Pitching Agents And Readers

I talk a lot about pitching agents via the query process, but that’s not the only way to pitch. There are verbal pitches to agents. And? There’s the pitching you need to do to the READERS!

6 New Tips For Pitching Agents

Here’s a couple things to keep in mind.

  1. In person, if you’re not very social, it’s fine to keep the pitch extra short!
  2. In the written query, the part addressing the story is typically
    1. First paragraph is the character, setting, and inciting incident
    2. Second paragraph is the escalation
  3. It’s okay to close with a question!
    1. I’d heard so many times that agents “hate rhetorical questions” that I’ve just banned any question from my query letters. BUT! I’ve been told, it’s okay to have a question, especially in the summary sentence. “Will Carol manage to finish dinner before the store closes, or will she find herself locked in, forever!
  4. A strong character voice in the query is very dangerous, but on rare occasions will work.
  5. Only describe your background/education if it’s on display in the book.
  6. A lot of publishing houses are looking more for duologies and stand alone books than series. It’s a smaller commitment, that can be expanded if the book(s) sell well!

Pitching Readers

The number one thing you have to remember when pitching to your readers is … if you’re planning on selling on Amazon, no matter how amazing your cover text is, Amazon only shows the first 2 lines of your blurb. Make Them Count.

No Matter Who You’re Pitching

There are two things your pitch has to accomplish.

  1. Show how your story is distinct from the others in its genre
  2. Show how your story fits in the market

What pitching tips work best for you?

What ones would you suggest we avoid?


Here were more notes from all the panels I hit at Balticon53 and I’m still not done. I attended all the panels, so you don’t have to.

Tune in again next week for more writing tips and writerly musings.

#31 Query Corner – Life From The Opposite Side

Welcome to:

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh eyes for your query quandaries.

LIFE FROM THE OPPOSITE SIDE: FROM SOCCER MOM TO ADDICT AND HOME AGAIN is a memoir about a life torn apart, lost, then picking up the pieces.

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.

[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]

Overall Impression:

Life From The Opposite Side sounds like a very personal, but fascinating journey. The initial query read a lot like a blurb though — lots of trope phrases, few details. My suggestions:

  • For queries, plot matters! Avoid high level descriptions-instead, be specific when detailing decision points.
  • Make sure to vary your sentence structure
  • Personally, if I don’t have a personal connection to the agent, I don’t try and stretch for one, or state the obvious (i.e. My genre is on your wish list) and just skip that portion. But some agents really do like it, so that part is up to your discretion.

Queryist’s Original:

Dear AGENT,

When Glenna’s 15-year marriage crumbles in a single night (why?), she is forced to rebuild her life from scratch with her two young sons. When she meets Micah on a dating website, (don’t start 2 sentences in a row the same way) she becomes trapped in a world of drug addiction, mental illness, gaslighting, and domestic abuse. Will Glenna find the strength to get away before she loses everything she holds dear? (Very TV guide, little feel for the voice of the story)

Life From The Opposite Side: From Soccer Mom To Addict And Home Again is a memoir complete at 65k words. I’ve previously been published by
[PLACE A] as well as [PLACE B] and [PLACE C].

[Paragraph about why I picked this particular agent and how I know him/her.]

Thank you for your consideration. 

Sincerely,
Q31


My Revision:

Dear AGENT,

When Glenna catches her husband 
(cheating on her/discovers he’s gambled away their life savings/abusing her for the last time? Or is he the one who abandons her?), she finds herself at the end of a 15-year marriage, and is forced to rebuild her life from scratch with her two young sons. Wanting to feel wanted, she joins a dating website, where she meets Micah.

Glenna is swept away by Micah’s charm and in her eagerness to prove herself worthy, doesn’t walk away when he offers her drugs. As he drags her down into a world of drug addiction, mental illness, gaslighting, and domestic abuse, Glenna begins to lose herself. Glenna must find the strength to get away before she destroys her own life, and that of her sons
 (or lose them to CPS? her ex? to drugs themselves??).

Life From The Opposite Side: From Soccer Mom To Addict And Home Again is a memoir complete at 65k words. I’ve previously been published by [PLACE A] as well as [PLACE B] and [PLACE C].

[Paragraph about why I picked this particular agent and how I know him/her.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Q3
1


The queryist was pleased with my suggestions and after another round of revisions, here’s the final (for now at least) draft.

