Category Archives: Conferences

What I’m Doing this Summer (or: How Not to Pitch an Agent)

angel/cherub statue reading a book on the grass - https://pixabay.com/en/the-statue-of-angel-art-boy-1398281/

Image by Diego Torres via Pixabay

Wondering what I’m doing this summer? Here’s the story behind one project.

It all started in April, when I took a crash course in pitching an agent. I had registered for Books Alive! 2016, presented by the Washington Independent Review of Books. It’s a local conference with workshops, speakers, a book fair, and book signings.  It also features the coveted Agent Speed Pitches.

I figured I would brush off a journalism fellowship proposal, make it into a book proposal, and convince an agent to love it in five minutes or less. Soon, I’d be on my way to a book deal.

It turns out I went about it all wrong.

It’s not hard to do what I did. To practice how not to pitch an agent, follow the simple steps below.

How Not to Pitch an Agent for Your Nonfiction Book

    1. With about six days to go before your nonfiction book proposal must be ready, discover that six days is a preposterously inadequate amount of time to write a book proposal.*
    2. Write a good query letter instead. While working, sing a little song about how the kindly agent will adore your query, swoop in, and help you write that pesky proposal.
    3. Do not use a single sentence from your query letter. Instead, turn what was once a book proposal and then became a query letter into a three-minute pitch.
    4. Practice the pitch on nonfiction writers, novelists, and your cat. At least one out of three will give constructive feedback. Treat the other two to a rendition of that song about your guardian agent.
    5. At 6:45 am on the day of the pitch sessions, as the Uber waits downstairs, decide to print your query letter after all. Clutch the letter close throughout the morning.
    6. Use the pitch on agents — the ones assigned to you for speed-pitch sessions as well as the one who magically asks you about your book while you sit around the lunch table. That last one will listen intently until you must both stop for the keynote by Bob Woodward.
    7. Note the questions the agents ask and suggestions they make about structure. Note also how said questions and suggestions are not at all consistent.
    8. Note also how, though the agents are all wonderful people, not one extended a cloud-soft wing to envelope you.
    9. Rejoice that several agents asked to see either a sample chapter or full book proposal.
    10. Realize this is better than a guardian agent. Also understand that you must produce a book proposal.
    11. Attempt to write a book proposal. Take more than six days to do it.
    12. Start now.

So there you have it. The Book Proposal (incorrect capitalization for Emphasis) is one of my projects. I look forward to posting updates.

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*Why inadequate? Thanks to author friends Michael Chorost and Fran Hawthorne (plus online searching), I learned that a nonfiction book proposal comprises some 50 to 60 pages of details. It covers the content, author, and market. Sample chapters also go in there. As you can imagine, a normal human can’t do this overnight. If you’re interested in more information, here’s a great guide from Zimmerman Literary.

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Loaves and enchiladas

Challah cooling after baking

Challah made by experienced and novice conference participants, December 2015. Photo by Rhea.

Last Friday, I joined a crowd of around 500 for MLK Shabbat at Sixth and I Synagogue. The service brought together members of Jewish community and the Turner Memorial AME Church. On Sunday and Monday, many celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the fight for civil rights at church and interfaith services.

These events remind me how a yearning for social justice can bind communities of faith, as well as the centrality of the sabbath.

Leading up to that weekend, I was honored to publish a piece about challah, the bread central to Jewish Shabbat tables:

A Thoughtful Loaf From ‘Yeast of Eden’

Earlier in the week, the Forward also posted a story featuring a recipe by local cookbook author and healthy eating guru Natasha Rosenstock Nadel:

Vegan Enchilada Casserole

I’ll end with a plug for another event. If you live in DC, check out Why Ethics?: Blacks, Jews and the Crisis of Political Solidarity in an Age of Terror tomorrow.

Happy eating, and may 2016 bring us closer together.

 

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One writer’s experience at Binder Con

Check out my experience at Out of the Binders, aka #BinderCon, on Storify: https://storify.com/RheaYK/out-of-the-binders.

I was inspired by the Storify version of the Google For Media Summit, I decided to make one myself for this conference for women and gender non-conforming writers. Thanks for reading!

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