Agent one-to-ones

I was super pleased recently when my friend Sasha Greene (2016 winner of Kosta’s Olive Tree short story competition ) got a well-deserved 10 minute pitch with an agent. I’ve invited her on to my blog to talk about what she learned from the pitch. 

Meeting with, and pitching to an agent is the holy grail for most authors but also terrifying. You were recently lucky enough to attend a pitching event run by a well known agent so tell us, how did you feel when you secured the appointment?

I was both excited and and also a little bit scared! I’m never very good at selling things as I generally think people should be allowed to make decisions for themselves without things being pushed in their faces, but what really helped me is that I genuinely believe that the manuscript I was pitching is a really good story that deserves to be published.

Did you do any research/preparation prior to the appointment?

I didn’t do muchIMG_20160614_174037 (2) research prior to the appointment, but I did do a lot before sending in my submission. I took a good look at the agency website and made sure that the agent I was pitching to would be interested in the genre that I was submitting. Once I had decided on the agent I thought would be the best then I had a look at the authors that person represented and even bought a couple of those authors’ books to see what their writin
g was like. I was also very fortunate to get some really valuable input from another lovely RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) member on things that had worked for her in cover letters to agents. Then I carefully crafted my cover letter, making sure that I also adhered to the agency guidelines about what they wanted me to mention. When preparing for the pitch session I had a good think about what messages I wanted to put across and how I could best convey them in a simple way.

What sort of things did the agent expect from you during the pitch?

I think every agent will be very different in this, but I have the feeling they always ask some variant of the question “What is your book about?” It’s always good if you can describe it succinctly. I was helped by the fact that I had answered a lot of the basic questions in my cover letter so we could really make the most of the time I had. The agent was also really nice so that was a real bonus that I was very happy about!

What did you learn from the experience?

It wasn’t my first pitching session; I was lucky enough to have three sessions last year at the RNA conference so that helped a lot in knowing what to expect. Evenscripture-960538_1920 (2) if it’s not ultimately successful, any practice at these sort of things is great. However I realised specifically this time around that it’s essential to prepare, but in the end I just had to play it by ear as I couldn’t really tell in advance exactly what they might say or what
questions they might ask. We did also discuss my current work in progress and I also feel that helped as it showed that I am serious about writing.

What would you do differently?

I think I would be less nervous next time. it’s a bit like job interviews; they get easier the more practice you get!

Any hints for anyone facing a pitch?

I think probably the following:
– Do your research. Most agents have a list of what they are looking for and provide lots of useful information on their websites and twitter feeds.
– Know your work. Be prepared to answer in-depth questions about it.
– Be confident in the quality of what you are offering. If you don’t think your work is good then it’s going to be much harder to sell it to anyone else.
– Be concise. Ten minutes just flies by.
– Ask for feedback if they don’t offer it willingly. It’s free advice from someone in the industry so why wouldn’t you?

I think most importantly though be yourself. OK, so you probably want to put your best side forward, but if you don’t get on at the start it’s going to be more of a challenge to end up with a solid working relationship!

And also remember that if you get to the pitch stage they have already seen your writing and you wouldn’t be there if they didn’t like it, or at least think it has potential, so take courage and go in with your head held high.

Wonderful advice Sasha, thank you for sharing! Best of luck with your WIP.

You can find out more about Sasha at http://sashagreene.wordpress.com/

and follow her at @SashaGreeneAuth

Author interview- John Jackson

 

 

John it’s great to hear that your book  “A Heart of Stone” is to be published by Crooked Cat Books, in Oct/Nov this year. Thanks for coming on my blog to talk about it.

What was the inspiration behind the book?www.PicturesbyRob.co.uk York Photographer Rob Cook FBIPP FMPA QEP covers weddings portraits and commercial assignments across Yorkshire and the North East in Leeds Harrogate Selby Malton Tadcaster

PicturesbyRob.co.uk

plus.google.com/10681431368529952538

Some years ago, I came across an amazing story about my great-great-great-great-great parents. He was a young Irish peer, and he married the daughter of another Irish peer. After several years, their story took a tragic turn. While the story was fascinating, I could see that the real events were too tragic to make a book as it was. NOBODY ended up with a happy ending from this one!

That being said, the story provided a series of hooks that couldn’t be ignored. What I hope I have written is the story of “what should have happened.” The hero and heroine deserve it, after all these years.

