Tag Archives: query

If You Hate the Thought of Pitching Your Book

Write a Book Collection

I’ve been nagging one of my personal coaching students to complete the pitch (query letter) for her novel. Yes, she could publish it as an ebook, BUT the book’s wonderful; she needs an agent. Which means pitching — and she’s nervous.

If you ever needed a reason to begin your novel by writing the blurb, it’s querying. Writing a blurb first just makes pitching easier. I know she can do this, and over the weekend we’ll have a long brainstorming session which will help.

Pitching isn’t easy. However, the more you do it, the easier it gets. The thought of pitching no longer bothers me, but when I first started writing several decades ago, writing query letters made me feel physically ill. If I got over it, you can too.

Here’s an excellent outline of a pitch, Writer Beware Blogs!: Guest Post: Dear Agent — Write the Letter That Sells Your Book:

“1. Take your main character (MC) and give him/her an epithet… eg vengeful divorcee, desperate aspiring author;
2. Identify the MC’s central mission/problem/fear and what he stands to lose if he fails.
3. Brainstorm words and phrases that your book conjures up, including themes, moods, actions.
4. Pick the 25-30 that sound most compelling.
5. Pick the 5-8 of those that sound even more compelling then the others.
6. Fashion those ingredients into a tight, heart-tugging 25-word pitch.
7. Include wolves.”

#7 is optional. 🙂

Here’s what I’ve found useful.

Write about your book, in your journal

Pretend you’re writing an email message to a close friend. Tell him what he’ll get out of the book: “you’ll be scared. You’ll fall in love with the hero. You should see the mess they get into, when they…¦”

Write quickly. Don’t think about it. Don’t take your fingers from the keyboard — or your pen from the paper if you’re writing by hand.

Once you’ve described your book, describe the characters. What are their goals? How does each character change?

Tip: this exercise is useful at every stage of writing. If you’re just starting your book, write about it. If you’re stuck, write about it. When you’re revising, write about it.

I keep a book journal for every book I write. I started doing this because I always seem to be doing 101 things at once (I’m a Gemini), and sometimes three or four days go by when I can’t work on my book. Keeping a journal helps me to stay in the book — I can review my thinking, and get back into the same state of mind.

Pitching won’t kill you

I promise. 🙂 Write your pitch, even if you feel nauseous. Get a friend to review it for you. Better yet, hire an editor to review it.

Then send it out.

Here’s the worst that can happen: agents completely ignore you. (This is highly unlikely, if you send your pitch out often enough.)

That’s not so bad.

Should you send your pitch to one agent at a time?

I’m often asked whether you should send your pitch out to many agents simultaneously.

You can do whatever you feel is best. However, I suggest one agent at a time. Research the agent online first. Read her/ his blog. Study the agent’s client list.

Personalize your letter/ email message, to ensure that the agent knows that you’re not sending out a mass email. Write something like:

“I enjoyed your blog post on _________ (whatever. Tell her why you enjoyed it.) _____ (Author name) is one of my favorite authors, I loved his ________ (whatever) book.”

Pitching won’t kill you, and it’s not rocket science. Do enough of it, and you’ll enjoy it. 🙂

Publishers will tell you how to submit your book proposal

Books (fiction and nonfiction) are sold on proposal. That is, three chapters and an outline, plus some ideas on how you’re going to market the book.

It’s vital that you get this information before you send off your typescript. Some publishers will only accept submissions from agents, so if you want these publishers to consider your book, you’ll need to get an agent first.

Check publishers’ Web sites for their submission guidelines

Most publishers have submission guidelines. Here’s Tor’s guidelines for example:

Your submissions packet should include:

1. The first three chapters of your book, prepared in standard manuscript format on white paper. (If your chapters are really short or really long, or you don’t use chapter breaks, you may send the first 40-60 pages of your book, provided you stay under 10,000 words.)

The submitted text must be made up of consecutive pages and should end at the end of a paragraph, not in mid-sentence.

Standard manuscript format means margins of at least 1 inch all the way around; indented paragraphs; double-spaced text; and Courier or Times Roman in 10 or 12 pitch. Please use one side of the page only and do not justify the text.

Important – complete your novel before you submit a proposal if you’re unpublished

Here’s a vital tip: while you should never complete a nonfiction book before you start looking for publishers, it’s vital that you complete your novel.

If you’re unpublished, querying publishers before you’ve completed your novel is a no-no. If a publisher wants to see your novel, the editor expects that it’s ready to send – she may have a hole in her list she needs to fill, so she wants your book right away.

Need help writing your book? Get your book on bookstore shelves.