Which pitch has the most potential? Slush pile, in-person or online contest?

I get asked this question often. Writers want to make the most of their time and talent. Querying is a part in your writing career that is fraught with stress, expectation, and worry–oh wait, this sounds like the entire length of a writing career! Jokes aside, the decisions you make to start your career have a huge influence on the trajectory of it.

So what’s the best way to pitch an industry professional? In person at a conference? In the slush pile? Or in an online contest? 

All of these have advantages and disadvantages. Let’s go over them.

Pitching At A Conference In Person

Advantage: We get to know a slice of your personality (even if it’s only for 10 minutes) and whether we could see ourselves working together. Establishing a personal connection is beneficial for both parties.

Disadvantage: We haven’t seen your material yet! It all depends on the writing. So even if we get along well there is absolutely no guarantee anything will come of it. And if you’re nervous in those 10 minutes we might not get to see the best version of your presentation.

Slush Pile Pitching

Advantage: You can passionately explain why you think an agent is the right fit. You can get lots of advice on how to write the perfect query letter. This targeting is one of the most effective ways of hooking an agent who is right for you. I find more clients in the slush pile than anywhere else. I’d say it’s a 10:1 ratio. For every 10 clients I sign up 10 are from the slush, 1 is from elsewhere.

Disadvantage: Agents get hundreds to thousands of emails a month and you only get one chance to impress them.

Blog Contest Pitching

Advantage: You know you have 3-10 agents actively looking at your material, depending on the contest. There are many success stories floating around from these selective types of events.

Disadvantage: There might be a few agents interested, but often the speed of which the interested agent offers puts off the other agents because we don’t always have time to drop everything and read. Sometimes this speed works out in people’s favor and sometimes it doesn’t. Competition is definitely healthy, but writers have to make a tough decision without the hoopla getting in the way.

Twitter Contest Pitching

Advantage: It happens a few times a year and agents looking to build their list are actively observing it. Plus it makes you practice how to pitch and write a hook in one sentence.

Disadvantage: Agents want to work with authors who select agents for a reason. Writers pitch blindly on Twitter and sometimes the agent that wants to offer rep isn’t on that author’s “top agents” list and there can be bad blood and also a waste of time for everyone when querying would have been a must more beneficial use of time for both parties.

Q: Do you have a success story from one of these methods? (Or, more unfortunately, a horror story?)

3 Reasons It’s Good to be in the Slush Pile

notepageI think writers interpret the Slush Pile as a bad thing, when really, agents love our slush pile. It’s where we find our amazing debut authors! Yes, it can be an overwhelming thing for us to sort through–which is why you hear the groans–but sometimes we’re amazed at what we see.

Here’s why you should be glad to be in the Slush Pile:

1. The great projects rise to the top. We see so much in the slush pile via unsolicited queries that it becomes clear what is great and what is okay, what makes us look twice and what is for someone else. If you follow the query guidelines closely and pitch with careful research you’re already ahead of the hundreds of queries we get a month. Many writers get down when they know the number of queries that agents process. But what they don’t know is that most of them aren’t well researched. If you care enough to carefully select the agents you query you’re rising to the top.

2. You’re taking a professional leap! It’s easy to say you’re not ready, but it takes a confident writer to be able to put themselves out there. Querying is Step One in becoming a professional writer. It means you take yourself seriously and agents should too. This is a writer investing in themselves and their career. And we want to work with writers who are in it for the long haul.

3. We read our slush. Agents that are actively looking to sign authors will be looking in the slush pile. Sure, we go to conferences too, but the primary way we sign new talent is through the slush pile. Non fiction often comes via referral or agents going out and pursuing journalists or experts, however fiction is found via slush 99% of the time. So we have to read our slush in order to find good projects! Any agent building a list or actively looking for new talent will spend time in the slush pile.

Good links on the Slush Pile:

Dos and Don’ts of the Slush Pile

Tips from a Slush Pile Find

24 Tales from the Slush Pile

Manuscript Wishlist May 2014

Here is an updated manuscript wishlist for my slush pile.

Please send me:

  • Women’s fiction, commercial, historical or upmarket  (i.e. THE ARRIVALS, GIRLS IN WHITE DRESSES and THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND)
  • Literary coming of age novels like ARCADIA
  • YA and adult books about: revolutions (i.e. French, South American), cults and communes, family secrets, settings that feel like characters (i.e. BURIAL RITES).
  • Southern and Southern Gothic novels (i.e. TUMBLEWEEDS, SAVING CEE CEE HONEYCUTT and TRUE BLOOD-type but not paranormal)
  • YA contemporary, light sci fi or low fantasy novels (i.e. GRACELING, POINTE and DANGEROUS GIRLS)
  • Literary Thrillers like GONE GIRL and NIGHT FILM
  • Health and Wellness Non Fiction
  • Memoirs from people who have a platform (newsworthy story, blog or social media following is helpful)
  • Business Books
  • Pop Science Books (like GULP)

Send to query(at)psliterary.com with the subject heading For Carly Blog Wishlist BOOK TITLE.

Note: I am open to all diverse works including LGBT and stories by and about marginalized groups. And I don’t do Middle Grade.

2012 Query Stats and My 2013 Wishlist

128634Another year, another query stats update!
Queries received:

Approximately 6,000 (Yes, we look at all of them…)

Partial manuscript requests:

189 (I looked at a lot of partials because I was building my list. Anything that I thought had potential to be a fit with me I requested.)

Full manuscript requests:

30 (These were the select few that I was enjoying enough to read more of or have our agency assistant or intern do a readers report on.)

Projects offered on but lost to another agent:

1 (I was sad about losing this one.)

Projects I tried to request but already accepted an offer:

3 (This was disappointing. I always want to know if an offer is on the table so I can get to it before the author makes any decisions.)

New clients from the slush pile:

7 (That’s a lot! I won’t be signing that many this coming year.)

I’ve been actively signing new clients for the past two years. My list is starting to fill up, but I’m always on the hunt for great YA, women’s fiction, upmarket non fiction, and the occasional picture book.

I look forward to your 2013 queries!

2013 Wishlist: Continue reading 2012 Query Stats and My 2013 Wishlist