Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thre Can Be No Surprises In Pitches and Queries

What is the purpose of a pitch or a query? The answer to this is simple. You as an author have to SELL us on the project and you. Your job is to give us a lot of information in a little space that shows us you are the best thing ever and the editor or agent cannot live without you or your writing. Unfortunately, for far too many authors, they treat their pitches and queries like those back cover blurbs. There is a belief that if you tell us too much about your book, we won't want to read it.

Although keeping those vital secrets about your book are important to "tease" the reader into wanting to read more, and yes, we certainly don't want to tell the reader the ending, the editors and agents do need to have this critical information.

When you put together that pitch or the query letter, you have to think about including specific key information:

  • Who are the protagonists? What are their personal goals, motivations and conflicts?
  • What is the external conflict?
  • What is the central story arc?
  • What is the theme and the high concept of the book?
  • If this is in a unique setting, you have to give us a bit of world building.
All of that other stuff about the secondary characters, the exact description of when the hero and heroine get it on the first time, the internal thoughts of every character... etc., has to simply go away.

But wait, this element of now surprises continues to you and your book. If you feel as if you have to keep thing hidden from the agent or editor because you think we won't sign you is just the information you have to include. Maybe this is also a sign that tells you this isn't the right time to pitch. So, what do we need?
  • Has this book already been marketed and now you are turning to the editor or agent?
  • Have you self-published this book?
  • Is the book finished?
  • Am I your third agent for this book?
I think you get the idea on these. I know as an agent, this is one of the most frustrating things I face. We find a book that seems to be heading in the direction we like. We start thinking the book has potential, and then, we find those hidden secrets. I know I had one author that pitched a story that sounded like I might be able to do something with it, and then I find out she had already sent it out to a ton of publishers and had already received rejections. Guess what? I can't do anything with it now.

The same thing has happened when we find the book isn't even finished? Ugh! Why are you even pitching us the story?

No secrets! Please!


P.S. Of course, please keep a few of those personal secrets hidden. We don't want to know about those strange things you might do at home.

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