Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Perfect Pitch

The best novel in the world isn’t going to capture the attention of an agent or editor if you don’t know how to pitch it. And the “pitch” is just exactly that. When constructing your queries, responding to calls for submissions, or looking for representation for your work, it’s easy for the uninitiated to make some fatal mistakes. Keep in mind that most agents and editors are powering through at least 200 queries a week, usually many more. More importantly, they have one and only one burning question in their minds as they do: Can I sell it? So for better or worse, your queries need to somehow address that single question. You are not selling yourself, your background, the astonishing intricacies of your plot or the compelling details of the character development. You are not pleading, coaxing or begging to have your genius recognized. You job is to intrigue them enough to make them want to see more. That is the essence of a perfect pitch. Step One: The Hook With so many queries running through the average agent’s or editor’s mailbox on any given day, if you don’t capture their attention in the first line or so, chances are they won’t read much past it. Thus, your hook can pose a compelling question relevant to your novel’s premise; you can compare your work to other bestsellers in the genre, or you can insist that your novel goes where no novel has every gone before. Your choice, but don’t be cute, don’t try to be funny and don’t try to otherwise divert their attention from the business at hand. Regardless of how you frame it though, hook them you must. Do NOT begin by telling them how long it took you to write it, who recommended that you write them, or how frustrating it is to find good help these days. Neither should you introduce yourself by telling them their business, i.e, “Paranormal fiction is flying off the shelves.” Everybody knows that. Step Two: The Jist Two short paragraphs at most, and hard as hell to write. More specifically, the body of your letter should address the three principle elements of your story—the protagonist, the setting and the plot. Period. Paragraph number two is all about the plot development. “After joining forces, X and Y struggle against the forces of evil embodied by A,B and C in their quest for the Grail. ” You do not need to let them know the detail of how the plot is resolved, only that is it resolved. Which should then be followed by a memorable sort of summary: “Their lives will be forever changed with the revelation that not every Prophecy is fated to come true.” That’s it, that’s all. No mas. That your characters take a side trip to Atlanta, or attend their 20th high school reunion may be all very well and good, but it doesn’t mean a thing who somebody who hasn’t read your book. So skip it. Step Three: Your Bio Here’s where too many authors make the mistake of trying to oversell themselves, rather than relying on their pitch to do the work for them. Many will include all their publication credits, how they’ve been writing for 19 years while the kids were asleep, and even their “day jobs”. If you blog as financial editor but your novel has nothing to do with finance, skip it. The key to imparting information about yourself is to only impart the information that is relevant to your novel. You can get friendly once they accept your manuscript. Close your query with the offer to send sample chapters or a complete manuscript. Let them know how long the manuscript is, and thank them for their time. Sign it, include your contact information and voila! Perfect pitch. Need help? See our sponsor page is offering a new AGENT LINK service. Special pricing for a limited time only!

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