Archive for the ‘Agents and Editors’ Category

If you’re planning to give a pitch to an agent or editor at a conference, you may want to take a one sheet, or pitch sheet, with you. Some resources use these terms interchangeably, but some say a one sheet covers all of your work while a pitch sheet is designed to help you present just one book or series. Regardless of the term, a one page summary comes in handy when you get a chance to present your work.

In addition to your full contact information, this page should include a professional-quality photo of yourself, and an author bio. Also write a short blurb about the book or series you’re pitching. Make it enticing, like the short summaries you see on the back cover of books in a store.

These sheets should showcase you and your work. Although you should use white paper and black text, it’s acceptable to use photos and some simple graphic design elements, including colored ink, but don’t let those features overpower the story. A template for a flyer or newsletter may help you get the look you want.

If you’re more comfortable with a simple document, go with that rather than trying to create something fancy. Their purpose is to give you one more tool to use in your effort to entice an agent or editor to ask to see more of your work, and an amateurish one sheet will probably not do that.

Author Kaye Dacus goes into more detail than I have, and also give examples:


Another helpful reference is by Tracy Ruckman:


Amy Wallace has an example that includes different books:


Although I’ve seen one sheets recommended on several agents’ blogs, they seem to be optional. 

EDIT AUGUST 9, 2011: Agent Rachelle Gardner discusses one sheets on her blog today, and has links to several excellent examples her clients submitted. 


Have you ever prepared a one sheet/pitch sheet? What’s the first thing you’d say to an agent if you were going to pitch something to them? What would you talk about with a conference faculty member who wasn’t an agent or editor if you were given the opportunity of a one-on-one meeting?


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I have a lot of things I must do today, so I’m going to refer you to some excellent posts I’ve read on various topics instead of writing one of my own. Here you go:

Agent Chip MacGregor lists skills a writer needs to develop. http://chipmacgregor.typepad.com/main/2010/03/what-skills-does-a-writer-need-to-develop-.html


Patrick Dent provides lots of tips on writing fiction, including setting, scenes, dialog, and more.


Holly Lisle gives advice on how to revise a novel.


Editor Lynn Price discusses the role of blogging in an author’s “platform.”


Those should keep you busy for a while.  🙂


Do you have some interesting/informative sites you can recommend for writers? What about a post you’ve written on a particular topic that writers might find helpful? Post links in the comments so we can all learn more about the craft of writing.

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I know I’m probably decreasing my own chance of winning by pointing out the contest for a Sony Reader Pocket Edition that Agent Rachelle Gardner has going on this week, but I’m feeling the Spirit of Christmas in a big way. I’d love to have a Sony Reader, but I’m sure many of you would, too.  

The contest involves posting some of your favorite literary passages or a brief statement regarding books that “moved” you on a site called Words Move Me, and a comment on Rachelle Gardner’s blog.

Here’s the link to her blog post with the instructions for entering the contest:        http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/12/words-move-me-sony-reader-giveaway.html

The deadline is  11:59 pm MST on Friday, December 11th.

Even if you’re not interested in entering the contest, you might want to take a look at the website called Words Move Me. There are lots of books mentioned that sound fascinating to read.


What are some of your favorite passages from books you’ve read? What books have made an impact on your life or touched your emotions?

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Rachel Zurakowski, an Assistant Literary Agent at Books & Such, invited bloggers who focus on writing-related or publishing topics to share their site links in a blog Carnival. She’s posted the links today, and suggests that people visit these blogs as a way of getting to know others who share our interest in writing.

I’ve visited a couple of the blogs already, and plan to take a look at all of them within the next day or so. This is a great opportunity for writers to network with each other, so those of you who have writing blogs may want to check out the Carnival at: http://www.booksandsuch.biz/blog/welcome-to-the-blog-carnival/#more-5101

According to their website, Books & Such works with a wide range of publishers (many of them Christian), and are interested in “women’s fiction, general fiction, nonfiction, gift books, children’s picture books, easy readers, and chapter books.” Rachel Zurakowski is particularly interested in books by and for the twenty to thirty-something age group.

My blog is one of those listed, so if you’re a Carnival visitor, or not, thanks for stopping by.

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Many agents accept queries by email. While the basics are the same as if you were mailing the query, there are a few differences you’ll need to take into consideration. As always, you should check the agent’s guidelines before submitting as they may have specific instructions for what they want to see and how they want it sent.

