Does your query letter show off your book project using every possible advantage? If you want to hit the high points and impress agents with your book pitch, you’ll want to demonstrate that you’re the complete package—the right author with the right book at the right time.
Use our list below to see if your query letter is hitting all the right notes or if you’ve got room to improve.
5 Selling Points That Power Up Your Book Pitch
Do you have a fabulous title? An author’s original title is often changed by the time a book makes it to production at a big publishing house. And agents don’t necessarily think that a bad title is the kiss of death at the beginning stages.
But when you’re prepping for pitching, it’s important to come up with as awesome a title as possible. Don’t stop until you’ve got the perfect title, no matter how many friends you have to survey, no matter how many titles you have to consider and throw away. Don’t be afraid to dedicate serious time to this element; it counts big!
Does your book capture the zeitgeist of the moment? Much as we hate to say it, the right book at the wrong time might not get very far at traditional New York publishing houses. That doesn’t mean the story is dead (independent presses and self-publishing companies are always options). And we’re not saying a book has to be trendy to succeed (after all, somebody has to be the first writer to set a trend, so why not you?). But all in all, the best books tend to capture the concerns, joys, fears, and hopes of the moment.
If your book is ahead of its time, that’s okay! It doesn’t hurt to try—and in a worst case scenario, you can just wait a bit for the world to catch up, and then make your mark.
Is your angle fresh? We know that it’s all been done before. But your take on classic ideas is what makes your book stand out. So what’s your modern twist on a familiar theme? The great news is, contemporary readers are up for just about anything you can dream up (Jane Austen with zombies, anyone?). But they’re also willing to consider more subtle angles too.
What do you have to offer? Although some writers have sold their books with tremendous success having no publishing credits whatsoever, it certainly doesn’t hurt to go into your writing career with at least a few publication credits in your writing bio. Don’t have any credits yet? Here’s how you can demonstrate that you’re serious and that it’s only a matter of time before the publishing credits start rolling in.
Have you done your homework? We can’t even begin to tell you how many writers—both newbies and big-time MFA grads—send us book projects that are either labeled as the wrong genre or that have inappropriate word counts. Before you pitch, know your book genre and word count.
Bonus hint: While a good query can’t follow a formula, there are certain practices that tend to work. You should know what they are. And you can find them here: Query Letter E-book or Publishing Tool Kit.
Finally, remember this: Even if you’ve written your book in a bubble with no communication with the outside world, you still might be sitting on a best seller. At the end of the day, what matters is the strength of your story and your words.
Question: Put yourself in an agent’s shoes. What are you looking for in a query?
How long should a verbal pitch to an agent in the context of a writers conference last?
Hi, Maryse–We recommend your in-person pitch be short enough to deliver during an elevator ride (30 seconds to two minutes). Good luck!