Friday, October 22, 2010

Notes From an Agent ~ Natalie Fischer

A while back, I had the immense pleasure along with four other writers to attend a private webinar with super literary agent, Natalie Fischer. She's with the Sandra Dijkatra Literary Agency. Bright and energetic, she definitely knows her way around the literary world. Through her unspoken words--yup, we had to type the entire conversation because our video blitzed out--her heart and passion for stories and storytelling beamed.
Prior to our meeting, each of us sent her a query letter and first chapter. I'll be honest. Before we began, I was a nervous wreck. I had never had a one on one with an agent, before. She delved into our work, individually highlighting good points and offering suggestions where she thought an idea or structure could be improved upon.

I want to make a note here. As writers we talk a lot about voice. How often do we explore voice when simply chatting with someone? Natalie's kind and genuine voice came through all her critiques. And seeing how she was writing her responses, that's saying something. She was quite interested in helping us all. It was refreshing and gave me a different view of what I thought an agent was.

What I'm about to share with you is what I observed and learned from Natalie's outward critiques and advice, plus her answers to some of our questions. For this post, I'll work with the Query.

For my query, I discovered that I had a strong hook. She thought the story was unique, and she liked the variety of immortal creatures I'd included in my world-building. I did learn, however, that I needed to strengthen my last few sentences. She felt I tried to cram in too much info, and in doing that, I kind of lost her. Lastly, she loved that I'd done research and included what books I felt my manuscript would fit nicely beside. NOTE: I did NOT compare my work, but highlighted that readers who enjoy stories such as these would most probably enjoy my story.

Publishing credits can be added, but kept to a minimum. The most they get from her is a glance. Devote more time to your pitch than to your credentials. What's most important is the story. The pitch is what sells the agent. The story is what sells in the marketplace. Remember that you (we) are not there to explain to the agent what the character is feeling, what they've already been through, etc... Leave it to the plot (which you pitch) to reveal that in your query.
The Breakdown  
~The Query~ 
  1. Need a strong one-sentence opening that hooks. Create a question and drum-up curiosity.
  2. Use concise sentence structure but also concise ideas. Use relevant information to convey important plot points.
  3. Find where your work would fit into the market, but be cautious in comparing. 
  4. Keep publishing credits to a minimum. Devote more time to your pitch.
  5. The pitch is what sells.
  6. Although this doesn't apply to queries, I feel it's important. Don't make assumptions about agents. Ingest what you read and hear about them, but don't pigeon-hole them into one description. 
  In segment II & III, I'll discuss Natalie's critiques of our first pages, her suggestions for hooking the agent to ask for more, and her overall advice about being a writer in today's market.

AND, there's still time to ENTER my writing contest to win awesome critiques, books, or sway!! I don't have as many entries as I'd like, so HELP!! Pass the word, pwwease....Check out another great book giveaway on BETH'S blog  and awesome Shannon's 500+ Followers Giveaway on Book Dreaming which closes today!

22 comments:

  1. Great post, and thanks for sharing Natalie's comments on your query letter. Much appreciated :)

    Rach

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  2. Awesome! I'm glad Natalie helped you out! She rocks!

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  3. That's so cool you got a private webinar. Thanks for the tips. I am so struggling with my query letter. Glad your story line is unique. That goes a long way. I'm not sure mine is unique enough. Sigh.

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  4. I'm not at the query stage yet, but this was helpful. I had an editor (face to face critique) and I was a nervous wreck, too. It was extremely helpful and added spark to my drive. I will check out the contest. Thanks.

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  5. Wow, this is great info! Love the breakdown about the query and how to make it great.

    I also compare my novel to books in the same way you do. It shows you are well read; you know the market. And if an agent doesn't like a particular book/author, they probably aren't the right one for you, anyway.

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  6. Sounds like a great experience! Keeping it direct, and remembering agents are humans just like us, helps take (some) of the fear out of querying. :)

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  7. Yup, she was a great help! We were extra lucky to win that prize.

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  8. I love the tips! Quick, concise and to the point. Something we can run through when we edit our query letters and synopsis.

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  9. What a clear and concise breakdown - thank you! Excellent tips and pointers to remember.

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  10. Great writing tips! I have to take these all down and remember them. =)

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  11. Thanks so much for sharing. I'll pimp your post. I'm a good pimp. Yeah...I said it.

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  12. hi miss sheri! wow i like the way you got it all broke down to make it lots easier. im gonna save this post. im waiting for another hint on what scares you. im trying to get my story done for your contest cause i want to scare you!!!
    ...hugs from lenny

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  13. excellent overview of what all she said, and you're right about voice. Although I thought everyone's voice shone through in that chat~ :o)

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  14. Thanks for sharing your experience. It sounds like you learned a lot and got some great feedback...I look forward to your other posts.

    Have a great weekend!

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  15. Thanks for sharing her advice! Sounds like you had great experience.

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  16. Nicely done, Sheri. Very clear and helpful.

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  17. What a great experience!!!! I loved these tips! Thanks for sharing this with us!

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  18. awesome post! thanks for sharing :D

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  19. You are awesome to share this. Thanks!

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