Keep in mind that this is still a business letter even though it’s sent electronically instead of through the mail. If possible, use an email address that sounds professional, with your own name listed rather than your spouse’s or some cutesy user name.

Use a simple, readable black font, like Courier or Times New Roman, 12 point. Send the email as plain text to avoid problems with email clients that might be different from yours. Often emails contain odd symbols or gibberish when special formatting codes are included. (That frequently happens when cutting and pasting from a word processor into the email program.)

The Header:

To: Try to use the exact email address of the person you are contacting rather than the agency email.

Subject: Never leave the subject line blank or your email will probably end up in the Spam folder. Put Query: Title of Your Book

Body of the Email:

There is no need to put the agent’s contact information in the email. Simply start with the formal salutation, with the name of the agent you are contacting, such as Dear Ms. Benedict:

The letter can be single-spaced. Use block paragraphs (no indenting), and leave an extra space between each of them. Include 3 or 4 paragraphs introducing your book, giving your pitch, telling a little about the story, and summarizing your credentials. Don’t forget to thank the agent, and tell them you look forward to hearing from them.

In closing simply use Sincerely, followed by a comma, double space, then type your name and put your address and phone number under it.

Do not include the URL for a blog or website unless it deals specifically with your writing. For instance, if you have writing clips posted on your site you might want to include that information so the agent can look at them.

Do not include attachments unless the guidelines state that they are acceptable. Some agents delete unsolicited email with attachments in order to cut down on potential viruses.

 Edit March 18, 2010: 

Agent Nathan Bransford posted an example of email query format today on his blog. The only thing I noticed different from what I have said is that he didn’t double space between his closing and signature.


 Edit August 1, 2011:  Agent Rachelle Gardner has a helpful post on her blog today about emailing queries.


Do you prefer querying by email, or snail mail? How do you keep track of your email submissions?


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For those of you who may not have read Agent Nathan Bransford’s blog this week, he’s conducting a First Paragraph Challenge. Anyone can post the first paragraph of their story in the comments section until Thursday, October 15, at 4pm Pacific time. He’ll select the finalists, and readers will vote on the winner. There are 990 entries as of the last time I checked.

I’m not entering as I know he doesn’t represent the type of novel I’m writing. However, reading the entries is an opportunity to see what an agent deals with on a regular basis. It also hit home the importance of a great opening sentence. I started out reading the entire paragraphs, but due to the volume and how repetitious some of the stories sounded, I ended up just reading the first line. If it sounded good, I read further, otherwise I just moved on to the next entry.

In a book store, I love to browse through books, reading the opening, the jacket cover, maybe even random pages. After looking at a few, I pick one and go home. Agents gets so many queries they don’t have the luxury of taking their time and browsing. They make quick decisions based on a few words. As writers, we need to focus on the opening sentence, the first paragraph, and each one after that to keep the agent, and eventually our readers, turning the page.

I’ve posted on the importance of an opening hook before. You may want to look at my post and the links I included for more information on hooks: https://thewritingplace.wordpress.com/2009/05/02/writing-an-opening-hook/


Did you post your first paragraph in the Challenge?

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Short stories follow the same basic structure as novels. Each should clearly tell the reader:

What: What’s happening (plot)? Concentrate on one important scene or event. Follow the standard story arc, with a beginning, middle, and end

Why: Why are you writing this story? What’s the point (theme)?

Who: Who matters in this story? Stick to 2 or 3 characters, and use them to advance the plot or theme.

When: When does this story take place? The time period affects how the reader interprets the story.

Where: Where is this story taking place? The setting should be vividly portrayed, but only include what’s relevant to the plot or theme.


Every sentence should have a purpose. Eliminate anything that doesn’t move the story forward, clarify the theme, build characterization, or establish the setting. Use sentence length and careful word choices to help set the pace and tone. Limit the amount of backstory you include, and stick to one point of view.

Short stories can range in length from very few words up to about 7,500 words. Some markets may take stories longer than that, but it starts getting into the novella range. Check the guidelines for the magazine or anthology you want to submit to for the maximum and minimum words they are interested in. If specific guidelines aren’t given, check the average length of stories they’ve recently published. That’s part of knowing your market, and will help you target the places that are most likely to accept your work.


Edit October 14, 2009: Editor Alan Rinzler has an encouraging post about short stories on his blog, along with suggestions for writing and marketing them. Take a look: http://www.alanrinzler.com/blog/2009/10/12/why-book-publishers-love-short-stories/


Is it easier for you to write short stories, or do you prefer writing novels? What are some of your favorite short stories?

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