Thursday, June 18, 2009

Uniqueness, pitches queries and submissions

I started thinking about his when I was talking with another editor about how I acquire manuscripts. In this case, the editor was wondering exactly what it was in the query that caused me to want to sign an author. I had to break it to this editor that the query simply doesn't sell me on the story. If anything, the query process tells me if I really don't want to sign that person.

I have talked about this before, but that query letter is your first chance to show me you are a professional. Write it poorly, show me you are unprofessional and your life is over.

But, let's get back to the original idea I want to talk about. The query letter does have something that I do look for. I want to see the uniqueness of your story. I want to see what makes your story stand out from all of the others that come across my desk. I want to see what would make the editors that I submit your story to stand up and take notice.

Too often, I read submissions where I simply yawn. The story may be excellent in terms of the writing style. There may be fantastic scenes between the hero and heroine, but if the story can not stand out as being unique, the process stops there.

I mentioned this to a writing group once and told them to take a look at their current stories that are being marketed. What makes the story unique? No, I am not talking about the theme of the story "it is a story of love and redemption", I want to know what makes this story different from anything else. What is it about your story that says WOW!

Now here is the kicker. There are many of you. No I would say the majority of writers that have started and finished stories that are not unique. Once the story is done, there is nothing you can do to make it unique. The damage is already done. Yes, this is one more chance to bring up the need to plot out your story ahead of time.

I am currently working with one of my authors, Ann Lethbridge, on a future project. We spent nearly 30 minutes on the phone creating some uniqueness to this story idea. We had to find a way to tap into her current strengths and take this story idea to a new level that would not only cross the generations, but would also extend to other potential books in the future. At the end of the 30 minutes, we had it, but she still has a lot more work ahead of her. Once we have that, she is off and running.

So, before you start writing today, figure out if your story really is unique. What would make me say WOW! and you can not simply say it is the writing. Hey, I haven't even gotten to the writing.



  1. "We spent nearly 30 minutes on the phone creating some uniqueness to this story idea." We should all be so fortunate. LOL.

    Too bad we have to land an agent before we get that kind of personal help. Thank goodness for critique groups and beta readers.

  2. Beth,

    This is just something I do with my writers. Some agents do more, some do less. Of course, you are right about that being a benefit.

    Have a great weekend.