How did you come to write your genre of choice? 

I have always been a fan of historic fiction and historical romances. My father used to get each new Georgette Heyer novel as she wrote them, and he passed his love of them on to me. Once I started to write, I never thought of writing in any other genre.

How does it feel to one of the few males in the predominantly female world of romance writing?

Absolutely great! I have been astounded by the support and goodwill I have received from my writing friends, and members of the RNA. It’s thanks to them that I am writing at all. They gave me the confidence to try and write.

Have you experienced any difficulties breaking into this world?

I have come into the industry at a time of great change. As I found, most agents are extremely risk-averse. Unless you have Cornwall, Café, or Cupcakes in your title you are really going to struggle (and I did). Being a man in a mainly female genre, probably also told against me.

What has been especially good about your journey to publication in this genre?

Self-publication is ridiculously easy in this day and age. It would have been far simpler for me to publish on Kindle or Smashwords, but, by getting the MS taken by a publisher, this represents “Peer Approval”. Someone else, apart from family and friends, thinks it worthy of publication. Being taken on by Crooked Cat was massively encouraging.

When did you start writing and why?

I started writing stories for our daughters when I was away from home on long sea voyages. Simple animal tales, and unfortunately, now lost.

I eventually moved into the world of documentation for ships, covering laws, compliance and safety, etc. This has been handy, at least in making me familiar with the process of writing and producing documents. Of course, these were all non-fiction, but I had the job of trying to explain policy and procedures, in English, to non-native English speakers, mostly from Eastern Europe and the Philippines. I soon learned, clarity was everything.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become an author in this genre?

Read, read, read, and then write, write and write again. Recognise your limitations, and learn that the people you meet have been doing it longer and generally better than you, so learn from them.

About ‘A Heart of Stone.’ 

A Heart of Stone, a tale of love, power, jealousy, starvation and prison, set in 1740s Ireland.

What happens when a young, beautiful girl is made to marry the worst man in Ireland?

But he has a brother, and they will risk everything to be together. Her husband doesn’t take this well.

Thank you John, it’s been great talking to you. Thanks for coming on my blog today. Tell us a little bit about yourself before you go.

Author bio: 

After a lifetime in shipping, I am now retired and living in York. An avid genealogist, I found a rich vein of ancestors going back many generations. My forebears included Irish peers, country parsons, and both naval and military men.

A chance meeting with some authors both historical and contemporary, led me to try my hand at writing. I am a keen member of both the Romantic Novelists Association and the Historic Novel Association.

I was brought up on Georgette Heyer from an early age, and, like many of my age devoured R L Stevenson, Jane Austen, R M Ballantyne, and the like. Favorite modern authors include Bernard Cornwell, Simon Scarrow, Liz Fenwick, Jenny Barden, Carol McGrath, Lindsey Davis and Kate Mosse.

“A Heart of Stone”, to be published by Crooked Cat  in October / November 2017

Contact John:

Twitter @jjackson42

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/johnjacksonauthor/ 

Blog: john42hhh.blogspot.co.uk

 

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Author interview- Angela Wren

With summer coming (yes I know, it does still feel a long way off but it is on its way, I promise) I thought we might turn out eyes to a somewhat warmer place. Today Angela Wren is here to talk about France and what it is that inspired her to write her French set crime novel Messandrierre.

Q: I know you spend a lot of time in France – what is it that is so attractive to you about the country?

Angela: That’s a big question, Viki and I’m not sure I can answer it in anything less than a rather large book!  So, France is 6 times the size of GB but only has about the same population size.  That means there are vast tracts of land that are open and genuinely wild.

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Lac de St Croix, Provence

And when you think about the green and rolling countryside of the Limousin, the ruggedness of the coast of Normandie, the vast forests of Aquitaine and the mountains of Rhône-Alpes and Pyrénées, you quickly realise that it is a country of contrasts and extremes.  As I travel around it seems as if there’s a whole world of scenery within its borders.

Add to that the sunshine, the pace of life – I swear rural French clocks run more slowly than English ones – that quintessentially French attitude to everything and the culture and you have, what is to me, a fascinating and intriguing place to be.  I feel very relaxed and very much at home there.  In addition, the place never fails to amaze me, because there is always something new around the corner:  a different nuance to a word or phrase to remember, a missed bit of history to discover, a new village or town to visit and explore properly.  I don’t think I will ever be bored with France.

