Monday, September 15, 2014

What Agents Are Looking For and How to Pitch to Them with Julie Gwinn

What This Agent is Looking For (An ACFW Primer)

For the last decade or so, I have worn many hats, first as a marketer and then as editor for two different publishing houses. In my new role as a literary agent with The Seymour Agency, I have noticed that the query letters and pitches coming from prospective authors are the same but what I am looking for has changed. Hopefully my explanation will help you hone your pitches for ACFW.

As a fiction editor, I was looking for a great story with strong characters set in a unique location or situation to make the book stand out in a crowd. I wanted strong writing but was willing to work with an author if I could see there was potential. I came to writer’s conferences and ACFW with my matrix in hand so that I knew exactly what I needed to round out my publishing plan by genre. The ideas that fit into that plan were given priority. I was looking at the short-term.

As an agent, I am still looking for a great story with strong characters in a unique location or situation that makes it stand out in an increasingly saturated market. The difference for me though is now I am looking beyond the one book to see if the author has other ideas as well.  I am now looking long-term.

I am looking for an author/writer who has a lot of ideas beyond book one and who needs my help setting priorities based on the current market to put those ideas into a strategic publishing/writing plan. I am excited at the prospect of finding someone I can guide and nurture and help grow. Personally, I want someone with a passion for their message and for learning everything they can about their craft. I am looking for a great writer who captures me immediately or a good writer who is willing to learn.

I am also looking for a business partner who is willing to work as hard as I will to see their project published and then marketed and sold into the hands of readers. Someone who understands the role discoverability plays in becoming successful and is interested in cultivating a following of fans and readers to help with that important component.

Ultimately trust is key. The author needs to trust me, my experience, my knowledge, and know I have their best interest at heart. And I need to trust that the author will be open, honest and do their part in making this a successful venture.

So as you set appointments for ACFW, know that pitching to agents is different than pitching to editors, and tailor your message accordingly. The appointments are like speed dating and each one is wanting to hear something specific, but in general we are all there to hear from you!


Thank you, Julie, for letting us in on what agents are looking for. We are thrilled to have you at The Writer's Alley.

Does anyone have any questions? Thoughts? Things to add?


Pepper Basham writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She’s a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a mom of five, a speech-language pathologist, and a lover of chocolate. She writes a variety of genres, but enjoys sprinkling her native culture of Appalachia in them all.  She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she works with kids, searches for unique hats to impress her friends, and plots new ways to annoy her wonderful friends on The Alley. She is represented by the amazing Julie Gwinn.


Anonymous said...

This was so helpful to me--very clear and concise. And as I dive into querying, rather than discouraged, I was inspired as I continued to polish my query letter.
Thank you for this!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Thank you for this! It's a great reminder for me that editors are looking for different things than agents. So glad you shared this, Julie!

Paula Mowery said...

As I am gearing up to query an agent, I'm wondering about what you said concerning looking for authors who have more than just one story in them. Suppose I do (which I do), I can only paste a 5 page tidbit of only one manuscript, correct? Is this looking for someone who has other ideas something that comes later?

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Thank you for taking the time to visit The Writers Alley, Julie! We appreciate your wisdom!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Julie, for your honesty and enthusiasm. What do you look for first (or most importantly) in a query or proposal?

Laura L. Smith said...

You have always been an "ideas generator". Love to see your ideas here. How wonderful that you're looking to team up with your authors for the journey. Because it is one, a journey. It's writing and marketing and speaking and writing again. But always returning to purpose, to calling, to vocation and figuring out how to best do that, how to best say what we're meant to say, and then how to have that voice be heard. Thanks for the inspiration, Julie.

Tisha said...

So very helpful. Thank you!