Monday, June 21, 2010

Pitching Via Email - Things to consider

No, don't get your hopes up on this one and think I am giving you the golden nugget that will get you discovered. It will still be up to your ability to demonstrate your writing ability with the manuscript. Still, there are some things to consider if you are sending a pitch to an agent via email.

Now first of all, let me stress that many of you think this is an easier approach. You seem to think that by not having to talk, the story will carry you. This is far from the truth. When I sit with an author in a face-to-face pitch session, I have the chance to ask questions and work with the writer to really find out more about the story and their goals. With email, and if you pitch with me, using my form, you are really limiting yourself as to what you can do.

One of the first things to remember is that agents receive a ton of submissions via email. Not only are we reading your submissions, we are also reading proposals from our writers, responses from editors and so forth. The end result is simple, we are scanning these proposals pretty quick. You may have an amazing story, but if you can't convey it to us in 20-30 seconds, you are lost! So what does that mean? Your job, in simple terms, is to show me (not just tell me or hint) that your story is something I can't live without.

What do we normally see? Writers spend countless paragraphs rambling on about all of this other "stuff" that is supposedly meant to get us thinking you are a great writer. You talk about your history. You talk about your interest in the genre. You talk about how much you read our blogs. And all this time, you are demonstrating a lack of an abiltiy to get to the point and tell a story.

And then we get to the story. Instead of getting to the point and highlighting the strengths of the story and the uniqueness of it, you keep things vague. Remember that we are not readers that need a "tease" to get hooked. We need to have you come right out and tell us what you are doing and why it is so unique. Simply put, get to the point.

Your e-query is straightforward. Tell us what the story is about, hit the high points, and most importantly, make sure you tell us what the high concept is. What is it that makes your story stand out from everyone elses.

Now, I know that some people out there say to leave the details of your story to the end. Some agents believe that leaving the title, genre, and word count to the end is the best approach. IMHO, these people are forgetting the rule of thumb when it comes to any type of writing. Present your thesis at the beginning. Make it clear what you are presenting and why you are writing. Dear Mr. Eagan, I am writing to you to consider my new paranormal romance, BITING THE CARROT. This 83,000 word paranormal... and you are off and running.

Maybe another approach to take is to consider what we see on the page before us, without scanning through the letter. What is happening in that first parargraph. If it takes us time to scan through your letter to find all of this, you are wasting your time.

Take a look at what you have? Are you on the right track?

Oh, and remember, if you can't figure out what makes your story unqique, that should be telling you something.



  1. A very good blog on what an equery really should be. Short, to the point & about the story not the writer, I'm in an online query critique group where most people write two or more page queries that are more about themselves, their dreams, and maybe two lines about the story that only tells you the beginning.

    One even wrote(this is not a direct quote but a summary): That's how it all starts for (character name) and if you want to know how her goals are met, request my manuscript. It'll blow you away...

    Thanks for another great blog!

  2. There are a lot of basics about query letters which simply go over a writer's head, including mine. :)

    Reading examples, tutorials, suggestions, and just plain practicing helps. Still, I think it's good to do research on agents/editors. Query letters are not one size fits all. Each agent has a different preference. If you can find the format they like in a query letter, all the more better.

    Agents/editors have good and bad days just like everyone else. No reason to be the pet peeve rejection if the information is out there.

  3. I just found your blog. Thanks for the helpful advice.