Tag Archives: pitch

Writing a Great One-Line Pitch for Your 2022 Query Letter

2 May

Last month, my post—The Difference Between Querying in 2019 and 2022, and Why Your Well-Intentioned Advice May Be Doing More Harm Than Good.—got some attention on writing/publishing Twitter, and I received a lot of great questions. The top two that stood out?

  1. How do you write a fantastic one-line pitch? 
  2. Where do you recommend I research agents right now?

I wanted to tackle writing a one-line pitch first, and then talk about research strategies during my next post on May 23. (For those of you who are new here, I post writing/publishing tips every first and third Monday of the month.) 

So let’s talk about the one-line pitch! 

In my opinion, a great one-line pitch covers your whole book. It’ll highlight character, the stakes, the world, everything–all in one sentence. The shorter, the better. Below I’ve included a logline template that has helped me in the past. 

I encourage you to try this exercise out right now. Take each color/subject, make a list, and shift the order around until you get three pitches you love. Once you have that, send them to beta readers and get their opinions on it. (Don’t tell them which one you love the most. Simply ask them which one caught their eye and why.) Use that information to either revise or choose. 

Another way to write pitches is by looking at pitches. Search through Netflix and see how they summarize each show in one sentence to really grab the viewers’ attention. Even better if you can find some shows that are similar to your book. (Don’t forget, folks, you can always use movies/TV shows as comparison titles, too–though I recommend having at least one recently released book comp.) That said, I like to look at deal announcements. Those often summarize the book in one hooky sentence that is designed to entice readers. (In fact, I based my most recent pitch off of similar deal announcements in the Publishers Weekly Children’s Bookshelf newsletter.)

Honestly, there are pitches all over the internet. From Query Shark to participating in pitch parties on Twitter, you’re going to see hundreds and hundreds of pitches. So how can you make sure your pitch is standing out? First and foremost, you should be studying others’ pitches as much as you can. You should also practice writing them. (Sometimes it’s easier to write a pitch for something you didn’t create, like a favorite show you’re currently watching. That way, the pressure is off your shoulders, and you can focus on the how is this working, not the how is this going to do on sub.) While you’re studying pitches, ask yourself why a certain pitch worked. What caught your eye? What made you sit up in your seat? One of the best posts I’ve seen on writing pitches was by literary agent Ali Herring: The Art of the Quick Pitch. Why do I love this post? Because she shares her clients’ pitches. It’s such a rare gem for agents to share such information, and it’s worth taking a couple minutes to look through. 

Once you have a one-line pitch, take a look at your query. 

Pitches should go at the top. This is for easy access. Agents are slammed right now. I doubt they have time to read every sentence of every query letter they get. Though I’m sure there are agents who do, I like to err on the side of caution and make sure they are getting the best information upfront. I personally like to include my metadata as well. This means I’m defining my age category, genre, word count, and (possibly) my comps. (More likely my comps will come right after the pitch. 

For example:

Dear (Agent):

[Insert personalization of why I believe they are a good fit], [insert pitch and metadata]. This book will appeal to fans of (comps) or This book has the atmosphere of (comp) with the snarky friendships of (comp). 

[insert two paragraphs about book]

[insert small bio] 

Sincerely, 

Me

[insert contact information]

This is the formula that has worked for me. That said, there’s lots of formulas out there that have worked for others, so don’t feel beholden to my method. Try a few different types out and, again, seek out betas who can give you an unbiased opinion about which ones read the smoothest (and, even better, were the most enticing). 

Now get to pitching! 

~SAT
P.S. My quarterly newsletter is going out soon! It includes exclusive writing tips, a giveaway, what I’m currently reading, and so much more. This time, I’ll be giving away a $10 gift card to any local bookstore. Subscribe here.

Publishing Questions I Ask Myself Before I Start Writing a Book

21 Mar

Publishing is hard. We all know that. What makes it harder is bad timing and unclear focus. It’s easy to get lost in the art of writing long before you consider the business of writing, but at the end of the day, publishing is a business. You should have your business plan in mind before you set off on your writing journey. By doing so, you’ll be a lot more prepared for pitching and revisions.

That said, I want to add a caveat before I start sharing the publishing questions I ask myself before I start writing a novel. I’m pursuing traditional publication. That requires different techniques than self-publishing. Putting the publishing method aside, though, if you want to write a book that brings you joy and that’s it, then go for it! I am not here to stop you. It’s important to write and be happy. I have learned that lesson the hard way before. However, I am here to discuss how to hone your skills and focus that joy into a project that stands a higher chance at success. 

By being purposeful in our writing decisions, I believe we increase our chances of success. That doesn’t mean it will absolutely work. But there is something to be said about timing (and a little bit of luck). If you can put the odds in your favor, why wouldn’t you? To do that, I’ve learned to ask myself some pretty hard questions before I start writing. 

Here’s that list:

What does this novel add to the market? 

Maybe it goes without saying, but I think this is probably the most important question you must ask yourself. How does your book stand out from what’s currently out there? How is it relevant but also fresh? Do you have a twist on an old trope that hasn’t been done before? Are you writing it from a perspective not often seen? My advice is always to lean into your most unique aspects as hard as you can without breaking the story. This will help it stand out. 

Are there unique elements that need to be pushed or scaled back?

Once I have a list of my unique elements, I have to take a hard look at the plot/characters. I don’t want to push my unique elements too hard. By doing so, you can break a story. It’s important to understand your limitations as a writer. If you are trying to push yourself to try something way outside your norm, make sure you’re enlisting help from experienced writers or beta readers who avidly read your genre. (You should also be reading avidly within the genre/age category that you’re writing.) Remember: unique is great, but readers also love an old trusted trope. Having some familiar expectations can be a fantastic selling point, too. 

Is the pitch succinct and commercial? 

You certainly have time to figure out your pitching materials, but personally, I start working on a pitch and query letter before I start writing the actual book. Why? Because it quickly shows me if I truly understand the novel I am about to write. Who wants to get 80k into a piece only to realize they aren’t positive about the main themes or twists? Have you attempted to write a query letter to get a better idea of the main theme/plot/character? I stand by attempting your query letter (and maybe even your synopsis) before you start writing. It will reveal the glaring flaws you already have, before going in and finding out the hard way. I will also add that it’s important to recognize that this query isn’t truly your query. I’ve literally never used my starter query as a draft query for when I start to query agents. It’s more like a tool to get me started on the best writing path possible. I often still discover many new (and fun) elements in my work once the writing begins, but having the bare bones of a strong plot keeps me on track and confident that the work won’t fizzle out due to confusion or roadblocks. 

Why would someone pick up this book compared to a comparative title? 

Pretend you’re at a bookstore and your novel is nestled between its comparative titles. Cover aside, why do you want to pick up this book the most? This might go back to the earlier question about what makes your book stand out, but it’s a worthwhile exercise to try out from a reader’s fresh perspective instead of a writer’s. 

Why would you choose to work on this book compared to your other WIPs?

If you’re anything like most of the writers I know, then you probably have a dozen or so ideas bouncing around your noggin that you are dying to write. So why this one? What makes this WIP better than the other ones you are currently playing around with? Not just better to you, but also better to the market? I will caution you not to pick out the idea you have the most fleshed out. Just because you’ve spent more time with it, does not mean it is the best one to pursue right now (or ever). I, myself, recently put my historical fantasy aside to pursue my middle grade novel-in-verse. Why? I’d already written three drafts of my historical fantasy. I had a great revision plan and betas lined up ready to read again. I even had an agent who already requested the full from a writing contest I won before I decided to revise. (They said they were happy to wait until I was done.) By all means, I should’ve concentrated on the historical, right? Wrong. The more I looked at where I stood with that project, the more I realized now was not the right time to pursue it. While I wasn’t confident I could revise the historical and secure representation with it (mostly due to where the market is at with this particular kind of story), I was ready for my middle grade book. Plus, novels-in-verse are finally picking up steam. I wanted to ride that wave before it became a hurricane and mine got lost in the flood. So, I took that leap of faith. I put everything aside to start a brand-new project that I was truly passionate about. I’m now querying and have more fulls than I did with my historical. Sometimes, it’s about reading the water and following your gut when you decide which river to take. (Okay, I’ll stop with the bad water metaphors.) 

Can you spend 3-5 years on this project and be happy? This includes revisions, rejections, more revisions, etc. 

Maybe you thought I was a kill-joy, but I promise, I’m not. I know how important your mental health is when pursuing publication. Writing can be a long, lonely adventure, and those feelings can only get worse if your current WIP is dragging you down. When folks tell me they’re writing a novel (and planning to pursue traditional publication), one of the first chats I have with them is how long it can take. Writing the first draft is typically the fastest part. Beyond that is beta readers, revisions, querying, rejections, more revisions, signing with an agent, going on sub, more rejections, hopefully a book deal! Yay! But 3-5 years between writing your first draft and the actual book release date is pretty common if not expected. Granted, that doesn’t mean you have to be happy every single day for 5 years. That’s unrealistic. But, realistically, will you enjoy working on this book for a long time? The reasons for saying yes, or no, will vary from writer to writer. Some writers can write purely from a business angle, no problem, but others require a little bit more excitement in order to pursue an idea for a long time. 

All of the answers to these questions will be unique to you. They may not even be the best questions to ask yourself. These are just the ones I ask myself before I start writing, and they help me make decisions every time. Maybe they’ll help you, too. 

If you have additional questions, I’d love to read about them in the comments below! 

~SAT

#MondayBlogs When NaNoWriMo is Over

28 Nov

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a lot of fun for many writers, and it can be that stepping stone that forces you to sit down and finish that draft you’ve been trying to complete for years. Whether you hit that 50,000-word milestone or not, I want to congratulate you, because—guess what??—you sat down, you got to work, and you wrote something that mattered to you.

That is worth celebrating.

But many writers might be asking themselves what to do now. Edit? Query? Write more?

The answer will be different for everyone, but here are my three universal tips for NaNoWriMo writers. (And, again, congratulations! You. Are. Awesome. Never stop writing.)

1. Do Not—and I repeat—DO NOT immediately start querying

NaNoWriMo’s goal is to get 50,000 words down. And while 50,000 words is certainly an accomplishment, it’s definitely a first draft. Querying now will only hurt you. In fact, working on a query letter at this point might not even be necessary—because a lot changes from a first draft to the final product—but that’s different for everyone. Sometimes, I like to write query letters before I write a book, just to make sure I understand my concepts and direction. This, of course, never becomes my final query or synopsis, but it helps to have a first draft of everything all at once. That way, I can see how my story changes and shapes over time.

So what are you supposed to do with a first draft?

Extra Tip: Make a plan. Set more deadlines, like NaNoWriMo. Maybe December can be drafting a query letter, synopsis, and pitch month.

Extra Tip: Make a plan. Set more deadlines, like NaNoWriMo. Maybe December can be drafting a query letter, synopsis, and pitch month. 

2. EDIT

Well, first, I normally tell writers to walk away for a little bit. Three weeks might seem like a long time, but it’ll distance you from your work…and your blind love might clear up. This is when you can see your plot holes, flat characters, and other flaws that definitely need fixing. Take word count for example. NaNoWriMo only requires a 50,000-word document, and while this is ideal for MG books, 50,000 words isn’t a great word count for an adult novel or even a YA fantasy. While 50,000 is an AMAZING accomplishment (please do not get me wrong), you’re more than likely going to receive automatic rejections because your word count is off. I know. I know. Word count isn’t everything. In fact, I think pacing matters more. But what’s the brutal truth for debuts? When your word count is off, it tells agents and publishers that you don’t know your genre or market (even if you do). Figure out your ideal word count here—and try to get it there. Don’t bank your entire career on being an exception to the rule.

3. Work on that query, synopsis, and pitch

Your novel isn’t the only piece of work needing attention. Now that you have a complete and edited draft, writing that dreaded query comes into play…and more often than not, query letters and pitches take just as long as editing does. Thankfully, there are plenty of helpful places to learn about this process, like QueryShark and the Query Critique Calendar (where you can get one-on-one help during competitions).

In the end, NaNoWriMo is a fantastic starting point, and you should be proud of your work and accomplishments. But it’s only one part of this wonderful journey. Take your time. Publishing is never a race. And make friends along the way.

Writing should be fun, after all. Try to enjoy all that comes along with it, including everything after THE END.

~SAT

#WW Pitch Competitions

4 Nov

Although many of you know me as an author, I work a full-time day job as an editor and marketer. I also give publishing advice and help writers with their websites. It was during this job one of my clients asked me if I had ever participated in a #Pitch competition.

If you don’t know what this is, don’t worry! I didn’t either. Not at first anyway. In fact, I embarrassingly admitted to my client that I once participated in the Twitter feed to talk to other writers without realizing a competition was going on. (This is actually okay, since it’s about making friends, but the Twitter feed is generally for those who have entered or plan to enter in the future.)

All of the Pitch competitions are different, but they generally have a theme, are run by a number of agents and mentors, and at the end, a couple of lucky authors get to skip the slush pile and apply to agents and publishers directly. Most of them you apply to via email (following all the rules!), and then you have daily discussions via Twitter while the agents are picking winners. That’s the basic rundown.

Now, after I talked to my client about this, I told them I would do some more research and figure out how to join the next one and what to do during it. Huzzah! #PitchSlam and #NoQS (Nightmare on Query Street) were taking place about a month in the future. (These events happened in October. Isn’t this time warp thing crazy?) I found the rules via the hosts’ blogs, and I relayed all of the information and deadlines. I told my client everything, but they still weren’t sure. They wanted personal information from someone with firsthand experience.

So…I joined.

At the time I was struggling with approaching my own publisher with my pitch for my latest manuscript, so I figured why not get advice from people in the industry? I was too close to the manuscript—much in a way that an editor can’t edit his or her own writing alone—and I needed help from someone else.

I entered #PitchSlam

One of my favorite PitchSlam tweets

One of my favorite PitchSlam tweets

I am going to start out by saying, I LOVED this entire experience. Not only was there an awesome theme surrounding Harry Potter, but there was also three separate days of events and support from the agents and the community. On day 1, 200 lucky writers received feedback on their 35-word pitch. On day 2, another 200 lucky writers received feedback on their first 250 words. I was super lucky. I was picked on both days, and by the end of the week, six mentors had helped me fine-tune my project.

I was through the roof. And from reading the feed, so were many other writers.

Pitch competitions are priceless. I made friends in the writing community I might not have ever made, and I learned a lot from those around me. I had fun, and I never once saw someone feel defeated by “losing.” Because there is no “losing” in these competitions. There’s just friendship, support, understanding, and teaching.

I highly recommend trying one out if you have a completed manuscript and you’re looking for an agent/publisher and/or honest/professional feedback on your work (or even if you just want to make some writer friends)!

Just to help you out, here is some extra information on upcoming ones:

  • Follow @Michelle4Laughs on Twitter for information on Sun versus Snow, a query competition coming in January. Info.
  • There’s another PitchSlam in March of 2016 as well. Info here. It’s a bi-annual contest. Here’s a list of the PitchSlam Profressors. Follow them for future updates.
  • News on PitchWars: They’ll have news on the next one after the New Year: Info.
  • Pitch Madness starts in February: Info

So get ready for the next one! I’m sure it’ll be fun. And of course, I wish you the best of luck. (And of course, be sure to follow those rules!)

~SAT

SAT Update: Crimson Peak, Submissions, Adele, M&Ms, and More.

24 Oct

Here we are! I have so many exciting things to say, and I hope I get to say even more in my next Saturday post…which won’t be until November 7, since our monthly Ketchup post takes place next Saturday. (Was that easy to follow?) But first and foremost, the paperback of Death Before Daylight released this week, and I had a book signing at Headrush Coffee and Tea Roasters. I hope you also enjoy publishing updates, movies, music, dessert, and more.

What I’m Writing:

This is my real handwriting. I know. I know. Terrible.

This is my real handwriting. I know. I know. Terrible.

So, don’t hate me, but I’ve paused all work on Take Me Yesterday while I’ve worked on an extension of November Snow. So far, I’ve written short stories of the side characters—like a prequel for how the flocks came together—and outlined the first couple of chapters for the sequel, so it isn’t a standalone. I actually went back into all my old notes from when I was a kid and writing this series, and even though the language was embarrassing (so embarrassing), the story idea wasn’t bad. Needs some tweaking, but I think it just might work. I still cannot believe the ambition I had back then. A 12-book, 600-page series? That was adorable. At least I’m writing again, eh? As of right now, I have 11,000 words of the Northern Flock’s prequel written, which includes the origins of Adam, Michele, Maggie, and Ryne. (There are 12 kids in each flock.) Originally, I was going to write the Northern Flock and the Southern Flock separate, but I might combine them and make one novella out of it.

What I’m Publishing:

I submitted November Snow and all the above ideas to my publisher in the middle of the night (because I’m crazy) this past Thursday. (Or…technically Friday morning…at 2:15 a.m. to be exact). What can I say? I’m a vampire. I even had the wonderful opportunity to participate in #PitchSlam and #NoQS this week, which is a Twitter contest to work with agents on your manuscript. Plus, a client of mine wanted me to do it to give them feedback on the contests. (Definitely recommended by the way!) They are great for connecting, having fun, and learning about the current trends in the industry straight from the agents themselves. I actually got feedback on my 35-line pitch and my first 250 words, and I definitely used it in the new version! That was a delight. I’ll write a blog post about it so you can look forward to other competitions in the future. I’m still participating in #1lineWed too. This week’s theme was last line in a chapter, so here’s a sneak peek at November Snow: I ran like death waited with open arms.

Keep your fingers crossed for me! Please. 🙂

What I’m Reading:

 A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz: I haven’t had a lot of reading time this week, not going to lie. I was so wrapped up in writing competitions, book signings, and preparing work for my publisher, that I was all write, write, write this week. That being said, this novel is badass. Definitely unique, bold, and willing to face the darkest parts of society. It’s my kind of book. I love the little notes it has in it too. The formatting is unbelievable.

What I’m Listening To:

Adele’s 21 album. Why? I haven’t a clue, but I’ve loved her music forever, and it had been too long since I binged on her music. It took me back to my college days, to be honest. I used to play this album so much my college roommates would yell at me over it, and complain about having the lyrics to music they didn’t like memorized. Perhaps I wanted to listen to it this week to remind me of those days. It was the three-year anniversary of my college roommate’s death, so…Well, there aren’t many words for a world with such loss, but Adele can at least bring the smile back for just a little while.

What I’m Watching:

I HAD to go to the theatre to see Guillermo Del Toro’s new film, Crimson Peak, and I must say, I LOVED it. That being said, it’s way too hard to talk about any part of the story without giving away major secrets. So, what can I say? The characters are awesome. The sets are unbelievable beautiful. I’d love to see a behind-the-scenes screening of the movie. And the story is flawless, haunting, creepy, and uncomfortably wonderful.

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Then, since it’s the paranormal season, I watched The Ghost in the Pantry, a short documentary about some of the best ghost footage ever recorded. Now I don’t care if it’s “real” or not, so let’s not discuss that. The documentary is freakin’ awesome.

I followed that documentary up with another documentary. This one was Ghosts of the Underground, a long discussion on all the different ghosts that haunt London’s underground. Pretty interesting!

What I’m Baking, Making, and Drinking:

 12106742_927072510673264_4354659410432881927_nPepper jack, sausage, and tomato pasta: It wasn’t as spicy as I thought it would be, which is a good thing for me, because I lose control of my face when I eat anything spicy.

I couldn’t sleep the night before my book signing, so naturally, I baked a batch of M&M cookies. But that’s not all. I bought ice cream and slammed it in between them. I know. I know. I’m insatiable.

What I’m Wearing:

I bought a new jacket thing, but it’s more like a blanket than a jacket—a blanket with sleeves. I freakin’ love it. Thank you, Target.

What I’m Wanting:

 More time to write. Is that a thing? Can I buy that?

Actually, come to think of it, I would really like to get one of these banners for my book signing at Penned Con St. Louis in September of 2016, but boy, are those pricey. I’ll hopefully be able to save up enough to get one though. Fingers crossed!

Also, when writing this blog post, I realized Adele is releasing a new album! 25! I cannot believe it. FINALLY. Yep. I want.

What I’m Dreaming Of:

I was at a library to find my older brother’s research papers he wrote in middle school. (Don’t ask. I don’t know how this other world works either.) I found one on ghost mermaids. (Again. Don’t ask.) But I was having a hard time following the science behind it, so I decided to go to their break room, which had a billiard table. (Again. In a library.) So, I set my purse down to play and then I kicked my purse and I heard a thunk. I looked down and my purse went through a HOLE IN THE FLOOR. I went downstairs to tell them my purse went to their bottom floor, and everyone FREAKED out. Turns out there was a secret basement with super secret vaults with even more secret stuff inside. (I believe that is exactly how the manager worded it.) So they had me arrested but took me down there to fetch it in all these lasers and guards and craziness. Then, they returned my purse but threatened me to never tell a soul…Naturally, I came on here and recorded it on my blog.

My other noteworthy dream: There was some sort of Con in Wichita, Kansas going on, and I desperately wanted to go, but my friend kept saying it was an expensive way to celebrate my Pikachu hat. (Yes, my Pikachu hat made it into dreamland. Perhaps I’ve been wearing it too much.) But they had these awesome deals, and we decided to probably go. (Let me tell you, discussing money and travels is exciting in dreamland.)

Headrush Roasters Book Signing

Headrush Roasters Book Signing

What Else Is Going On:

As you read above, the paperback of Death Before Daylight released! I also had my book signing at Headrush Roasters Coffee & Tea, and it was an absolute blast! We talked about Halloween, the ghost films I mentioned above, the black-eyed children, and the inspiration behind The Timely Death Trilogy. My events manager and a beta reader of mine even came, and I haven’t seen them in person for almost a year, so I was ecstatic to see some familiar faces as well as some new ones. I look forward to future book signings and events! It was a great week. I’m hoping to bring even better news to you all next week!

~SAT

I would post more announcements, but I basically just said all of them in this post…but you know, the paperback of Death Before Daylight is now out. The first book is free too!

Minutes Before Sunset: book 1

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

Death Before Daylight: book 3

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboGoodreads

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