The Final Query:

Dear AGENT,

When Glenna catches her husband cheating with a younger woman, she finds herself at the end of a 15-year marriage and is forced to rebuild her life from scratch with her two young sons. Wanting to feel loved again, she joins a dating website, where she meets Micah.

Glenna is swept away by Micah’s charm, and in her eagerness to prove herself worthy, doesn’t walk away when he offers her drugs. As he drags her down into a world of addiction, mental illness, gaslighting, and domestic abuse, Glenna loses her way and everything she holds dear. Glenna must find the strength to get away before she destroys her own life and the lives of her children.

Life From The Opposite Side: From Soccer Mom To Addict And Home Again is a memoir complete at 65k words. I’ve previously been published by [PLACE A] as well as [PLACE B] and [PLACE C].

[Paragraph about why I picked this particular agent and how I know him/her.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Q31

It sounds like Queryist 31 has come a long way. Thanks to her for sharing her very personal story, of both her downfall and her growth. Best wishes in the query trenches!


And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!

#30 Query Corner – ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE

Welcome to:

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh eyes for your query quandaries.

ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE is a Women’s Fiction novel about several generations of women in a single family – unlucky-in-love and dealing with the consequences.

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.

[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]

Overall Impression:

ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE sounds like a solid generational women’s fiction novel. I’m curious about what choices the main characters make and what the consequences are. My suggestions:

  • For multiple points of view, make sure each main character has a distinct voice. (Pick no more than 3)
  • Avoid cliche phrasing–instead, be specific when detailing decisions.
  • List your awards if you have them – but if you have many, make sure to cull to only the ones that would be broadly recognizable. (This queryist did so)
  • Personally, if I don’t have a personal connection to the agent, I don’t try and stretch for one, or state the obvious (i.e. My genre is on your wish list) and just skip that portion. But some agents really do like it, so that part is up to your discretion.

Queryist’s Original:

Dear Ms. AGENT,

On her wedding night, Annabelle beds a stranger. Not every bride feels beautiful. Unloved and ignored at her own wedding, Annabelle succumbs to the attention of an attractive older man. The next morning, her apologetic new husband explains he stupidly mixed booze and Benadryl. Now, Annabelle must decide to confess her own indiscretion or forever hold her peace.

Maybe she should have expected this. Annabelle hails from a long line of women saddled with bad circumstances and sunk by bad choices. Annabelle’s grandmother, pregnant at seventeen, married her domineering high school boyfriend, but ultimately fell in love with his younger brother, who fathered her second child. Annabelle’s mom struggles with manic depression but fights every day to be strong for her children and her marriage. And Annabelle’s aunt always chooses the man most likely to break her heart, until she finally picks the man who ruptures it, when he dies much too young.

Annabelle may have inherited bad relationship karma, but if she can learn lessons from the strong, but flawed women she loves, she may be able to alter fate and find happiness.

ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE is contemporary Women’s Fiction complete at 74,000 words. The story unfolds via multiple POVs.

Ms. Hazelwood, because you are willing to help with queries, I hope you will find this work a good fit.

My debut novel, TITLE, was published in MONTH YEAR by PUBLISHER. It was positively reviewed on PLACE and PLACE. I’ve had essays published by NEWSPAPER, WEBSITE, and WEBSITE. My novella, TITLE2, won the AWARD award in YEAR.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Q20


Before I even said anything, the queryist had second thoughts and revamped their query for me. The second attempt was paired down quite a bit, but detailed out too much.

The Queryist’s 2nd Attempt:


Lucy Gaines, a young mother, lives alone with her daughter while her husband recovers in the hospital from a manic-depressive episode. Isolated and frightened, she finds solace, stability, and love in the arms of her husband’s younger brother, Larry. The day she discovers she’s pregnant with Larry’s child is the day she learns her husband is coming home.

If she chooses loving Larry, the only true happiness she’s ever known, she could destroy her entire family and her husband’s fragile grasp on health. But if she stays with her husband and raises the child as his, she risks a web of lies that could haunt them all.

Years later, when Lucy’s granddaughter beds a stranger on her wedding night, it may be the bad relationship karma that Lucy sowed. Now the bride must determine why she made her crazy wedding-night choice and if she has the wherewithal to fight for her marriage. 

