Although some people thought this session was a little harsh, I enjoyed it. It was realistic, which is what I like to hear. I don't pay people to lie to me and say everything I write is going to get published. So here are some tidbits I thought were interesting/helpful:
-Make sure to do the research and put the agent's name (spelled correctly) on your query letter. Not doing so is a sure way to get your manuscript rejected.
-A writer has to realize that a work has to serve two distinct (and sometimes conflicting) purposes. One, it has to be good, two it has to be marketable. Agents help you with both, but its really your job to take care of 99% of the good writing part, plus listen to the advice of the agent who knows the marketing side.
-To pitch a novel to an agent, summarize the story arc, main characters, main relationships, and how it ends. Leave time for the agent to ask questions. This is harder than it sounds!
-Social networks (Facebook, blogs, Twitter, etc.) are the lifeblood of current authors. Use them but don't let them become time wasters.
-Read the blogs of agents you want to sell to. That will give you insight not only into if their personality is a match for yours, but if your writing style fits with what they're looking for.
-Don't use passive words (got, have, went, etc.)
-Yes, you may send queries to more than one agent at a time, but make them unique (don't carbon copy to several different people). Also, make sure to look at the guidelines for each. They may be slightly different.
-A query for fiction needs to be regarding a finished work, and one that has been edited by people other than you. Non-fiction you usually query an idea rather than a finished product.
-The first 30-40 pages of your manuscript should introduce your characters, your world, and include the inciting incident (that happening that causes everything else to occur). Query letters should be built around this scene/part of the book.
-Books that go over the "standard" word count are harder to publish, especially for 1st timers. Often there's a lot of fluff that can be cut.
-Less than 1% of authors that submit queries to agencies get represented by that agency. Even less than that are published. Eek!
It's a tough publishing world out there, especially since the digital age is upon us. As Colin Powell says, "There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure."