Agent Monday: Toss Me a Hook!

??????????????????????Happy Agent Monday, folks!  I’m back from a sun-soaked weekend filled with overdoing it in the yard work department. I’m a touch sun fried and sore, but what a great switch from those mounds of Northeast snow we had to dig out of… I also spent some time this weekend digging through queries filling my inbox, and some of them made me want to cry out: Writer, PLEASE toss me a hook!

Yup, today we are talking about hooks. See, sometimes I get queries with opening pages that are written beautifully, truly. But I find myself wondering what the story is about. Who is the audience? How the heck would I pitch it? These questions, if unanswered, make me worry that this book won’t fit into the marketplace. I’m a literary agent, and my job is to fit your work into the marketplace. So you see the problem.

It’s not just an agent issue, either. Just last week, I was chatting with an editor at one of the traditional publishing houses, asking her about what she’s looking for in a submission. After she shared what sort of genres she likes and her personal tastes, she added: “And I need a hook so I can pitch it.”

You might be scratching your head right about now wondering why an editor needs to pitch your book too. It’s because the editor, once he or she falls in love with a book, must then convince folks in that publishing company that it should be acquired. The editor in a smaller press might go right to the publisher and have a chat, or, as is the case in many of the bigger houses, may have to present the title at an acquisitions meeting. That meeting could have fellow editors, sales people, the publisher, all sitting there wondering what this book is about and where it’ll fit on their list and in the marketplace.

So, please, help yourself and formulate a great hook for your book.  A one-liner… Something along the lines of: TITLE is a READERSHIP/GENRE about THE UNIQUE INTRIGUING PROBLEM. Here’s one for one of my recent client sales: ELIZA BING (IS NOT) A BIG, FAT QUITTER is a contemporary middle grade novel about a girl with ADHD who must prove to others (and herself) that she can stick with something to the very end.

From this hook, we know the title, the demographic it’s pointed toward (middle grade), that it’s a contemporary novel (vs. sci-fi, thriller, etc. etc.), and we see the unique hook. A book about a girl with ADHD. Cool!  And we also see that there is a problem, a plot attached to it: proving to others and herself that she has stick-to-it-ness.

Eliza Bing jktI used this hook when pitching it to the editor. I’ll bet the editor used a version of this while pitching it to the publisher (it just came out through Holiday House). And the author, Carmella Van Vleet, uses a version of this all the time, I’m sure, when a reader comes up to her at a signing and asks, “What’s your book about?” Heck, our foreign rights rep even uses this hook when talking to publishers around the world.

So YOU should figure out your own book’s hook. Include it in your query. Toss us a hook, and hopefully it’ll help your novel catch on.

 

*Marie is an Associate Agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City.  To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site by clicking on the Follow link located on her page on the upper left margin.

Advertisements

Agent Monday: Got Media? (Social Media, That is…)

Young Girl at School Holding a Computer MouseHappy sunny Agent Monday to you all!  Get a bunch of writers together and the talk quickly turns to…social media? Yup, that’s right. I find this is on plenty of writers’ minds these days. At conferences, Q&A’s quickly turn to this subject.  At the Writer’s Coffeehouse I ran yesterday at the Willow Grove Barnes & Noble, it dominated our talk. And rightly so. So today I’m going to chat a bit about the big question editors and agents will be asking if they are interested in your writing: Got Media? (Social media, that is…)

You may think why bother with that? The novel’s the thing, right? Social media takes time. It’s not your thing. You are a writer not a promoter after all. Etc. etc. etc. BUT here’s a sobering thought… The other weekend at the Lucky 13 Conference hosted by the MD-DE-WV branch of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, fab Bloomsbury Children’s Books editor Laura Whitaker told everyone an important truth: If you as an author don’t have any online presence at all, that hurts your book’s chances when she takes it to an acquisitions meeting.

Wow, right? An editor can love your manuscript enough to take it to an acquisitions meeting, and the fact that the author has no social media presence at all can make your book harder to sell to the publisher.  If that doesn’t make you serious about getting yourself out there online, I don’t know what will.

But this shouldn’t come as a shock to you by now. Authors must now take on some responsibility for their own book’s promotion. When I find a manuscript that I’m interested in, before I make “the call” to offer them representation I google that person to see if they have any online presence and if it is a positive one (cuz a negative presence where you are bashing writers, editors or agents on line is not going to help you appear professional…).  And when I do make “the call,” one of the very first things I then ask the writer is if they understand that they must be willing to help market their work and that this includes online stuff.  It’s a critical piece of the puzzle that makes up a successful author and book.

Trust me, Bloomsbury is not an anomaly – all publishers are looking for this from their potential authors.

So what does this mean?  It means that first of all you should google yourself and see what pops up. Do you exist “out there”?  Is what you find positive? At the minimum, you should have a website under your author name (not your book title, cuz titles can change and you’ll have more than one book in you in the future, true?), a facebook page that keeps things professional, and a twitter page.  Think of these as your online business cards and present yourself accordingly.

Don’t be intimidated by all this if it’s all new to you. Hey, got a teen in your life?  They’ll set you up in a matter of seconds on facebook and twitter. And websites aren’t the expensive scary things they used to be. The one you are looking at right now? I set it up free on wordpress, and I purchased my marielamba.com domain, setting it up so that when folks key it in, they are redirected here. Easy peasy.

So help yourself be seen, help you as an author be viewed as someone plugged in and ready to market your work. Take it one step at a time. We’ll all be glad you did.

 

*Marie is an Associate Agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City.  To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s site here” link located on her page on the upper left margin.