My Revision:

Dear AGENT,

Lucy Gaines, a young mother, lives alone with her daughter while her husband recovers in the hospital from a manic-depressive episode. Isolated and frightened, she finds solace, stability, and love in the arms of her husband’s younger brother, Larry. The day she discovers she’s pregnant with Larry’s child is the day she learns her husband is coming home.

Years later, unloved and ignored at her own wedding, Lucy’s granddaughter Annabelle succumbs to the attention of an attractive older man. The next morning, her apologetic new husband explains he stupidly mixed booze and Benadryl. Now, Annabelle must decide to confess her own indiscretion or forever hold her peace.

Lucy’s family may have inherited her bad relationship karma, but if Annabelle can learn lessons from the strong, but flawed women she loves, she may be able to alter fate and find her own happiness.

ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE is contemporary Women’s Fiction complete at 74,000 words. The story unfolds via multiple POVs. Ms. Hazelwood, because you’re willing to help with queries, I hope you will find this work a good fit.

My debut novel, TITLE, was published in MONTH YEAR by PUBLISHER. It was positively reviewed on PLACE and PLACE. I’ve had essays published by NEWSPAPER, WEBSITE, and WEBSITE. My novella, TITLE2, won the AWARD award in YEAR.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Q3
0


The queryist was excited and we went a few rounds until we ended up with a query they were happy with.

The Final Query:

Dear AGENT,

When Lucy’s husband was committed to a mental hospital, she never expected to fall for his younger brother. But during those long, lonely months when her husband is away, Larry becomes first her handyman, then her best friend, and then more. The day Lucy discovers she’s pregnant with Larry’s child is the day she learns her husband is coming home. Lucy must choose between raising her daughter with the man she loves or rebuilding her life with the man she pledged to love a decade ago.

Forty years later, Lucy’s granddaughter, Annabelle makes her own reckless choice. Neglected by her inebriated husband on their wedding night, Annabelle succumbs to the attentions of an attractive older man. When her new husband apologizes the next morning, Annabelle must decide if she should confess her own indiscretion, abandon her hours-old vow or forever hold her peace.

Lucy, Annabelle, and the other women in the family may share the DNA of bad relationship karma, but their family bonds could prove to be the strength each needs to alter their fates and find lasting happiness.

ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE is contemporary Women’s Fiction complete at 74,000 words. The story unfolds via multiple POVs.

My debut novel, TITLE, was published in MONTH YEAR by PUBLISHER. It was positively reviewed on PLACE and PLACE. I’ve had essays published by NEWSPAPER, WEBSITE, and WEBSITE. My novella, TITLE2, won the AWARD award in YEAR.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Q30


And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!

#29 Query Corner – Render

Welcome to:

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh eyes for your query quandaries.

RENDER is a contemporary fantasy where secret telepaths can hack other people’s brains and manipulate their realities.

When medical resident, Dr. Kivrin Welch’s ex-boyfriend shows up, wanted for assassinating the senator he was paid to protect. That’s when she learns about renderers — telepathic mind hackers. Her ex admits he’s one, but someone’s learned how to turn rending into physical actions. How can they clear his name when his body did the killing?

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.

[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]

Overall Impression:

RENDER sounds like a fantasy and a thriller in one. Fascinating world building. Your query was pretty solid and didn’t need much to polish it. My three big suggestions for your query are:

  • Minimize backstory – focus on goals
  • Keep it chronological
  • Having the perpetrator be someone close to them is normal in thrillers, so I wouldn’t spell it out in the query

Queryist’s Original:

<blockquote class=”wp-block-quote “>

Dear [Agent],

RENDER is an adult contemporary fantasy, complete at 78,000 words, that will appeal to fans of V.E. Schwab’s VICIOUS.
[Nice. Short and crisp with a relevant comp.]

Medical resident Dr. Kivrin Welch struggles to focus on patients when Cara, her hallucinated alter-ego, keeps popping up at inopportune times to berate her for any mistake she makes. When Kivrin’s ex-boyfriend, Clark, finally tells her about renderers—gifted individuals who can hack into other people’s minds and manipulate their perception of reality—it answers questions she’s long had about her hallucinations and her troubled past.

Clark Bantam, the ex Kivrin still pines for, is a renderer. He uses his abilities to escape police custody after being arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. Or rather, a crime he couldn’t stop himself from committing. Someone out there is a new kind of renderer—one who can hack not just minds, but bodies. They made Clark walk onstage at a political rally and shoot the U.S. Senator he was supposed to protect.

Kivrin agrees to hide Clark from the authorities if he tells her more about rendering. But then a friend’s betrayal sends them both on the run, with the FBI hot on their heels. Together, they navigate family secrets and unresolved feelings for each other in order to find the real culprit and clear Clark’s name. They think they’re hunting a stranger, but they will discover that the perpetrator was known to them all along.
[Cliche!]


My Revision:

Dear [Agent],

RENDER is an adult contemporary fantasy, complete at 78,000 words, that will appeal to fans of V.E. Schwab’s VICIOUS.

Medical resident Dr. Kivrin Welch struggles to focus on her patients, but Cara, her hallucinated alter-ego, keeps popping up at inopportune times to berate her for any mistake she makes. When Kivrin’s ex-boyfriend, Clark, pops up and reveals his abilities as a so-called renderer—a gifted individual who can hack into other people’s minds and manipulate their perception of reality—it answers questions she’s long had about her hallucinations and her troubled past.

Clark Bantam is a renderer in trouble. Someone out there is a new kind of renderer—one who can hack not just minds, but bodies. They made Clark walk onstage at a political rally and shoot the U.S. Senator he was supposed to protect. Only Clark’s own abilities allowed him to escape police custody after being arrested for the crime he couldn’t stop himself from committing.

Kivrin agrees to hide Clark from the authorities if he tells her more about rendering–and how to protect herself. But then a friend’s betrayal sends them both on the run, with the FBI hot on their heels. If they can’t resolve their past and find the real killer, they might be the next victims.

[Insert Bio here]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


[Q29]


I think Q29 has a chilling thriller, where even the characters don’t know what’s real!

And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!

#28 Query Corner: THE EYE BEGINS TO SEE

Welcome to:

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh Eyes For Your Query Quandaries

THE EYE BEGINS TO SEE is an upmarket novel that explores the coercive sterilization efforts in America.

When a privileged perfectionist and an ambitious street rat are hair-on-fire-late to their first law-school class and collide, it’s the beginning of a fast friendship. After the women discover a dark link, they must learn to forgive the past in order to embrace their futures.

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.

[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]

Overall Impression:

THE EYE BEGINS TO SEE sounds like an intriguing upmarket story, with a sincere exploration of the sterilization efforts in America, even after WWII.

My main comments are just organizational for the query:

  • Try to keep the query under 300 words.
  • You don’t need to show all your research.
  • You only capitalize names in a synopsis, not queries. But do try to keep the number of names to 4 or fewer.

Querist’s Original:

[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]

Dear [Mr./Ms. Agent Name Here],

[Personalization.]

The Eye Begins to See, dual narrative complete at 92K words, is upmarket/ book club fiction. A modern examination of eugenics, what it means to be coerced into or secretly sterilized, that will share an audience with Before We Were Yours (Lisa Wingate), Necessary Lies (Diane Chamberlain), and Second Glance (Jodi Picoult).

The story of two women on a parallel journey through Duke Law School discover personal worth and what it means to be enough. BERYL McCLAREN [Capitalized names are for synopsis] is privileged, driven, fearless. And certain she’ll never meet the expectations of her painfully perfect mother. METHEA ‘THEA’ CATTERSON is inner-city Chicago, tough, funny as hell. Brave and determined to escape the streets that devoured her mother and brother. They collide at Duke, hair-on-fire-late to their first class and become fast friends. Thea introduces Beryl to GRAYSON ‘GRAY’ HEGGS and HAZEL TANAKA. Gray is charming and hot nough to melt stone. He might be serious about Beryl, but falling in love with your best friend’s honorary brother could be a mistake. Hazel is an elegant Zen waif with a passion for gardening and an incalculable capacity for fostering community and compassion. She’s also the life-partner Thea never expected to meet. [This is a little heavy into synopsis]

Both women, after walking the long and sometimes heartbreaking path to personal and professional realization, find themselves buried by dozens of archived documents alleging eugenic sterilization authorized by the state of North Carolina. The search reveals a potential and startling link between Beryl and Thea: DR. HARPER ENDRISS, the nightmare they never saw coming.