Q: I see why France is the influence for your books, but why the Cévennes and where exactly is this?

Angela: The Cévennes is a mountainous area that centres around Monts Aigoual and Lozère in central southern France and sits on the south-eastern flank of the Massif Central.  It’s part of the Languedoc-Rousillon region, to be precise.  It’s a vast untamed area with tiny hamlets and rugged, wild uplands in between.

It was whilst I was there in 2007 that I had the idea for using the area as a backdrop to my novel Messandrierre.  I’d been following Robert Louis Stevenson’s trail through the area and I had his book, Travels with a Donkey, with me as my guide.

It was September, and overnight the weather changed dramatically, and I awoke to find snow on the ground.  What had been a sparse, richly coloured autumnal expanse interrupted by the dark green inkiness of the dense pines was suddenly a wide and bright white vista that seemed to stretch on forever.  As I took a few moments to watch the snow and gaze at the mountain tops, the thought that misdeeds could be so easily hidden here floated across my mind and the first few lines of the book were born.

‘I died beneath a clear autumn sky in September, late in September when warm cévenol afternoons drift into cooler than usual evenings before winter steals down from the summit of Mont Aigoual.

My shallow grave lies in a field behind an old farmhouse. There was no ceremony to mark my death and no mourners, just a stranger in the darkness spading soil over my body. Only the midnight clouds cried for me as they brought their first sprinkling of snow to the tiny village of Messandrierre.’

Q: Does that mean there are real places in your books?

MendeJewishQuarter (2)

Old City of Mendes

Angela: My village is fictional, as are all the characters with which it is populated, but it is modelled in size and detail on the real village where I always stay.  For the book, I had to move the chateau and turn it into ruins, fell a few trees and build some hunting chalets so that Messandrierre would properly support the story I wanted to tell.

Mende, the principle city of the département of Lozère, is referenced in the book several times and a specific incident occurred there that relates to the disappearances that my hero, Jacques Forêt, investigates.  It also features in the second book in the series which is called, Merle.  That is the name I’ve given to a fictitious suburb in Mende where a murder takes place.  Mende, in reality, is a fascinating place with a rich and varied history, and during the 1939/45 war, it was part of Vichy France.  It is well worth a visit for anyone in the area.

Q: Using a 19th century journal as a travel guide rather than a modern guide is different… But why? Very little can be the same surely?

Angela: Stevenson, like me had a great interest in history and as he moves from place to place he comments on what he finds there and how that matches with, or not, his expectations as a result of the history.  He also dismisses some places and items of interest unfairly, in my view.  He travelled through the Cévennes in late September and into October, but I think the best time to be there is in June and July.  For me, the book was like having an old and trusted friend with me.  As I visited Luc, or crossed the bridge into Langogne, or sat eating my lunch by the bridge in Pont de Montvert, I could debate with, or challenge, RLS in my thoughts.  For example, the bridge across the Tarn at Montvert dates from the 17th century.  Just think about that for a minute.  Not only did Stevenson cross that single bridge, so did any number of others, a knight perhaps, merchants and drovers, maybe a troubadour or two, who knows, but it’s sometimes good to just speculate about history.

Road to Langogne02 (2)

The colours of Cevennes

Of course, the best part of making such journeys is to write about them afterwards and my last trip to the Cévennes provided enough material for a series of blogposts about the area. Following Stevenson

 

 

Q:  What are your plans for your next book and your next trip to France?

Angela: The second book, Merle, is with the publisher for editing and should be out later this year.  The third book, Montbel, is my current work in progress and is at an early stage but hopefully will be available sometime next year.

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Bridge across the tarn at Pont-de-Montvert

As for France, I’ve been poring over my maps and I will be heading out there pretty soon.  I’m planning on meandering across the Vivarais plateau in search of WWII history and I will have a very interesting book with me as my guide too!

Thank you Angela! That’s been a fascinating chat. Tell us a bit more about you and your latest release.

My first novel, Messandrierre, is set in France, where I like to spend as much time as possible each year and was published in December 2015.  The follow-up, Merle, is with the publisher for editing and will be available later in the year. I am also working on an anthology of alternative fairy tales which I intend to self-publish.

About the Book… Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre.

But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won’t give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman. Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim?

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Blog : www.jamesetmoi.blogspot.com

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