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How to Land a Literary Agent

Lesson 5 of 6

Prepare the Perfect Pitch


How to Land a Literary Agent

Lesson 5 of 6

Prepare the Perfect Pitch


Lesson Info

Prepare the Perfect Pitch

Number three is what do you have ready to pitch? What's your pitch package? So the perfect pitch package is, for fiction, you're gonna have a finished, polished manuscript, and I'm super strict about that. Don't go out to pitch if you're not ready with fiction. There's a great quote by Scott Dilbert, I mean Scott Adams, who's the Dilbert guy, cartoonist, and he says, "The market rewards execution, "not ideas." "The market reward execution, not ideas." You've gotta have this executed. Don't go pitch -- the thing that makes me more crazy than anything else is when people go to conferences and they have half a manuscript or a rough draft of a manuscript and they're like, "Well, I'm just gonna see, I'm just gonna "put my toes in the water and see what kinda "reaction I get" and that mindset is so not what we want because that's that hand of God, struck by lightning mindset, right? Like, "I shall be plucked out and offered a book deal "because I'm so genius." It doesn't happen and it's not ...

the right mindset. You wanna go in there with a finished, polished manuscript. You want your sample chapters, which are usually the first three chapters, to be totally flawless. You want a synopsis of the whole book that's about 500 words, which is about two pages double-spaced, 12-point font, which is the standard. It's really short and people always say, "That's fine for everyone but not my book. "I can't summarize my book in 500 words." You can and you will. You need a killer query letter and an agent pitch list, which we've talked about, and that strategic plan of how you're gonna go out, who you're gonna go out to first, in what order. For nonfiction, it's almost the same. You don't necessarily have to have a finished manuscript, you can sell a nonfiction book on a proposal and sample chapters. You do have to have a book proposal with audience analysis, comparative titles, and marketing plan. That's really easy to say. It usually ends up being about 45 pages from my clients. It's a business plan, it's super intense, and you have to pay really close attention to all of these elements. That's what the agents are looking for for nonfiction. Some of the handout materials talk in more depth about these things. I just want you to know what they are. So now what we're gonna talk about is what is that killer query letter and how do you get one? Okay, so, the only purpose of a query letter is to get that agent to request pages. That's its only job. It has that one function. You don't have to explain your whole life history, you don't have to explain the whole story, all you've gotta do is get them to want to look at more. So the reality is, a lot of agents have first readers. I talked about that function before. They're usually 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds. My daughter did this for a top agent for a summer. They sit in a conference room. The agents tell them what to look for and they plow through the queries because these agents are getting hundreds of queries a day, and you've gotta get that 19-year-old to say yes. So it's gotta be so clear that you're awesome that the 19-year-old can recognize it. And it can, they're trainable, they're trainable to do that, but that's the only purpose of a query. Okay, so, what to do in a query. I'm gonna go through these really fast. They're all in your handouts. You wanna be concise, you wanna capture the spirit of the story or the argument if it's nonfiction, include key facts like the genre and the page count or word count, your bio. You wanna tell what happens, that's the content. Say why it matters, the meaning. Why would anybody care? Why are we caring about this today? Is there something in the headline, is there something in the culture? We wanna know why you selected this agent, if it's compelling, if there's a -- if they represent your favorite author, if you met them at a conference, if there's some reason to say why you picked them you should say that. If there's not, don't. And then competitive or comparative titles, where that can enhance your pitch. The don'ts in a query, no long, rambling paragraphs. No defensive tone, which would be like, "Well, the last agent rejected it, but I'm really "hoping that you'll take it". No gimmicks of any kind. You just wanna be professional. You want, it's a professional pitch. No begging, like, "This has been my lifelong dream". You can't believe the number of times I see that. No mention of previous rejections, like somebody almost loved it but then they didn't, and no grandiosity like, "This will be "the next Harry Potter". We don't wanna say that, even if you think it's true. Okay, so, the parts of a query, I broke it down into what these parts are and it's just taking those do's and don'ts and putting them in a form and I've got a step-by-step worksheet on how to work through these in the handouts so you can go through these, but what I wanna do today is bring Abby back and we're just gonna do that top two. Let me go back to that side.

Class Description

Your biggest, lifelong dream is to score a publishing deal for your book. But first you must clear what seems like your most challenging, daunting hurdle: convincing an agent to represent you.

Many writers believe that landing an agent is an impossible task. They think they have to know someone, learn some secret handshake or simply have an incredible burst of luck. But the truth is that there’s a strategic process to securing representation, one that can be learned and successfully implemented.

Jennie Nash, a book coach who has helped dozens of writers achieve their literary aspirations, will guide you through the agent query process—from getting over your initial fears and anxieties to mapping out the essential steps of how to pitch your work to writing a killer query letter.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Identify the agents who might be interested in your work and are most likely to offer you a deal.
  • Double-check the integrity of the agents on your list.
  • Rank your list so you can leverage the batch method of pitching.
  • Write a query letter that proves you’re a writer worth investing in.
  • Personalize your letter for the agents on your list.
  • Pitch at the right time in the development process.
  • Understand the marketplace and how your book fits into it.
  • Get smart about pitching through online contests and conferences.



Awesome and fun class. Jennie condenses the most valuable information and presents it in a way any author can use. Great bonus materials. The query letter was striking and helpful. I wouldn't query without applying Jennie's tools and I'd sleep better knowing I'd used them.

Crystal Cervantes

This class was great to listen to and she had some fantastic ideas about catching a literary agent that I had never thought of! Loved every bit of it!

Sonja Dewing

Loved this class and loved being in the studio! Watching it again to get all the great details.