Lessons from FWA 103: #Pitching to #Agents and #Publishers

“Pitch and Catch,” a workshop on query letters and pitches, was the first session I attended at my first writing conference. What was I doing there with no work-in-progress or active manuscript to warrant a toss? I didn’t know either, but I was open to learning more about the business side of writing. Veronica Helen Hart facilitated the experience with knowledgeable insight and even critiqued our attempts. Here are some tips she shared about querying and pitching:

Agents and Publishers want…

  • to read a unique story
  • to read a unique story that is error-free and well-written
  • to know you did your homework
  • to work with writers who are willing to work with them

Writers show that they satisfy these wants by writing a good query letter, and communicating professionalism. The internet is gorged with how-to’s on this topic but a solid query letter will be enhanced by following these pointers:

  • Begin with a Pitch (100 words about the story):
    • “[Title] is a [word-count] [genre/market] about…”
  • Conclude the pitch with a hook that mentions the main character’s goal and how it all ends.
  • Tailor the letter to each agent or publisher you are soliciting and say why you chose them.
  • If you have a marketing plan, mention it.
  • Insert biographical information about your credentials, awards, and previous publications, but don’t talk yourself up.
  • Don’t editorialize and praise your own work.

Keep these tips in mind when you are ready to send your hard work out into the world. Remember, a well-written query is a great indicator that you are a competent writer. Do your best.

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This post is the third in a series that aims to give you insights into the experience at the 2012 Florida Writers Association conference. The objective is straightforward: to share what I’ve learned. My ultimate goal is to encourage you to apply these lessons to your own writing life.
Catch up on what you missed:
Lessons from FWA 102: Networking at a Writing Conference
Lessons from FWA 101: the Royal Palm Literary Awards

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What is your experience with querying? What questions do you have about writing a pitch?

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