2017 SDSU Writers’ Conference: Five Questions with Agent Mark Gottlieb

Mark Gottlieb

Mark Gottlieb

Whatever your writing level, whatever your genre, there’s something for you at the SDSU Writers’ Conference. The 33rd annual conference is Jan. 20-22, 2017 at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley, with award-winning, best-selling, and thrilling keynote speakers R.L. Stine, J.A. Jance, and Jonathan Maberry. Learn from their insights, and the expertise offered in 40+ workshops on the craft and the business of writing.

Best of all, get direct feedback on your writing (Advance Reading) and pitch (Consultation) with up to five agents or editors of your choice. The SDSU Writers’ Conference was among the first to pioneer these 1:1 appointments, giving you unprecedented access to top-tier publishing professionals — many of whom interact with unpublished authors only through conferences.

The distinguished faculty this year includes Mark Gottlieb, an agent with Trident Media Group in New York:

1. What’s the best advice you can give to writers who are polishing their pitches, query letters and first 10 pages of their manuscripts in preparation for the upcoming SDSU Writers’ Conference?
Pitches: learn to speak of your book in a punchy 1-2 sentence hook. This is a very good practice and a concise way to convey what a book is about. A pitch should contain the title, some of the plot details without too many spoilers, lend a sense of genre/theme, and it could perhaps contains couple of comparable book titles that were recent bestsellers and/or award-winners.

Query letters: should contain the hook or 1-2 sentence pitch upfront. Then two body paragraphs on the plot details without too many spoilers and some of the literary merits of the book. The last and final sentence should be a brief one-paragraph author bio, containing relevant writing experience, awards, publications (major or minor), and a link to an author site or social media page(s).

First 10 pages: need to get into the meat of the story right away and grab the reader’s attention from the get-go by lending a sense of conflict, action or urgency.

2. Can you share one of the best/worst opening lines from query letters you’ve received?
Even better: Look to the authors you admire as an author. These should be books you want to compare yourself to by holding yourself in high esteem, such as recent bestsellers and award-winners. Look at the opening lines of the jacket copy. Chances are that book copy/description was constructed from the opening lines of a pitch/query letter.

3. What’s the first book that spoke to you as a young reader?
I read Holes by Louis Sachar in one sitting when I was young. It was the first book to grab me in that way.

4. If you had to choose only one, what’s your favorite book?
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Skinny Legs And All by Tom Robinson is a close second.

5. What do you hope to find at the 33rd Annual SDSU Writers’ Conference?
I am very open to new clients, but I am not looking for poetry, short stories, textbooks, personal (non-celebrity) memoir, novellas, nor romance unless from an established author. Of course I want to show the company flag as well, since we are book publishing’s leading literary agency, but helping authors learn, grow and prosper is another big reason why I am there and so I hope to get that personal enrichment out of the conference.

For more information about the SDSU Writers’ Conference, visit neverstoplearning.net/writers