One of the most difficult hurdles every writer must face is pitching their “baby” to an agent that we are probably completely intimidated by. We learned yesterday that Chip is anything but intimidating, but the experience of selling your story is scary nonetheless.
Today, Chip gives us a few insights if you’re planning to pitch him your manuscript or if you’re interested in his representation.
LN: When you take pitching appointments during the conference, what genre are you most looking for?
CM: In fiction, I’m looking for stories with a big hook and great writing. I’m looking for romance, historicals, suspense, and crime novels, in both the Christian as well as the general market. On the nonfiction side, I’m always looking for a great, salable idea that offers strong solutions to problems people face. Some genres would include lifestyle, relationships, investing, parenting, and Christian living.
LN: What are some of the most common mistakes you see when writers are pitching or submitting to you?
CM: I find some authors fall in love with their own words, so they want to talk but don’t want to listen (and when advice is offered, it’s rejected because the author feels he knows more than me). So be willing to listen. Also, most projects aren’t done when first shown to me – they are about 60% done when the author runs it by me. That’s fine if the author is just looking for my take on the subject. But if you’re pitching me, it should be DONE – completed, well thought out, well written, and ready to shop to publishers. So know your topic, understand the market, recognize the competition, and get everything as complete as you can make it. One other mistake, less common but still occurring, is that some authors will approach me having no idea who I am or what I represent. So they come to me with poetry or screenplays or sci-fi novels that I don’t represent and don’t have an opinion on. A bit of research can make the one-on-one time much better.
LN: I’ve heard you say that different agents bring different benefits to the relationship. Whether that’s business savvy, negotiating contracts, editorial advice, brainstorming, accountability, etc. What are your strengths as an agent? What assistance do you most enjoy giving your clients?
CM: First, I’ve done this a long time, and I bring a lot of experience to bear on conversations about writing and careers. Second, I love words, and love talking words and stories. In fact, one of my favorite things is sitting down with an author I represent and talking through their story with them. Third, I made my living as a writer for several years, so I understand not just the business side, but the creative side of making a living at writing. And fourth, I actually have training in career development (during my doctoral program at the University of Oregon, I worked with the Career Planning Office to create tools to assist those graduating in the arts), which gives me a fairly unique experience, I think. I’ve found some agents will say they specialize in “career development,” but when it gets right down to it, they can’t define what that is. For many, “career development” simply means “I’ll try and get you a book contract.” I think there’s a lot more to it, and I try to work with the authors I represent so that they have a plan for moving forward in their writing careers. Of course, a fifth strength I have has nothing to do with me – we have a great team of people at MacGregor Literary, so an author doesn’t just get me, but a team of skilled people who can bring their collective wisdom to bear on the need at hand.
LN: Have you ever taken a chance on a writer and offered representation based on something other than their writing alone? Do you ever mentor writers?
CM: I’ve taken a chance on several writers – in fact, I think my career has been marked by discovering new talent, not just mining authors that others have helped get started. So yes, I’ve mentored a number of authors, and continue to work with writers who are interested in growing their careers.
LN: Thank you, Chip, for sharing this information with us. I hope those pitching to Chip feel a little more prepared and comfortable after reading this. And a huge ‘Good Luck’ from me!
In order to pitch your project to Chip at the Write to Inspire Conference this year, you have to get past our panel of judges. Chip will only hear the top 12 pitches. Ready to through your hat in the ring? Check out our guidelines on our One Sheet Pitching Contest Page. And remember the deadline is midnight July 1.