Most states ended forced sterilization after World War II. North Carolina, backed by powerful elites including heirs to Procter &amp; Gamble and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, didn’t. More than 7,600 individuals were sterilized during this chapter. However, the topic remains centered on the world stage. The Eugenics Crusade, documentary – PBS (2018); Black Mirror (Men Against Fire) –
Netflix (2016). Prominent scientist Stephen Hawking (2018) predicted widespread use of eugenics to edit traits such as intelligence. Psychology professor Aurelio Figuerdo (AZ) received $458K research dollars (2003-2018) from the estate of pro-eugenics textile magnate, Wickliffe Draper, then used a portion of the funds to attend the 2017 London Conference on Intelligence at
University of London. [You don’t need to show all your research in the query.]

This is my first novel and is a fictionalized version of my experience of sterilization in North Carolina. [I think we can reword a little smoother.]

Thank you for your consideration of representation. [A little blunt.]

Regards,

Q28


My Revision:

Dear Agent,

Thea Catterson’s made it out of inner-city Chicago and into Duke Law School. Determined to escape the streets that devoured her mother and brother, she’s going to have to make friends if she’s going to survive schooling with the elite. And maybe even find a girlfriend.

Beryl McClaren is determined to do her best to meet the expectations of her painfully perfect mother and become the best darn lawyer out there. When she literally collides with Thea, as they’re both hair-on-fire-late to their first class, it’s the beginning of a fast friendship. And that was before she met Thea’s hot, honorary brother. Through school, loves, and loss, the pair is there to support each other. Their professional lives lead them into the dark side of North Carolina’s past — eugenics — and deep in the papers, the friends find another, darker personal connection. The pair must learn to forgive the past or be torn apart by a wrong done before they were born. [Are these the stakes?]

Inspired by true events, The Eye Begins to See is an LGBT [since I took out the reference earlier. Oh wait, I just tried to add some back in] dual narrative upmarket/book club novel, complete at 92K words. It is a modern examination of eugenics and what it means to be coerced or secretly sterilized that will share an audience with Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours, Diane Chamberlain’s Necessary Lies, and Jodi Picoult’s Second Glance. [see if you can pick 2. And if you move this back up top, I’d remove the ‘inspired by true events part, or work it in later. Unless you’re marketing this as a memoir, I wouldn’t launch with that.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours Sincerely,

Q28


And with a few tweaks to make sure their voice showed through, here’s the final version.

Dear Agent,

[Personalization.]

Beryl McClaren is privileged, driven, and certain she’ll never meet the expectations of her painfully perfect mother. Thea Catterson is inner-city Chicago-tough, funny as hell, and determined to escape the streets that devoured her mother and brother. They collide at Duke, hair-on-fire-late to their first class, and become fast friends. Through excruciating coursework, love and loss, they support each other to the finish line to achieve their dreams.

Beryl detours into an unexpected relationship and must escape the shackles of unimaginable abuse to right her course. Thea must repair the damage her family’s endured following the violent death of the junkie mother she never knew, bringing her face-to-face with the drug-dealing brother she thought she left behind. Beryl and Thea walk an arduous, heartbreaking path – a journey to enough. As public prosecutors, they land on a collision course toward a truth to rock their world. In 2003, drowning in heart-wrenching archives confirming unwanted and often clandestine eugenic sterilizations. The pair discovers a darkly startling link that binds them: Dr. Harper Endriss, a nightmare they never saw coming. The challenge? Forgive the past in order to embrace the future.

Most states abandoned forced sterilization after World War II. North Carolina did not. Almost 7,700 individuals were sterilized during this chapter in the state’s history. This topic remains centered on the world stage – The Eugenics Crusade, PBS (2018), Black Mirror (Men Against Fire) Netflix (2016), Stephen Hawking’s (2018) prediction of widespread use of eugenics to edit traits such as intelligence.

Inspired by true events, The Eye Begins to See is a dual narrative upmarket/book club novel, complete at 92K words.  It is a modern examination of eugenics and what it means to be coerced into or secretly sterilized that will share an audience with Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours, Diane Chamberlain’s Necessary Lies, and Jodi Picoult’s Second Glance.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,

Q28

An intense story of adulthood and dealing with consequences of the darker side of things.

Best of luck to Q28!


And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!