Talent Always Jumps off the Page
“I have found a strong consistency between the pitch letter and the completed manuscript.” -Ethan Ellenberg
Fiction Pitches (make sure you have a synopsis completed before you begin pitching)
- single, attention-grabbing sentence
- second paragraph to develop the story
- single, short paragraph about why you are qualified to write this book (it’s OK if you don’t have writing credentials)
- Don’t Include:
- Marital Status
- Number of Children or Pets
- single, attention-grabbing sentence
- second paragraph about the theme
- third to prove why you are qualified
- fourth paragraph to demonstrate knowledge of the audience and competing books
“Pitch letters need to reflect the talent and professionalism of the writer. They should be straight forward, intelligent, and reflect a good understanding of the genre and marketplace.”
Agent: Ethan Ellenberg with the Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency
Note: I noticed on his web-page that he is now offering “Agent Sponsored Publishing,” for those looking at the indie route.
Setting, Protagonist, Problem
This chapter was an interview between Katharine Sands & Donald Mass. Below you will find a few excerpts that stood out to me.
Address only the Manuscript–Not the following things:
- Author’s Ambitions
- Author’s Long-Term Plans
- How Many Years You’ve Been Writing
- How Excited You Are
- How Dedicated You Are
Identify Your Genre “What section of the bookstore would I find my book?”
“If you can’t figure that out, simply call it a novel. I can figure out its category for myself as I read it.” -Donald Maass
What Sets Your Work Apart?
Donald received a book about ordinary divorced people who attended a support group. That was set up in the first line of the pitch, the second line told how this book was different. The support group is for little people. Give the gist then give the twist.
1 in 100
“The number of short, businesslike query letters we get is maybe one in a hundred.” -Donald Maass
The Last 6 Words
“In the last line of your summary, use one of six words…If you can work in one…it helps close the presentation of the plot with a word that’s poetic and evocative.” -Donald Maass
“You need to distill your brilliance, your wisdom, and your expertise into one potent page-long brew that will leave a reader reeling from its power.” -Sheree Bykofsky
- “The writing you do about writing is as important as the writing itself.” -Katharine Sands
- “For fiction I’m really just looking for good writing, I think the letter should really pique my interest in some way.” -Anna Ghosh
- Reduce your novel to one paragraph…Show Don’t Tell
- Problem He/She Faces
- Build Your Platform: How are you already promoting your book?
- Interview Yourself-Create Your Pitch
- Practice Your Pitch in the Form of a Soundbite
- “Pick a set of complementary descriptive words that work well together.” -Katharine Sands
- Identify Your Hooks
- “The most exciting elements to compel your reader and propel your story.” -Katharine Sands
- “The best query letters have a strong hook in the first two lines.” -Sheree Bykofsky
- Think of Your Pitch as a Movie Trailer
- “Your argument for your book’s life…” -Katharine Sands
- “Do the descriptive words, tone, and intention match?” -Katharine Sands
- Communicate the Excitement
Agent: Katharine Sands with the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency
Notes to the New Writer
- Have Spirit
- “An effective query letter is a distillation of the work’s spirit or essence. It is not the place to impress with the minutiae of your research or to encapsulate all the twists in your novel.” -Anna Ghosh
- “Find that magical phrase or two that expresses its core idea, the key element that sets it apart.” -Anna Ghosh
- “A query letter must inform, but it must also enchant.” -Anna Ghosh
- Know Your Reader: This is a business.
- “An agent has to sell the writer’s project to a publisher. A publisher has to sell the finished books to booksellers. And finally a reader has to put down 25-odd dollars for their copy.” -Anna Ghosh
- Prove That You’re a Writer, Not a Dilettante
- I had to look that word up: Dilettante-a person whose interest in an art or in an area of knowledge is not very deep or serious
Agent: Anna Ghosh with Ghosh Literary
I Am Willing to Be Seduced, Amazed, Charmed, or Moved
Share your enthusiasm with beautiful writing.
- Write, don’t call.
- Do a little research first.
- No gimmicks.
- Be confident, not boastful. Be Personable
- Seek the wonderful one-liner.
- Crafting Your Novel’s Pitch Line
- Pitch Please
- Be authentic.
- Be honest.
“You can be as provocative, outrageous, sentimental, cynical, vulnerable, or humorous as you choose–whatever reflects who you are and what you have to say.” -Sarah Jane Freymann
Agent: Sarah Jane Freymann with the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency
Five Questions to Ask Before Sending Your Query Letter
- Is it polished, error-free, & professional?
- Does the tone of your query letter reflect the tone of your book?
- Are you sure that the agent you’re pitching works on this type of project?
- Do you know your market?
- Are you emphasizing the best aspects of your project?
Agent: Kristen Auclair (I am unable to find current information on Kristen)
I am currently reading “Making the Perfect Pitch” written by Katharine Sands. Each chapter is written by a different literary agent and provides a great overall feel about what agents are looking for in your query.
I will spend the next few weeks posting notes from things I learn in each chapter.
Katherine Sands is a literary agent with Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency.
Disclaimer: This book was published in 2004 so some agents may no longer be practicing, but the information provided is still pertinent to today’s market.