Agent Katharine Sands Talks Pitchcraft


Agent Katharine Sands Talks Pitchcraft
Book Marketing
Your Book
is Your
Reasons for
Using a
Pen Name
Belinda Pollard
The Cover Matters
M.J. Rose
BACK Cover
A Chat with
Katharine Sands
Teaching Authors Pitchcraft™ for the Digital Age
for Book Covers
Joel Friedlander
Choosing the Best Cover
DESIGNER for Your Book
Alicia Dunams
A Chat With
In Their Own Words
On the Leading Edge:
A Chat with Katharine Sands
Karen M. Rider
Teaching Authors Pitchcraft™ for the Digital Age
hange in the literary marketplace is
happening in a multiverse of ways… from how content –your writing—is
managed, to the skills agents need to
successfully develop and market that
“The writing is on the wall: Agenting is a
whole different job. The way we think about
text and storytelling is being utterly
transformed…We are all embracing and/or charging ahead to the new roles/new worlds
that surround us climacterically,” says Katharine Sands a veteran literary agent
with the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary
Agency in New York City.
It’s no longer enough to write a killer query letter—your pitch has to take you beyond
Page One into the digital landscape. “It’s still true that all things begin with a pitch; today,
you have more opportunity to make a pitch than ever before,” says Katharine, the agent provocateur of Making the Perfect Pitch: How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye, a collection of pitching wisdom from leading literary agents.
“Nowadays, we are all six tweet-tweets of separation. Content is king and we are
all Contentpreneurs. With the digital transformation happening, our new
cyberculture—blogs, podcasting, digital readers, and other media—agent roles and
practices are shifting focus to how writers can market and maximize their works in
an emerging literary marketplace.”
Book Marketing Magazine Issue 12
In Their Own Words
In this month’s exclusive interview, Katharine shares her insight about the emerging shifts in the literary landscape and she explains that writers who leverage these
opportunities can pioneer new readerships and new pathways for their careers.
[Karen] You’ve been quoted as saying “readers are the new guardians at the gate.” What do you mean?
It’s the writers who are pioneering new pathways and readerships. I predict we are going to see many more cyber-Cinderella stories. These will come from far afield, from
fan-fiction and from digital publishing. Publishing professionals are no longer
guardians at the gate; writers-as-authors are leveraging readers as communities. It is
not solely due to agency contacts and mystique that a writer succeeds, today. In a
way, a writer’s cyber-footprint – it can be personal or platform/brand or a grassroots
community—is part of the new book proposal. With the book trade moving toward
electronic distribution, there are many new agent roles and practices, and more to
come as there is need to include templates for these potential writer revenues.
[Katharine] How is the Pitchcraft ™ formula used effectively with today’s key audiences—agent, publisher and reader?
Writers need to know how to pitch something and position it, not just be someone who
can simply write. Pitchcraft™ is the writing you do about your writing. It is the
speaking, engagement and promotion you do about your writing. Why do you have to
do it? It’s a blueprint for the agent /editor—and later, for the reader to see what your
book is about. Agents and editors want to make sure you know how to tell, and can
deliver a story in many forms of media, as the case may be.
A perfect pitch – one that shows talent and power and ingredient X and quality—is the
way past any agency's first eyes. My best agent-getting advice is to write a killer query
and avoid the querial killers. When I read query letters, I use the Pitchcraft™ formula: Place – Person – Pivot. These are the things the reader needs to immediately focus
on in order to become oriented, invested and immersed in a story – any story.
Place: Where do you take me (what is the story universe?)
Person: Who do I meet (and why do I care about their story?)
Pivot: How do I enter the story at a lively, dramatic, interesting place…
The reader takes in information differently than the writer; the reader needs a way in.
As a writer you see the scope of the story, and know the themes that fuel and inform it.
Not so the reader. We need ‘camera work’ to show the way. Pitchcraft ™ sets up your
story portal and the place to spotlight the ‘story universe’;; Book Marketing Magazine Issue 12
In Their Own Words
you want to create this right away. Ask yourself: Have you taken me in, introduced a
character and shown me why I want to spend time in this world?
