How Sujatha Hampton Landed Her First Book Deal

By Jason Boog 

helprin.jpgFirst-time novelist Sujatha Hampton just landed a book deal with Thomas Dunne Books–succeeding with the help of a book-pitching seminar. Her agent was Sally Wofford-Girand at Brickhouse Literary, and the book is slated for 2010 release.

Intrigued by this debut deal, GalleyCat caught up with Hampton. The young author explained how she joined the New York Pitch and Shop conference last year, bringing a completed manuscript, determination, and a love of Mark Helprin’s classic book, Winter’s Tale.

She explained how the conference helped her sell a work of literary fiction about an Indian-American family haunted by an old curse: “There, we were split into ‘like groups,’ and we had a group leader who was to work with us to hone our pitch. I read my pitch and it was a HUGE disaster. No one knew what I was talking about; I was highlighting all the wrong things. I must have reworked that pitch about twenty times in the course of 4 days. But, this was the most supportive, wonderful group of women and one man I have ever had the honor and privilege to write with … the pitch I came up with was vastly improved.”

She continued: “Understand, before that I had never taken a writing class, attended a seminar or workshop, I didn’t even have a writer’s group. The beauty of this conference was that they had editors from major houses coming to listen to our pitches and to give us feedback, and even to ask for our manuscripts if they were interested. And I was one of the lucky ones. Two editors asked to see a partial … I spent a few days getting my pitch down and getting a list of agents and I began email querying highlighting ‘editor interest’ in the subject line. I was really lucky.”

She described the climax of the process: “I started querying about September 20, and my agent, Sally Wofford-Girand of Brick House Literary Agents, made an offer of representation on Oct. 12. So basically from there, it has been a pretty straight ride. What Sally got a year ago was a much longer book. We worked together to trim it down to where it is now, she put it out on October 20th and Karyn Marcus at Thomas Dunne made an offer on the 28th. There were a several other editors who were interested and Sally felt that this was the best fit, and I agree. I am just thrilled with Karyn’s editorial vision and her passion for this story.”

She concluded with a bit of advice for young writers: “[Once,] at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, VA. There, I sat in on the Agent’s Roundtable where Simon Lipskar was on this panel and he said one thing that just rang out strong in my mind, “First write a beautiful book, THEN write a beautiful query letter.”