Pitching Agents

I love that title although it reminds me that after sweltering in the 90-something heat yesterday, the Orioles pitching was less than adept. Actually, I’m procrastinating as usual about my preparation for a meeting with an agent in about two weeks. Since we’re going to the beach next week, I should be working on my pitch today. Blah, blah, blah, my anti-writer self says. Either you hit it off or you don’t! But my logical, pro-self is saying you have to put some effort into it unless you want to rely on sheer luck.

I previously did do a little research before I choose her for the SCBWI conference because I wanted to make sure she might be interested in my tween fantasy novel. Some agents who represent children’s books only do YA or middlegrade and some of them dislike fantasy for some reason. I suppose that’s a result of too many neck-biters. Okay, so somewhere between talking to a friend about a make-over for my postage stamp front yard (evergreens are growing over the windows) and deciding if Earl Weaver (you need to be a baseball fan here) is worth cooking in 100+ degree heat, I googled Molly Jaffa.

The few times I’ve queried agents since I dumped my bad one (that was for a mystery I wrote pre-Hopkins), I always take a look at their literary agency’s internet site. If they don’t have one or have a minimalistic approach to a website, I think that’s a good sign that they aren’t looking for clients or if they are, I should probably look for another agent. Ms. Jaffa has a good bit of information on her page – yeah, that probably means she’s looking for clients! Take a look!


Now I remember. She says she likes “fantastical” but no werewolves or vampires which leaves my book in the “okay” territory. And she also likes books that introduce the reader to a new world and “Stories featuring characters with strong passions, talents, or smarts – or characters in search of theirs – resonate with me.” All this is to the good because I already know that she’s a member of ARA -Association of Authors’ Representatives – which is a must.  Also, I’ve heard plenty about the Folio Literary Agency which I take as a very good sign, of course that’s a risk too since this would will be my first published book and I might be too inexperienced for them. I’ve already signed up for the session so I decided I’ll just have to do my best.

From her agency’s website I’m jotting down, no typical fantasy creatures or animal characters, social issues, historical fantasy, main character’s unrealized talents. Her favorite all-time books includes a childhood favorite of mine, A Wrinkle in Time. That’s a good talking point and I’ve been meaning to read, The Astonishing World of Octavia Nothing which might give me a good reference point for my book(s). I put the “s” on there since I’ve unfortunately or fortunately written the draft of book number two  in the series since the idea germinated during Nanowrimo the year after I drafted the first book.

I also look at interviews that show up when I google an agent and keep track of how current those interviews are. There’s an excellent one by O’Neale dated February 2012. I’ve revised enough so I don’t have her typical turnoffs in my manuscript but it sounds like she wants the writing to be “pristine” so I’ll plan on telling her I can’t send the manuscript until I’m done with another revision “scrub.” She sounds very professional which once again is good and bad. Still I like her style and I need to be more professional in my approach too if I’m going to get this book published. She also says she likes to edit a book several times which is fine with me.

At this point, I have a little more background and I’ve decided to take a break and read my most recent Poets & Writers mag and there’s Molly Jaffa again with a great new hair style. The article is about Folio and how the agency works. Once again, the professionalism of the agency impresses me. I’ll need to add something to the pitch to sweeten the idea of working with me if I’m going to have a chance. And I’ve got it! A short conversation I had last November with Lin Oliver at the end of a breakout session at another SCBWI conference. An editor from Scholastic who was listening in certainly did seem like she was interested so that might be a good lead for an agent. I know Scholastic published Harry Potter but I’ll need to check out some of their other titles to see how my book might fit into their list. “My book is a cross between Harry Potter (My main character is also male and has had a rough start in life) and…” Well, maybe not Harry Potter, that does sound presumptuous on my part and the first Harry book is sort of fairy-tale like while mine is more rooted in a contemporary world or somewhere inbetween. 

I have fifteen minutes at this conference but I think that I should be able to do my initial pitch in a one-liner, or at least that’s what I’ve heard. That’s where I’ll start. I have a lot to think about!  Later…


About marystojak

Mary Stojak has published numerous short stories, her latest will be published September 28th in Mystery Weekly.
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