Your pitch will succeed if I can remember the
three elements: Place, Person, Pivot so that I
might repeat them back to you.
From Pitch to Page One, writers must realize their pitch has much more work to
do than just to query an agent. The very first ‘elevator pitch’ will take many forms,
morphing into brand and mission statements, and as a foundation for community
and platform building. Ultimately, whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction,
make sure your pitch hit the markers – Place-Person-Pivot – with the idea of
making the agent (or reader or editor) want to find out more.
[Karen] In what ways is PitchCraft™ different for the nonfiction author versus the fiction author?
The decision-making dance is always taking place – whether this is between
agent and author or writer and reader. Writers too often make the rookie mistake
of believing in ‘somebody, somewhere reads their work and champions them to success.’
Developing an author platform in the fiction market is as important as the nonfiction market. Fiction writers can build their platforms with blurbs from published
writers, literary contests and awards, ranks, reviews and sales (if they have been
digitally published), and by connecting with communities to promote their profile
and their writing. It’s about creating enterprises where writers will interact very closely with their readership through online media, blogs and websites, virtual
book clubs and speaking engagements.
Non-fiction writers and authors have to do many of the same things, but
PitchCraft is executed a little differently. Let’s say you are sharing your story of something that speaks to topics on many minds, and in much media. First,
introduce one really fresh idea. If memoir/femoir: How is yours an unusual and
intriguing premise? Are you mining a true-life event or childhood experience? Tie
this with a headline-making story.
Your meaningful experiences are what we will be following. This too has a story
arc. You want us to understand what you are faced with, and show how we will
Book Marketing Magazine Issue 12
In Their Own Words
follow each scene/stage from your story
– one that we will experience viscerally.
How your interior journey and exterior
journey are taking place can be
punched up in the query/pitch. What
makes me want to cheer the author
(meaning you) on?
Do not forget to set us up for the payoff, for what is at stake so that we are
ready for your tale to engage and
engross us, animating how your story or
your activism (and attendant insights)
will be immersive and affecting. Also,
does your title show personality and
does it describe the reader
experience…meaning the title sets us up for your story. Does it say bold and
brassy or cute and quirky or lyrical and
poetic, or rumination on the human
Facts About Katharine Sands
Katharine recently contributed “Grey is the New Black” to Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey, a
nonfiction look at the cultural phenom of the
bestselling novel. She teaches the art of
Pitchcraft™ at writing conferences across the country.
Some of the many titles that Katharine has
agented during her career include:
Dating the Devil
Divorce After 50
Trust Your Gut
The Tao of Beauty
Chasing Zebras: THE Unofficial Guide to
House, MD
The New Rules of Attraction: How to Get
Him, Keep Him and Make Him Beg for More
Spiritual Pregnancy: Nine Months that
Change Your Life Before You Give Birth
CityTripping: a Guide for Foodies,
Fashionistas and the Generally StyleObsessed
Talk to Strangers: How Everyday Random
Encounters Can Expand Your Business,
Career, Income and Life
Stand Up for Yourself: Resolve Workplace
Crises Before You Quit, Get Axed or Sue the
New York: Songs of the City
Taxpertise: Dirty Little Secrets the IRS
Doesn’t Want You to Know
When it comes to pitching prescriptive
non-fiction, you want to pose a problem
and a solution – with the book – this
book – being shown to be the solution.
Many writers make the mistake of
hammering home points about the
problem without marrying it to the book
as the solution for its ideal, intended
audience. This ideal audience (e.g., the
sandwich generation of women) should
be your lead point. Define a specific
market that you introduce in the context
such as the caregiver boomer cohort—
being sandwiched between the needs of
Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency
children and parents.
Submission Guidelines
Infotainment and edutainment are
popular buzzwords but you must
immediately show why yours is an
Book Marketing Magazine Issue 12
Mention the BMM in your query to
Katharine: [email protected]
In Their Own Words
infotaining book…what is it that readers would relate to? What can we learn from you about how to handle this life problem? What do I do differently after I read your
book? What could I not figure out without it? Your pitch will succeed if the ‘take away’ is information that resonates.
