spot.
      • When you know that you’ve nailed it, then you’ve nailed it.
    • Format
      • Hello, here is my name. I have written genre, x words, and the title.
      • The Hook
      • The Book: explanation about the book. 2 or 3 sentences.
      • The Cook: who you are.
    • Excuse me, do you have a minute, so I could pitch?
      • Laurie: I have take more pitches that are not scheduled, than one that are scheduled.
    • Length:
      • Not automatic disqualifier. Becomes an economic discussion.
      • But in almost every case a first time novelist has too long of a novel it is too wordy and needs to be cut.
    • Group sessions: be short, be memorable.
    • Kristen Lamb http://warriorwriter.wordpress.com writes about social media for authors.
      • writes about twitter, blogging, etc.
      • 1/3 of writings should be about yourself, your writing journey
      • 1/3 should be retweets of other’s work
      • 1/3 should be selling your book
      • A woman named Kate was commenting on Kristen Lamb’s posts, and writing her own posts.
      • Laurie went to Kate’s site, saw that she had a free download, got it and read it.
      • Then bought a 99 cent novella she wrote.
      • Laurie emailed Kate and asked “do you want representation?”
    • If you are unpublished, then what are you selling with that last third?
      • write some short stuff and sell it. dust off that old unpublished material.
    • What if you’ve written a series?
      • Every first book is the first book in a series. So it’s not worth it.
      • I can’t sell a sequel to a first book that I couldn’t sell.
      • You need something else entirely.
      • So if you finish your first book, then write the first book in a different series.
  • Rejection
    • It’s wave after wave of rejection.
    • when you finally get an agent, then the agent shops it around, and then...
    • you get wave after wave of rejection.
    • then you finally get an editor, and then...
    • you get their notes, which feel like wave after wave of rejection.
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