What I Learned: Pitching an Agent

Ever wondered how to pitch your book to an agent? Here are some tips to get you started!

Hey writer friends! Last weekend I got to go to a writing conference in New Jersey. I haven’t been to one in a few years now, so it was really exciting to get to travel, meet with other writers, and have the chance to pitch Sea of Broken Glass to an agent.

But let me tell you: it is not easy figuring out how to pitch. There aren’t a ton of resources out there. And it is so nerve-wracking!

But luckily, the host, Marisa Corvisiero of Corvisiero Agency, shared some helpful tips, and I have some experiences of my own to help you prepare for your next in-person pitch.

So here we go.

Tips for Pitching an Agent

Practice your pitch.

Take some time before you get there to work through what you want to say. I used Tomi Adeyemi’s advice for crafting my pitch. I wrote out my general info, then practiced saying it until I didn’t really need to look at what I wrote. Other advice is to practice in front of friends or family, if you get the chance. For me, I was too nervous to practice before I got there…and I was so busy the week leading up to the conference that I completely forgot.

But the more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be talking about your book and the less mechanical you’ll sound.

It’s okay to bring a notecard.

If you’re like me and have trouble remembering things when you’re nervous, write your important points on an index card to take with you. The agent won’t mind if you reference it during your pitch.

Be ready for questions.

The agent may stop you during your pitch to clarify something or just ask a general question (which is a good reason to have an index card, so you can get back on track after the question). Be ready to answer whatever they ask. Generally, they may ask to clarify some things about your story or characters or, like for me, they may even ask what inspired your story. Take a deep breath, and answer. This is your baby, and take heart that you know what you’re talking about.

Be polite.

This should go without saying, but don’t act like you’re God’s gift to the world. Be polite, be humble. If they don’t like your book, don’t be offended, and don’t lash out at them. There’s no better way to ensure no one will ever want your book than to disrespect an agent (hint: the agent community is actually quite small).

Pick the right agent.

Make sure you do your research. At every event I’ve been to, you have to pay for pitches. If you pick an agent who doesn’t even rep what you’re selling, you’ve already lost…and wasted the cost of the pitch. Also make sure they’d be interested in your content. For example, some agents, even though they may rep your genre, won’t be interested in reading your time-travel fantasy if they are mainly interested in contemporary romance. Use the time leading up to the pitching event to find your perfect fit(s). There are plenty of resources online, like Twitter, Manuscript Wish List, Publisher’s Marketplace, and Query Tracker. Use them!

They don’t care if you’re nervous.

This was actually one of the biggest things that helped me at the conference: knowing that however nervous you are doesn’t matter. And it’s okay. So just power through and talk about your story, because that’s why you’re both there. What the agent really cares about is the quality of your story.

You have the same goals.

You want to sell your book. The agent you’re pitching wants to find a great book. That’s the most important thing, even if you stumble over your words.

Don’t let your nerves get the better of you.

Marisa told a story about how she was being pitched at an event, and this person came up to pitch. Her skin was all splotchy red, she made a comment about how nervous she was, started pitching, then stopped and ran from the room. The kicker? Marisa really loved what she was pitching. She never did find that person again.

Don’t let this happen to you. Remember my earlier points, if it helps: they don’t care if you’re nervous, and they just want to hear about your book. It’s why you’re both there!

Leave them with something to remember you.

You’re a professional, so I’d recommend creating business cards and leaving one with the agent. It will give them something physical to remember you, and if you have a card that wows, so much the better!

Above all, remember that this is your baby, the story you love. Let your passion for it shine!

Conclusions and more help

These are just some quick tips, mostly for emotional support and preparation, but there are a few other resources out there that can help you pitch an agent. For instance, Writer’s Digest and Author Tomi Adeyemi both discuss pitching and how to craft your pitch. I found Tomi Adeyemi’s advice the most valuable in crafting my pitch, as I mentioned above, so you may find it practical as well.

And if you’re wondering how my pitch session went, I got a request for the first 50 pages, despite my nerves. I sent it over that very night and got a request for the full by Monday. Keep your fingers crossed that she loves the whole story as much as I do, but I’ll give you updates when I have them!

Good luck!