[Karen] So, what kills the query letter?
[Katharine] I teach a hands-on workshop called Querial Killers: How Not to Get an
Agent Even If You Are A Brilliant Writer, which covers the easy-to-fix mistakes
writers make when querying agents. Mistakes because these would be reasons an
agent would stop reading, or not ask to see more.
A common mistake is beginning the query with theme before you’ve given us the story. Leading with theme creates a shift away from the story, when it is the story
that must hook us. A pitch builds a case for reader interest; you can’t build that if you haven’t given the reader a chance to become involved with your character's journey and why we want to take it with him/her. To shift to the theme of
self-transformation or redemption or the power of dreams will cost you having your
MS read because what sells the story is the character's journey.
Another querial killer, common to nonfiction, might be lack of evidence for the topic.
Writers want to demonstrate a specific need for the book. Evidence in support of
this need might be statistics or demographics or media coverage. No evidence
means the query letter does not pinpoint anything, or show the writer’s perspective in an interesting way. If we go back to the caregiving example, when I look at the
numbers I might think about whether or not, and how, we measure the care giving
to family members cost. Also, how do we measure the reader need? Where do
these figures come from and what do they really illustrate in terms of what a bookbuyer needs? It’s the writer’s job to offer a new or fresh viewpoint and to demonstrate a discernible reason to publish the book.
[Karen] You mentioned new agent roles and practices. How is the agentauthor relationship changing?
The traditional functions of literary agents continue, but the practice of agents is
evolving. We still scout properties; secure clients; pair non-fiction authors with book
concepts; represent acquisitions list at editorial meetings with publishers; achieve
publishing negotiations and successful launch of book and media projects.
Nowadays, agents are less exclusively deal-oriented; they are increasingly more
career-oriented. You still want an agent who can negotiate, haggle, hammer and
horse trade to work out the best deal through the complicated maze of contract
negotiations; but, you also need an agent who can maximize and monetize and
manage different aspects of a career.
Book Marketing Magazine Issue 12
In Their Own Words
Twenty-first century agents are using new terms like, literary manager and literary
enterprises or content management or content venturing. It’s no longer about a single event of placing a book with a publisher. Forward-thinking agents are
changing their fee structures to provide services such as marketing, publicity and
editorial support; they are becoming publishing partners. I would predict that
literary agents will become far more involved in creating ancillary opportunities for
writing clients that have all kinds of beyond-the-book potential. Agenting in the 21st
Century will require a more comprehensive set of services and affiliations such as
relationships with other kinds of agencies, for example, international agents, and
with agencies for film and TV, gaming and transmedia; subsidiary products and
licensing opportunities. Projects also can develop as, and/or from diverse sources
of content including website and blog content, graphic novel, twitter feeds, or
screenplay—the book no longer needs to what comes first. And, it all needs
[Karen] What types of new projects are you interested in?
When it comes to finding new projects I like to joke it is like the Supreme Court
definition of pornography – you know it when you see it. I am very open to seeing
queries of all kinds. I would love to find more fiction! I like to joke I have premise
envy. My TV addictions are Homeland, Boardwalk Empire and House. I seem to
share the zietgeisty love of flawed and dark characters with deep ethical
challenges. But, I respond to storytelling. When reading fiction, I want to be
compelled and propelled by urgent storytelling, and hooked by characters. For
memoir, I like to be transported to a world rarely or newly observed. And in
nonfiction, I like books that have a clear benefit for readers’ lives in categories of food, travel, lifestyle, home arts, beauty, wisdom, relationships, parenting, and
fresh looks, which might be address specific issues, life challenges or popular
Meet the Contributor
Contributing Editor, Karen M. Rider covers writing tips, publishing trends
and success steps for emerging writers and authors. Her articles have
appeared in The Writer, Writer’s Digest and Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market ’14. Karen can help you meet the challenge of writing for a target
audience, producing engaging and relevant articles, interviews, book
proposals and website content. For your business or publication,
AskKaren to Write for You.
Book Marketing Magazine Issue 12

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