I think by reading through the comments on my original post many some of you might have gotten a taste for what it’s like to be an agent. You’re right that there are no rules and it never hurts to break them, but do you see how frustrating it gets when no one even seems to hear them? Many of you were obviously frustrated by how others define the word “pitch.” Well don’t worry about me, I’m used to pitches of all shapes and sizes and hopefully all of you are reading through what others are doing and have done to get a real feel for what reading query letters is like. This is very close to what an agent sees in her inbox on a daily basis. Read through the original comments and see what catches your eye. Soon you’ll learn why a pitch is so important.
Darius and Dyla Telkur, the twin children of the powerful Duke of Telkur, lead the privileged life of royals on Otharia. Dyla has the power of empathy that surrounds her in an air of danger like a ring of razor blades. Darius, her dark brooding twin, has the power of telepathy in his piercing stare and penetrating touch. Though Darius is the heir to the Telkur throne by mere seconds, the twins share an inseparable bond. When their parents are murdered on their 16th birthday, their idyllic life is shattered. Reeling from shock, the twins are confronted with a pretender to the ducal crown, a rogue cousin bent on stealing the Telkur throne, but the worst is yet to come. Someone else wants them dead and they find themselves at the mercy of an evil mastermind bent on the annihilation of the entire Telkur dynasty.
Caught in a maelstrom of murder and deceit, Darius and Dyla are forced to run for their lives. With no safe haven on Otharia, they flee to the only place where they won’t be found, the quarantined planet of Earth. Stranded in modern day London, their only hope of returning home is to retrieve an artifact lost during an ancient Otharian exploration of Earth. Hidden within the legends of Merlin and the Lady of the Lake are clues to the artifact they seek. Along the way, they stumble upon a terrible secret, a secret that will shake the very foundations of Otharia. Everything is connected and when the twins finally understand the connection between past and present, they must find a way to return home before they don’t have a home or kingdom to return to.
“Caught in a maelstrom of murder and deceit,” is another example of overwriting. Essentially this says absolutely nothing. Skip it. Your pitch should really be more along the lines of, “when twins Darius and Dyla find themselves running for their lives and from their own land….and then we need to get into the heart of the conflict. Is there any reason you can’t give us more details on what the secret is? I think it would be helpful to know some specifics so we have an understanding of what exactly they’re up against and what the hook of this book really is.
Because both her parents died when she was sixteen, nineteen-year-old Maggie Jordan of Loveland, Colorado, yearns for lost family. When she and an idealistic young writer named Jackdaw fall in love, she is certain that she’s found what she’s looking for. They have sex and she gets pregnant, but then he blames her for not living up to his ideal. He does the right thing, though, and they get married. But after Maggie gives birth on Christmas day to a darling boy, Jes, she struggles to cope with Jes’s severe birth defect and her husband’s distance, while Jackdaw must reconcile memories of his father’s abuse and his mother’s abandonment with his own actions.
With deceptive simplicity, LOVELAND interweaves Maggie and Jackdaw’s story with those of Maggie’s timid brother Tibs yearning to be a writer and wrestling with the success of Jackdaw’s first novel and Maggie’s straight and outspoken sister CJ unexpectedly falling in love with Jes’s female nurse.
LOVELAND is literary women’s fiction (65,000 words) comparable to Kent Haruf’s Plainsong and Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper.
The challenge you face with this pitch is that you are telling the story and not showing. A pitch is just as much about your voice and story telling technique as the book itself. When I read a pitch sure I want to know what the story is about, but I also want a sense of what your writing is about. It shouldn’t be simply a breakdown of the story, but the heart of the story. Do we need to know how old Maggie was or is and do we really need to know where she’s from? My concern here is that I’m not sure what this story is about. Is it about meeting a writer when she’s nineteen? Struggling with a special needs child? Getting married because of a pregnancy or her husband reconciling with his childhood?
Claire’s reputation as a woman who competently balances her hectic family life with the demands of her small business tanks when she goes missing for a weekend and awakens on a church pew. But then again, at 32 she meant to be her small town’s District Attorney, not a chronically ill stay-at-home mother of three and freelance chocolatier. When sleek, successful, former friend Malia appears on Claire’s doorstep, she unravels the remainder of Claire’s composure. But even Malia’s dream life veers off course when she learns she’s pregnant, her new boss is her former-lover-turned-priest, and her boyfriend isn’t ready for a baby. Malia and Claire force each other to grapple with their evolving identities, careers, and families as they renew their friendship during a year of chaotic transitions.
Women’s fiction, 85,000 words.
I’m thoroughly confused by this pitch. She’s a chronically ill stay at home mother, but also a successful entrepreneur who should have been a DA? Again, we need to get to the heart of the story. Is this story about Claire or Malia and what are their evolving identities and how do career and family fit in? What is happening in the story? What is the who, what, where, why and how? And what does the church pew have to do with anything?
“Wildflowers and Winged Boys” is a 86,000 word YA manuscript:
Fern’s work to restore native plants to save her Gran’s meadow takes on new meaning when a winged boy reveals the land is part of a hidden enclave of Sapaksan wizards, and Fern’s Mom is their runaway Witch of the Meadows. Fern’s story about her unusual inheritance and the care of the natural world, is bound together with magic and the excitement of first love.
Four embark on a journey into insanity: a brother, a reporter, a park warden and the Nakoda guide she once loved. They’re hunting a legend; the thing that mauled a woman to death a year ago, the thing that left another man maimed both in body and in mind. Legend Hunters is a fast-paced thrill ride that takes the reader through the wilds of the Rocky Mountains, up steep mountain slopes, down turbulent rivers, over glaciers and sacred ground in search of the legendary Bigfoot. One of the four is intent on killing it. One covets its power. One doesn’t believe in it. And, one will protect it at all cost. Even though two rekindle a romance thought lost forever, only one will emerge unscathed.