There is No Right Way

Happy March, friends! Last month we had a blast talking fantasy, but today I want to focus on the writing process again. Particularly, I’d like to discuss the advice that floats around out there in the interwebs and how we develop our writing methods.

You see, the writing process is incredibly personalized… what works for one doesn’t work for all. As writers, we learn over time how to recognize what works best for us and organize our time and abilities to make the most progress.

But despite this truth, I still see countless articles, blog posts, and bits of advice telling writers how they should approach their writing. How they have to set aside a certain time EVERY DAY, how they must write every day, how they should do this, or do that, and if they don’t, they’re not really a writer.

But all that is malarky. One writer’s method may work for them, but it may not work for anyone else. As writers, we need to be wise with what we read and consume and understand this. Other writers may give advice or sure-fire methods to getting that book done, but in reality, they can only share things from their own experience.

When we start writing, it is good to take in as many methods as possible, to try out approaches we might not have tried or considered before. But as we write and practice, we will learn what works (and doesn’t work) for us. And eventually we will have our ideal writing method. We will keep the things that work and discard the rest. And maybe sometimes we will revisit methods when we find we need to refine our methods yet again.

Even after years, the method you develop may not be a concrete method. Your writing process will likely continue to develop and change as you continue to write. Personally, I have tried many methods, and while I found some things that worked and I thought they would be solid forever, I ended up ditching them because they no longer served me.

And that’s okay.

The truth is you will constantly be adapting and altering your method, even minutely, based on your circumstances and current projects. You will eventually find what works for you (or for that project) and stick to that. But then it may change again.

Don’t be afraid of changing, and don’t be afraid to defy the next hot bit of advice to come out of the internet. And also don’t be afraid to try new methods. You may find one that suits you even better than what you thought was your ideal process!

The bottom line is this: do what is best for you, no matter what anyone else says, do what helps you write and focus the most. Do this, and the story will happen in ways you never imagined possible.


What methods are you currently using? What bits of advice have you seen… and hated? Tell me below!

The Key to Finishing Your First Novel

For most of my life, I never finished writing a book.

Let me backtrack. I started writing when I was in elementary school, a time when I was reading almost exclusively Westerns. I would make the covers (in pencil, on folded computer paper), write the first couple of (extremely short) chapters, then drop it before it was finished. In fifth grade, I finished a few small stories that were class assignments. Then, late in middle school, I finished writing my first book. And didn’t edit or revise a thing. I printed it off and gave it to my fifth grade English teacher to see. But after that came another decade of unfinished work, except for one other story I somehow managed to finish and, again, never touch or revise after the first draft was completed.

Then, in grad school, I finished writing three books within a year and actually went back to polish and revise the first. Since then, I haven’t given up on writing very many books, and then only with good reason.

So what changed? I learned something key: Discipline is a better friend than inspiration.

You see, up until that point, I had only been writing whenever I felt “inspired”. Honestly, I think this is such a common pitfall, particularly for young and new writers. When we start out, we tend to feel like we can only write when we feel like writing or when the ideas are flowing.

But it’s a lie, and honestly, it’s partly laziness and partly a misconception and idealization of the life of a writer.

Writers don’t only write when inspired; writers write out of discipline. As Louis L’Amour put it:

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.Louis l'amour

We don’t always feel like writing. We don’t always want to open up that document. Sometimes we just want to binge-watch Netflix or nap. But here’s the truth. If you want to be a serious writer, if you might be considering a writing career, you must start to write even when you’re not inspired. Even if it’s just a few words at a time. Start to build your writing habit and schedule and then stick to it! That is the only way you will finish that first novel.

But I am interested in what helps you to sit down and open that last page. Tell me your stories! How did you finish your first book? Do you have any other advice for new writers? Tell me in the comments.

How to Power Through a Book You Must Read

There are many of us, especially those in school, for whom reading is an essential part of our job. It may be a textbook. It may be a novel. It may simply be a report or research article. Sometimes they’re enjoyable reads, but oftentimes, the opposite is true. Sometimes we hate the reading or it bores us until we fall asleep. But no matter how we feel about it, we have to read it or suffer consequences in our grade or job performance.

