Skip to content

PITCHING TO AN AGENT 2020 PART 1

March 4, 2020

THE PITCH LETTER (QUERY LETTER)

I originally published this article in 2012. I’d been attending the Las Vegas Writer’s Conference for seven years at that time. This was the second year of my web site. In fact, it was because of the writers conference that I started the web site. Not much has changed, but since the 2020 conference is around the corner, it’s time to dust off the old articles, and bring them out again. This is the second one in this 2020 series.
THE PITCH LETTER
Probably one of the hardest things an author has to write is the pitch letter. Yeah, I’ve probably said the hardest thing to write is the synopsis, or maybe the book blurb, but when you get right down to it, none of that matters if you can’t sell the book to an agent or publisher in the first place.
I’m reminded of the teen who doesn’t want to finish high school and comes up with the excuse, “Well Axl Rose of Guns N Roses never graduated, and look at him. He’s a big rock star millionaire.” Well, there’s ambition and dumb luck. He could just as easily have failed and never would’ve had anything to back himself up with. Mr. William Bruce Rose Jr. (his real name) might be the guy cleaning your pool while you’re making the big bucks because you went on to get a degree (nothing against pool cleaners). Why I bring this up is that some authors think their story is so hot they won’t need to sell it. Agents will be knocking their door down to buy it from them. A pitch letter, or trying to pitch their story isn’t on their radar. They can skip the hard work because their story is so hot, luck (agents and publishers) will seek them out.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen often in the real world. The funny thing is that I actually did see it happen once at the very first writer’s conference I attended in 2005. There was this teenage kid pitching a story he hadn’t even completed. He didn’t have a query letter or even any writing samples, as I recall. Yet when he pitched his idea to one of the YA (young adult genre) agents, she signed him on the spot! To this day, I don’t have any idea if anything ever came of that kid or his books (if he completed one), but it was one of those magic Axl Rose type moments, where lightning strikes. I was there to witness it.
Do you think it’ll happen to you? Fat chance! You, my friend, are going to have to work for it like the rest of us, if the numbers bear out. So, suck it up and start listening (or reading, if you want to get technical).
The pitch letter, or as it’s more widely known, the query letter, is your way of getting the attention of an agent or publisher. It’s a way of tapping them on the shoulder and saying “Hey, I’ve got something to show you.”
Agents and publishers get literally hundreds if not thousands of these letters per day/week/month. They’re always looking for the next best thing, something with which they can sell and make a ton of money. At the same time, they have to slog through all this crap. To get their attention, you need to be brief, to the point, no bull. Or as Jack Webb used to say in Dragnet, “Just the facts, Ma’am.”
BE CONCISE
In past posts, I’ve alluded to staying on track, keeping your story to the point and being concise. It’s critical you do that in a query letter. You’ve got just a few quick lines to blow their socks off, to pique their interest, to leave them wanting for more. By the time that agent or publisher reaches the end of that letter, they should know the story is a good fit for their agency, they should see that you have the chops to pull it off, and they should be intrigued by the premise, or pitch line. If you can pull off all three of those things, I can almost guarantee they’ll be asking for more.
Next time, I’ll discuss the structure of the pitch/query letter and some of the various forms.
Happy writing!

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: