Category: Conferences

Catching An Agent’s Eye from Killer Nashville by Kristin Crump

There are few words that bring such dread to a writer’s heart as the words “query letter”. At least they do to mine. While at Killer Nashville I attended a panel titled “How To Catch An Agent’s Eye”. The panelists were Jill Marr (Sandra Dijkastra Literary Agency), Lucy Carson (The Friedrich Agency), Elizabeth Kracht (Kimberley Cameron & Associates), Sharon Pelletier (Dystel & Goderich Literary Management) and Megan Close Zavala (Keller Media).

These women were kind enough to share an hour of their time with us and give us some great advice on writing a query (or pitch) letter. Here are a few of their suggestions:


  • Research and find the agent that is a good fit for you and the book you’ve written.
  • Look at the agent’s history and see who they represent to get an idea of what they like.
  • Write a letter that is specific to that agent.
  • Spend a lot of time on the pitch section of the letter. Write it until it is as perfect as you can make it. This is your one chance to catch their attention.
  • In the Bio section of the letter, emphasize what makes you unique, mention any writer’s groups you are a part of (this is where being a member of Sisters In Crime comes in), writer’s conferences you’ve been to, awards you’ve been nominated for or won, etc.
  • Be straight forward in your presentation but be interesting too (yeah, easy for them to say!)
  • Know where your novel falls in the marketplace
  • If you meet the agent at a conference, put that IN THE SUBJECT LINE. If they request materials, even better and lead with that (i.e. Requested Materials from Killer Nashville).
  • ALWAYS put something informative in the subject line. Never put just the word “Submission”. It almost guarantees your e-mail/letter will get shoved off to the side and looked at later, if ever. (ex: Submission of a historical mystery set in the 1920’s in a Topeka, Kansas speakeasy). Put what makes your novel different from the crowd.
  • Let agent’s know if it is a multiple submission.
  • FOLLOW THE RULES. However the agent or agency want submissions formatted, do it. It shows a willingness to follow the rules, intelligence and observational skills. If you don’t, the chances are pretty good your query letter is going to get put at the bottom of the pile, or, again, never looked at.


  • Send a form letter that you have sent to dozens of other agents. They can spot those from a mile away and figure, “if he/she can’t take the time to write me a personal query letter, why should I take the time to read said letter or submission”.
  • If you don’t have experience specific to your book, don’t emphasize it.
  • Write what you want to write. Don’t write to trend. Trends are fleeting and chances are by the time your book hits the marketplace, it’s over.
  • You can always cite comparables to your book but don’t only use bestselling authors. If you are going to say your book is a kooky traditional like Janet Evanovich, also uses some mid-list authors such as Gretchen Archer or Jana DeLeon.
  • NEVER say “My book is the next great American novel”.
  • If other published writers have read your book and would do a blurb for it mention it. If your mom read it and liked it, don’t. They don’t care. They only care about things that would help your book sell.

I know it seems impossible, but it’s not. Difficult certainly, but who ever said it would be easy? I hope this helps some of you, especially those who are thinking about coming to our meeting with Victoria Selvaggio. It would be a perfect time to try it out and get her feedback. The more feedback you can get, the better your letter will be and the better your chances of actually landing an agent. Good luck!!

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Killer Nashville Made For A Killer Weekend by Kristin Crump

Anne Perry, Janet Evanovich, the Claymore Awards, the Silver Falchion Awards and the Dupin Detective Award…whew! Am I tired, but it was well worth it!!

On Augutst 17-21 I attended the 2016 Killer Nashville mystery writer’s conference in Nashville, Tennessee. This was my second time going and if anything, I enjoyed it even more this year. I took the trip with fellow SiCCO members Kandy Williams aka Mercedes King, Carolyn Melvin and Connie Berry. We drove down on Wednesday so we would be sure to be on time for our workshop Thursday afternoon. After the long trip, made even longer by rain, construction and accidents, we finally reached our hotel and decided to go to dinner at a local Italian restaurant, Mineo’s. When we finished feasting on truly delicious handmade Italian dishes, we joined in a trivia contest and Team Sisters In Crime took second place, and a $25 gift card, which we donated to our shuttle driver Joe for recommending the restaurant to us.

Thursday afternoon we were scheduled to attend the workshop, A Novel Process, taught by one of the preeminent writers of historical fiction, Ms. Anne Perry. As if getting to spend three hours with one of most prolific and award-winning writers of mysteries wasn’t enough of a treat, I learned a lot at the same time. In the first half, Perry covered outlining, why it’s important and what it will do for your writing. In the second she talked about rewriting and how to do it correctly and what to fix when you do it (more on this in a later blog post).

Friday was filled with a variety of expert panels including How To Build Your Network at Killer Nashville, How To Catch An Agent’s Eye, Inside the Deviant Mind and Creating Tension in Your Story, just to name a few. Friday night we were on our own for dinner so the four of us met up with some other Ohio writers, Ray Wenck and Andrew Welsh-Huggins, and went to dinner at a restaurant featuring southern food with flare, Tupelo Honey. If you’re ever in the Nashville area, I recommend it. They have a few other locations across the south, so you can look for them on their website, to see if they have one near where you’ll be.

Saturday, the day I’d been waiting months for, finally arrived…Janet Evanovich was going to be there. I’m a huge fan and have read all her books (except for her new one Curious Minds, but it’s on my to-do list). I spent the morning working on my submission for the Dupin Detective Award, which is given to the person who figures out the mock crime scene. Around noon my day really began with lunch with Janet and Clay Stafford, then a book signing with Janet (where I gave her a book bag I made her!), then I attended a panel discussion, Writing a Series vs. Writing a Stand-Alone (with Janet Evanovich), and finally the afternoon break-out session, How I Write: Secrets of a Successful Author, with, you guessed it – Janet Evanovich! Who says you can have too much of a good thing? And no, I wasn’t stalking her…much.

Saturday night was the awards banquet. Some of the highlights of the evening for us were; SiCCO’s very own Kandy Williams was one of the ten finalists for the Claymore Award for her novel Junkyard Lounge, I won the Dupin Detective Award for solving the mock crime scene and Columbus novelist, one of our dinner companions and new SiCCO member, John Hegenberger, won the Silver Falchion for best Comedy for his novel Spyfall.

Sunday we attended a few more panels and then packed up the car for the long drive back to Ohio. We were tired, we were inspired and we were determined to come home and get back to our own writing. For myself, I can’t wait to see what my third trip to Killer Nashville brings; winning the Dupin Detective Award comes with a free registration for the next year, so 2017 will see me back at Killer Nashville, hopefully with my own novel completed!

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A Midsummer Murder Workshop

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9:00 am – 9:30 am                   Registration, Continental Breakfast

9:30 am – 11:00 am                 Award-winning Pittsburgh author, Nancy Martin, on“The Ten Questions Before Starting Your Novel”

11:15 am – 12:15 pm               Karen Harper, NY Times and USA Today bestselling author, on “Ten Tips From the Trenches: A 32- year published author talks about what works to get and stay published”

12:15 pm – 1:30 pm                Lunch on your own at the food court

1:30 pm – 2:30 pm                 Mindy McGinnis, 2016 Edgar Award Winner for Best YA Mystery Novel, on “Writing a Historical Mystery with Modern Appeal”

2:45 pm – 3:45 pm                 Successful romance novelist turned mystery maven, Duffy Brown, talks about “Plotting the Page-turner or 12 tricks on how to add a sense of breathlessness, anticipation, and sheer gotta-know-more to your story”

3:45 pm – 4:00 pm                 Afternoon Snack

4:00 pm – 5 pm                      General panel discussion: all Authors “21st Century Publishing: Where Is It Going and What Do We Do About it?

5:00 pm – 5:30 pm                 Author book sale and signing

During the afternoon, Nancy Martin will provide individual ten-minute critique sessions for the first ten participants who register for a critique. You will receive your scheduled time on the day of the workshop.


The event will be held at Burton Morgan Lecture Hall at Denison University in Granville Ohio.

Directions and campus map can be found on Denison’s Website.


When you are ready to register, pay per one of the options below and submit this registration form (instructions for submittal on form). Workshop Registration 

Payment Options

  • PayPal (below)
  • Check (Mail to SiCCO, P.O. Box 655, Worthington, OH 43085)

Note: PayPal Prices includes PayPal’s small transaction fee.

Workshop Fee for SinC or SiCCO Members $36.35

Workshop Fee Non-Member $46.70

Nancy Martin Critique $10.65

[Not this option is only available to the first 10 people who sign up.]

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A Day With Jane Friedman

0If you’ve been part of the writing community for a few months or a few years, then you probably recognize the name of Jane Friedman. Not only is she considered by most to be a publishing guru for her incomparable ability to keep a pulse on what’s happening in the industry, but she’s also extraordinarily helpful to writers at every level.

Carolyn and I had the pleasure of attending Mad Anthony’s Conference, located in Hamilton, Ohio, where Jane was the all-day speaker. She was not short on material. Jane spoke about every topic, from marketing and promotion to building an author web site; how to use Facebook as an author; finding a freelance editor; tips on writing a synopsis; understanding Google analytics…..and SO much more. (Looking over my notes, I’m amazed at everything she covered!)

