Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Show Don't Tell In Those Pitches & Queries

As writers, we are always talking about the idea of "show and don't just tell." The idea is simple. By using all of our emotions and by immersing the reader into the story, we can convey a stronger message. Instead of telling us Constantina is angry, let's show it to the reader by her actions, behaviors and comments. I think we all agree this is a great approach to take. What is interesting, however, is that writers often fail to translate this to our business correspondence including query letters, cover letters and even our pitches.

Let's just focus on the query letter and the things you could be doing.

You tell me you are submitting your women's fiction project to me. OK, why? You then go on to tell me that "this story will be a perfect fit for what I am looking for in women's fiction." Really? How?

As you can see, this person might have gone to my website and found out I was looking for this genre, but in no place does this person say anything about WHY it is a good fit. Demonstrate the idea.

Here is another.

You submit a project to an editor or agent and then tell me "This story is similar to that of Julia Quinn and Debbie Macomber." I get that you have been told in the past that making a comparison is a great approach, but you have again forgotten to demonstrate how and why your story is similar. You are simply assuming the agent or editor will be able to read your mind and see what that connection is.

I would also add with this prior point, why is this comparison a good comparison. Is this a voice the editor or agent likes? Do these authors do something or approach the genre in a way that no one else does?

When I teach writing, I always like to use the idea that a writer needs to "assume their reader is stupid." This doesn't mean to talk down to the person, but it is crucial that the author takes the time to do the thinking for the person. To you, things like the comparisons seem obvious. To the reader, these might simply be just random names tossed in because you like to read the authors.

Before you hit send today with those queries, take the time today to go through and see if you are really showing and not just telling. You might find this round of queries becomes a bit more profitable for you!

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