Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Advice on Pitching and Querying to Literary Agents and Publishers

March 2015 workshop, picture by Steven Langhorst
Advice on Pitching and Querying to Literary Agents and Publishers
By Brad R Cook

In March 2015 I gave the annual conference kick-off workshop to St. Louis Writers Guild titled Querying andPitching: How to Track down Literary Agents and Publishers. I wanted to share what we talked about that day, and what I’ve written about before for the Writers Lens, wrapped up in a single post.

In my workshop I referenced two previous articles on the Writers Lens where I discussed pitching. The first was The Mechanics of a Perfect Pitch and the second was Lens On: Pitching. Just click on the titles to view the articles.

I’ll let you read the articles – they repeat what I said at the workshop and then definitely check out the SLWG Author Series interview where I discussed the workshop.

SLWG Author Series interview with Brad R Cook 

My workshop is an amalgam of several other workshops and articles I’ve read or experienced over the years. It started when I first heard Chuck Sambuchino at The Writer’s Digest Conference in New York back in 2011 and mixes in advice from Jane Friedman, literary agent Kathleen Ortiz and several other sources with a few of my own experiences added in.   

If you are looking for query letter examples you can find hundreds of examples online, but I highly recommend Chuck Sambuchino’s website where he’s posted successful query letters. The best part, not only can you read the letter but you can also see comments from the agents themselves. Click Here for Query Letters

We also discussed ways to “Track” down literary agents and publishers using the website I am a huge fan of the site and have used it for years. But it’s not the only one, you may prefer or see if an agent is listed in AAR, or one of the large literary groups, they often have lists of approved publishers or agents.

Let’s run over some of the basics –

These suggestions are for fiction genres. Non-fiction has a different set of rules. We touched on them in the workshop but I would recommend searching for tips and examples online.

A query letter should have three parts:
            First an introduction where you mention the title, word count, and genre. This is also the place to mention why you picked the agent or if you’ve met them before.

            Second a paragraph about the book, include the hook, the main character, and the main theme and plot of the book.

            Third is a short paragraph about the author.  

A log line is a short sentence or two about the book. It can also be referred to as an Elevator Pitch.

A synopsis is a 1-2 page single-spaced document that outlines the entire book – including the ending.

Don’t forget fictional manuscript formatting is 12 point standard font, in black, with a one inch border, and the first line of every paragraph indented.

There are now some online ways to pitch - but only at certain times - check out Pitch Madness on Twitter using the hash tag #PitMad. 

Allow me to leave you with this advice. It comes from literary agent Kathleen Ortiz. I asked her, what was the best advice she could offer someone who was pitching – “Keep it short, to the point, and deliver a good hook.”

Good luck with your query or pitch!

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