So how do we get through the difficult books? I have a few helpful tips that have gotten me through many a difficult read.

  1. Make a plan. There was a study a while back that said goal-setting was an important step in meeting your goals. This is an excellent time to apply that idea. So take a step back and look at your required reading. Start with the due date. If there isn’t one, give it a reasonable due date based on either when you would like to have it finished or when it would be appropriate to have completed it. Next, evaluate how long the work is. Only a few pages or an entire novel? Then, break it up into manageable chunks. Figure out how much you need to read within a certain period to meet the goal.

    That was kind of abstract, so let’s look at an example. Let’s say you’re taking a literature class and you have to read a 200 page novel in a week. But you really really hate this book and would rather do anything else, like watch paint dry or stick your fingernails in your eyes.

    Due date: 7 days from today
    Number of pages: 200
    Pages per day to finish on time: 28.5

    So we calculated that to finish this book by the due date, you need to read 28 and a half pages per day. That sounds a lot more manageable, right? There’s your plan.

    Note: you can also base your calculation on number of chapters or number of sections rather than pages. Find what works for you.

  2. Schedule your time. Figure out when you are going to read those pages. Morning? Evening? Between classes? Before you go home? Just find a chunk of time that works based on what you have available and how long it will take you to read it.
  3. Do the reading. That’s it. Follow your plan and read those pages or chapters or sections each day or hour or whatever schedule you worked out. Pro Tip: you’ll be done faster if you can make yourself read past your goal. Once you hit your daily or hourly (or whatever) goal, see if you can do just a little bit more. It really adds up by the end of your deadline.
  4. Reward yourself every session. When you reach your session goal, make sure to give yourself something to celebrate. Eat a piece of candy. Go hang out with a friend. Or, my favorite (which also doesn’t use food as a reward, which is dangerous), now you get to read a fun book. Yes, once you finish the pages for whatever reading you are required to do, you can relax with reading you actually want to do!

A special note for the writers out there: these methods also work for getting yourself to write on a schedule! Woot! NaNoWriMo taught me that one. However, one different note for writing is that you could also base your goal off of daily writing time rather than word count, pages, chapters, etc.

Now, I know this isn’t the most timely post, since schools are finishing up (congrats, grads!), but these tips can be so handy at any time. Use them for school readings, for reading books for reviews or critiques (hey, looking at you, writing critique partners out there! and beta readers and anyone else this applies to), and for completing reading in your job. Personally, I used to have a lot of school reading and I currently do review reading, critiquing, beta reading, reading to build my internal library, and reading articles and protocols for work. Sometimes these readings can be rough, and these tips have seen me through them!

Your turn: tell me what tips and tricks you use to get through difficult reading. Share below! I can’t wait to see how everyone else deals with these things. 🙂 Happy reading!

How to Keep Writing in the Middle of Health Problems

Nearly every writer will be faced with a health issue at some point in their life that will interfere with their ability to write. As writers, this lack of creative activity can be disheartening, guilt-inducing, and crippling. So when these problems in our physical or mental health occur, how do we keep ourselves creating through the troubles?

1. Understand the illness. The first step in overcoming a problem is understanding what to expect and knowing how to evaluate your ability. For example, someone with depression is likely to have motivational problems and fatigue while someone with a physical illness such as multiple sclerosis or cancer may be forced to contend with pain and lack of energy. When you know what to expect, you can create a plan to address those problems if or when they arise with your doctors, family, and friends. They all want to help you.

2. Know your limits… don’t overextend yourself. Once you understand the illness, take it easy while you understand how it is affecting your mind and body. Pay attention to when you have overextended yourself or when you haven’t pushed yourself enough. Take notes on what makes things better or worse. This can also help you create a plan and a schedule to keep working.

3. Set reasonable goals. Only you can define what is reasonable, but use your knowledge of yourself from point 2 to define it. For me, for a while my goal was simply to write one sentence per day. Maybe for you what it looks like is keeping a journal or writing one paragraph from a writing prompt or cutting down to one writing day per week. And I will be the first to tell you that it isn’t easy to maintain, and you may fall into a creative drought in which nothing is accomplished. It’s okay. Don’t waste the energy on blaming or berating yourself, no matter how justified it feels. You will get past it, and being sick isn’t your fault. Just take care of yourself. Which leads to…

4. Your health comes first. Creativity and creative energy will follow. Make your health and recovery a priority. Talk to the doctors. Follow their instructions. Take your medications. Get enough food, sleep, and exercise. And I know that can also be hard to maintain. That brings me to my last point…

5. Get support. Find an accountability partner to ask you about your health, well-being, and writing. Trust your loved ones to be there for you and encourage you, even when it feels like they don’t or that you are a burden. They do care, and you aren’t a burden. They care, and they want to help. Beyond your loved ones, find support groups. Meeting with other people going through similar things can be very encouraging and helpful to your overall recovery. Find encouraging blogs or posts online and make yourself a motivational or inspirational file, Pinterest board, collage, whatever works for you. I myself have both a Pinterest board and a file on my computer filled with things that encourage me when things aren’t going so well for me.

Whatever you’re going through, please remember that you aren’t alone. There are people who understand, people who have experienced or are experiencing similar issues, people who care, and people who can and want to help. Reach out.

And whatever happens, do your best to keep writing. For a writer, writing can be one of the best forms of self care.

Chin up, my friends. It’s going to be okay.

How to Write a Fairy Tale Retelling

Fairy tales have become very popular lately, particularly unique retellings of fairy tales such as The Lunar Chronicles series, Ella Enchanted, Hunted, the ACOTAR series, and many, many others. In fact, the small publisher Rooglewood Press has been hosting a fairy tale retelling contest for a few years now, and they just recently announced this year’s (sadly the last): Snow White. If you’re interested in that, I’ll include a link to the contest page and previous winners below.

If you find you’re one of those people (like me) who is just a sucker for fairy tale retellings and want to try your hand at writing one, how do you going about doing that? Well, there are a few simple steps to make it the best it can be.

  1. Pick something new. Personally, I am tired of the “classic” fairy tales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Everyone and their mother retells those. What about other classics, like Donkeyskin and the Little Match Girl? I love the story Donkeyskin, but very few authors choose to retell it. Just by picking something lesser known or with fewer popular versions, you will immediately create something that stands apart from the crowd of retellings. In a world saturated with fairy tale stories, that’s a good thing.
  2. Start with the source. Go back to the source material, those first recorded instances of the story. Read the base story before you dive into creating your own version. How can you make a retelling if you don’t know the original? And no, Disney absolutely does not count!
  3. Expand to variations of the source. Look at different variants of the same story. Did you know that many fairy tales have versions in a number of different cultures? A couple years ago, Sleeping Beauty was the theme of the Rooglewood contest, and I hated how passive the heroine was. Turns out, all I needed to do was find a different version, and there she was! My active participant from a Middle Eastern version of the story. Dig around, and it will almost definitely give you ideas and inspiration.
  4. Look at other retellings. Find other, more recent versions of the story you want to tell. Look at how other authors approached the story, what they changed and kept, how it influenced the themes and plot. But don’t stop there! Look at reviews from bloggers and readers of the story. See how the audience reacted to the retelling, the elements they liked and didn’t like. Use this knowledge to your advantage!
  5. Make it recognizable. One of the most important parts of writing a retelling is making sure enough elements are present that the reader knows what story you are retelling. Otherwise, it’s just another story, not a retelling at all. Recognition is key.
  6. Make it new. We are all familiar with classic versions of stories. What readers want is a new take. Maybe there’s something different about the hero and the villain. Maybe the setting is in outer space instead of a woodland. Give your plot twists that may not have been present in the original. Maybe even mix several fairy tales together, like in the Lunar Chronicles. Whatever you decide to do, make it your retelling, not just a copy. Your readers will find it far more interesting that way.

For more reading on fairy tale retellings, you can check out this post from Ink and Quills and this post from Lianne Taimenlore. And if you have any suggestions for writing these kinds of stories, be sure to comment! I’d love to hear your input!

Rooglewood Press 2017 Contest: Five Poisoned Apples
2015 Contest: Five Magic Spindles
2014 Contest: Five Enchanted Roses
2013 Contest: Five Glass Slippers