||Writing that Dynamite Query/Pitch Letter
Your mother was right when she told you, Good first impressions are so important. In this case, the query/pitch letter may be the ONLY marketing opportunity you have to catch an agents/editors/producers eye. So dont waste it. The rules are simple, hard, and fast.
Youre not writing this letter to impress them with your writing content or style. This is a marketing letter to see if what you have to offer fits their acquisition and marketing department needs as well as their expertise in your genre at this point. Dont send poetry to a mystery house. As they read the letter, dont give them any reason to say, No, and return your manuscript. Stay in the, Yes, and you will, if youve done your homework.
Ask for their guidelines for submission and follow them. If you dont send a SASE, your work will not be returned.
Make sure you have the correct spelling and address for the recipient of this query. Dear Sir or Madam, is a no-no. If its John Smith, write, Dear Mr. Smith, not Dear John. Call the house and make sure that person still works there. Publishing is a revolving door. Can you believe, some people at agencies and publishing houses die?
The one page query/pitch letter has six elements in this order.
Whats your ANGLE? This is the most powerful paragraph in your one page letter. Use your sound byte in the opening sentence. Then tell the reader your genre, word or page count (about 250 words per page if you need to guess) and the title of your work in a creative way. Grab the readers attention with this teaser paragraph. If your romance book is 15,000 words, the rejection slip is on the way. Romances are very long. Know your genre.
Whats your APPROACH? What is your background for this subject? Whats your hook? Who are your sources? Impress the editor/agent with the credits you have.
Why are you the best AUTHOR of this work? Its bio time. Your writing expertise and publishing credentials go here. Dont apologize if you have none. Simply gloss over this part.
Who is your AUDIENCE? Zero in on the short version of your marketing plan. Who will your work appeal to? What is your dowry? Make sure the editor/agent knows your work is a marriage for his/her market. My marketing plan for Howard Keels book was seven single line pages long.
And your ADDRESS is
the last paragraph is the thank you part. Include all the information that isnt on your heading. Dont say, Im looking for an agent. DUH. Isnt that why youre writing that person? Dont waste that page on the obvious.
After all is said and done, ANALYZE the letter again. You believe the letter is accurate? Read it again and again. Check for typos, grammar usage, and tight, sharp, eye-grabbing facts. State only the facts. Dont say, This is the best work youll receive this year. No, it isnt. And hyperbole/conjecture like that only wastes words in a tight one page query, defines you as a pre-published writer, and weakens your presentation as well.
Act like youve arrived, they just havent discovered you yet. I always tell my students that.
Send it first class, or email if they accept Internet submissions. Any other expensive way is a waste. All material is opened in a mailroom by people who dont care how fast it arrived. Your work is placed in a folder and delivered without the envelope.
Writing a powerful query/pitch letter is, in many cases, harder to write than your project itself. Spend some time preparing and editing the query. Good luck.
Joyce Spizer Foy
© 1999 Joyce Spizer Foy. All rights reserved.