I'm author ELLE STRAUSS and welcome to my website!
I write fun, lower Young Adult (teen) fiction to do with whimsical things like time-travel, fairies and merfolk.
When my serious side peeks out, she's called LEE STRAUSS. She likes to write upper YA about real things that have happened in the past, or made up things that could quite possibly happen in the future.
This blog is about books, mine and other fab authors', but occasionally I'll share about other topics.
Thanks for dropping by!
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Writing a Selling Query or Pitch in Four Easy Steps
Knowing how to condense the idea of your novel into a two or three paragraph pitch is a skill that you will always need. In fact, it's basically what goes on the back jacket flap.
So, what makes a good query/pitch?
1.Tell us who the story is about.
2. Add the circumstance,
3. the conflict
4. and the hook.
I'll use the query that got me my first agent as an example, which also ended up being the basis for the jacket flap.
In CLOCKWISE (YA, chick lit, 60K), boy watching with her best friend would be enough excitement for fifteen year old Casey Donavan. Who it's about. She doesn't even mind life at the bottom of the Cambridge High social ladder, if only she didn’t have this other much bigger problem. Unscheduled trips to the nineteenth century!(A little more about who it's about. It’s okay to elaborate a little).
When Casey gets talked into going to the Fall Dance, the unthinkable happens--she accidentally takes Nate Mackenzie, the cutest boy in the school, back in time. The circumstance.
Protocol pressures her to tell their 1860 hosts that he is her brother and when Casey finds she has a handsome, wealthy (and unwanted) suitor, something changes in Nate. Are those romantic sparks or is it just ‘brotherly’ protectiveness? When they return to the present things go back to the way they were before: Casey at the bottom of the social flag pole and Nate practically the flag flying from the top.The conflict. (Actually there are a few conflicts listed here, but one is usually enough).
Except this time her heart is broken. Plus, her best friend is mad, her parents are split up, and her little brother gets escorted home by the police. The only thing that could make life worse is if, by some strange twist of fate, she took Nate back to the past again.
Which, of course, she does. The hook.
That alone would suffice as a pitch. In a query you should add a little information about yourself.
I added that I'd had editor requests from a Writers Conference I'd recently attended, my publishing history and two book titles whose readers I thought would enjoy this book.
Thank the agent for his or her time (make sure you address the query to them personally).
Sign it “Sincerely,” with your real (not pen) name.
Let’s look at the jacket flaps of a couple popular books.
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager Who it’s about despite the fact that she works for the International paranormal Containment Agency, her ex boy friend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape shifter and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’glamours.The circumstance.
But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures. The conflict.
So much for normal. The hook.
Matched by Ally Condie
(This one doesn’t follow the four point plan and I don’t think it’s as strong as it could be. What do you think?)
In the Society, Official decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die. Here the circumstance is given before we find out who the story is about.
Cassia has always trusted their choices. Who it’s about, but not a lot of info. It’s barely any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one…until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The conflict Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow--between perfection and passion. More on the conflict but not a real hook.
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
Seventeen year old Jena Fox has just awaken from a year-long coma Who it’s about--so she’s been told--and she is still recovering from the terrible accident that caused it. The circumstance. But what happened before that? She’s been given home movies chronicling her entire life, which spark memories to surface. But are the memories really hers? And why won’t anyone in her family talk about the accident? The conflict. Jenna is becoming more curious. But she is also afraid of what she might find out if she ever gets up the courage to ask her questions.
What happened to Jenna Fox? And who is she, really? The hook.
(I think this is the strongest one of the bunch. What do you think?)
I'll critique the first three queries posted in the comments and reveal them on my blog next week.