No matter where you’re at in your writer’s journey, you can always learn from Jane Friedman. For more information, and when you have time to invest, head to her web site and search through the treasure of info. Thanks to Jane and event organizers Victoria Ryan and Jane Biddinger for a fabulous day!

Visit her site at

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Join SiCCO at Ohioana!

unnamedJoin us for one of THE best book events of the year! The Ohioana Book Festival celebrates authors who are born and bred Buckeyes, who set their stories in Ohio, or who have lived in Ohio for five years or more. For 2016 Ohioana is featuring over 120 authors and their work. Held at the Sheraton Hotel in the heart of downtown Columbus, from 10 am – 4 pm, the festival gives readers a chance to meet and chat with their favorite local authors. Plus, the day is jam-packed with panels and discussions that touch on a variety of subjects. This event is FREE!! We’ve included the schedule below, but you can find out more details at

Panel Discussions and Roundtables

Hear your favorite authors talk about their books and their writing process, and ask them questions.

10:15 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Urban Fantasy and Dystopia
Matt Betts, Laura Bickle, Lissa Bryan, Josef Matulich, Terri-Lynne Smiles
Legislative Room A

Mystery, Thrills, and Suspense I
Dan Andriacco, Shelley Costa, Yolonda Tonette Sanders, Sam Thomas, Andrew Welsh-Huggins
Legislative Room B

Ohio Stories: People and Places
Christine Hayes, Doug Motz, Karen A. Patterson, Cathy Hester Seckman, James A. Willis
House Room A

Writing and Publishing for Young Readers I
Louise Borden, Tim Bowers, Julie Drew, Linda Gondosch, Rafael Rosado, Tricia Springstubb
House Room B

11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

From Another Realm: Paranormal, Science Fiction, and Fantasy
Kelley Grant, Dara Naraghi, John Scalzi, Tara Tyler
Legislative Room A

Extraordinary Men, Extraordinary Times: Roosevelt and Rhodes
Douglas Brinkley, Tom Diemer, Lee Leonard
Legislative Room B

The Power of Words: Poetry
Amit Majmudar, Michael J. Rosen, Maggie Smith, Alison Stine, Jacqueline Woodson
House Room A

Plants: In the Garden and on the Table
Pamela Bennett, Dawn Combs, Del Sroufe, Maria Zampini
House Room B

12:45 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

How We Write, What We Write
Jill Bialosky, Mark Dawidziak, Amanda Flower, Leah Stewart, Robin Yocum
Legislative Room A

Mystery, Thrills, and Suspense II
Carrie Bebris, Duffy Brown, Karen Harper, Nancy Herriman, Kylie Logan
Legislative Room B

True Stories: The Strange and the Sensational
Jennifer Bowers Bahney, Richard O Jones, Wendy Koile, David Meyers, Jane Ann Turzillo
House Room A

Writing Nonfiction for Young Readers
Mary Kay Carson, Marianne Dyson, Kerrie Logan Hollihan, Nancy Roe Pimm, Julie K. Rubini, Carmella Van Vleet
House Room B

2:00 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.

The Creative Life
Chuck Ayers, Tom Batiuk, David Catrow, Ann Hagedorn, Mindy McGinnis
Legislative Room A

Horror, Suspense, and the Supernatural
Kevin P. Keating, Tim McWhorter, Mark Rigney, Lucy A. Snyder
Legislative Room B

Historical Fiction: Stories Set in Real Places and Times
John B. Kachuba, Lisa Karon Richardson, Cindy Thomson, R.G. Yoho
House Room A

Writing and Publishing for Young Readers II
Rachele Alpine, Carole Gerber, Anne Vittur Kennedy, Brandon Marie Miller, Marilyn Sadler, Kathy Cannon Wiechman
House Room B

3:15 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Publishing: The Insider’s Guide
Deanna R. Adams, Mark Clark, David M. Gold
Legislative Room A

Mystery, Thrills, and Suspense III
Alan Cupp, Mary Ellis, John Hegenberger, Eliot Parker, D.M. Pulley
Legislative Room B

The Story Behind the Story: Fiction Roundtable
M.B. Earnheardt, Robin Gianna, Sherri Hayes, KaraLynne Mackrory, Donna MacMeans
House Room A

Talking Sports
Timothy L. Hudak, Jonathan Knight, Teddy Kremer, Diane Lang, Hal McCoy
House Room B

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