The Art of Querying: Blurbs + Pitches + Synopses—PART II


How do you make your novel stand out in pitch events?


NEW! Click here to listen to the audio version of this post.

In my last blog post (PART I), I talked about queries and specifically, the book blurb. The back cover copy that entices people to read. Initially, that reader is the agent, and that’s how you hook them into wanting to read your pages.

Now, let’s talk about pitches.

These pitch events take place several times throughout the year on Twitter. There are some that include all age categories and genres (like #PitMad) and some that are geared toward certain genres (like #SFFPit, #PitDark, etc.). There’s also #PBPitch for those who write children’s picture books. You can find an example of a list of various pitch events here.

A Twitter pitch event is where you get to pitch your manuscript in the great wide world of Twitter, and, by using appropriate hashtags, agents will then search for what kind of books they’re looking for and, hopefully, find yours. You can increase your odds of getting found by connecting with other writer friends so you can all support each other’s pitches via comments and re-tweets, but NOT likes. The like button is only for agents during pitch parties. When an agent likes a pitch, it’s an invitation to skip the slush pile and send them your query (and sometimes they’ll ask for more material right up front—just check the agent’s tweet about what they want in pitch queries).

Sounds fun, right?

I personally like pitch events. I was so excited about the first #PitMad—the biggest one there is—and was overwhelmed with it. It’s a full day of three pitches sent out between 8am-8pm, and retweeting your fellow writers’ pitches to support them, and constantly looking to see if you got any agent likes. Then there’s #PitDark, which is even busier, because by that point I had two full manuscripts ready to send out to agents, and that event allows for one pitch every hour per manuscript from 8am-8pm. THAT is a busy day, let me tell you.

But participating gives you a chance to be seen by agents that are particularly interested in representing YOUR genre. And the best part about pitch parties is that you get to meet all these other writers and build relationships with them. To me, that’s the most important part of this journey!

So, how do you compose a tweet-sized pitch?

Crafting a pitch is, again, not easy. (No one ever said this writing thing would be easy!) It’s essentially compressing your entire manuscript, squeezing it as tight as you can until only the absolute most important elements come flopping out. And this is what you get:

MC + inciting event + goal + conflict + stakes

You want to craft it in such a way that shows TENSION. The more tension, the better. What will happen if your MC goes on this journey AND what will happen if they don’t? The bigger the stakes, the more tension there is, and that’s what’s going to draw agent likes. Which is, ultimately, your goal here. End it on a jaw-dropping line, and you’ve got a winner.

One of the many ways to craft a pitch is like this:


COMP x COMP

[Age] [descriptor] MC Name is [living this norm]. But when [inciting incident] happens, [this major plot change] causes [this tension-y thing]. [Pronoun] must [major decision]. If [pronoun] doesn’t, This Terrible Thing will happen [stakes]. And then Plot Twist/Mic Drop.

[Hashtags]


You can do it in any creative order you want to—just make sure the most important elements are there. Try to get as many of those elements in as possible.

Comps in pitches can be different than the comps you use in your query. In your query, you don’t want to put your debut novel beside the biggest book of the year, something that’s super popular and famous. You want to show the agent you’re well-read in your genre and that you have an idea of where best to position your novel, next to like novel friends. But in pitches, go crazy with comps! The idea behind a pitch is to grab an agent’s attention, so the flashier you make it, the better. You can use hugely popular comps—movies, tv shows, books, songs, authors or songwriters themselves. Just make the whatever comps you’re using actually match in some way to the tone, theme, or plot of your novel.

It might sound easier to just learn how to cast a magic spell for perfect pitches, right? But I promise you, you’ve got this!



Exercise: Print out your query blurb. Grab a highlighter. Forget about all the other words and just highlight the most important elements of your blurb: main character(s), inciting incident, goals, conflicts, stakes, and anything twisty that really stands out. Now. Take those elements and open up a tweet window. Practise different ways of pulling that pitch together using those main elements. Remember, you know your entire story, so use your mad writing skills & knowledge of the plot to craft the hookiest pitch you can.

Below are some really great examples of successful pitches. I contacted the authors to get permission to showcase them here and break them down so you can see how they’re crafted and what works so well with them.

Here’s a fantastic pitch from #DVPitch that I’d like to dissect. Elle Marr had a total of 21 agent likes and 5 publisher likes on this pitch and went on to become represented by one of those agents! She has since sold two thrillers and has a third one due out in spring of 2022.

As you can see, sometimes getting creative and not following the “standard format” (which could potentially change from contest to contest, year to year) can sometimes work in your favour, as it did here. Elle infused so much tension into this pitch it didn’t even need to mention any major stakes or what big decision must be made, because it’s obvious with how she structured it. We have the main characters, their normal world, something that disrupts it, an inciting incident, a major plot change, and danger. We know something happened with Shayna’s sister and that she’s alive, so this instantly sparks curiosity. We want to know what happens and are eager to go on this journey with Shayna to find out what happened to Angela.


Here’s an example of a #PitMad pitch that got 13 agent likes and 6 publisher/editor likes. The author, Lauren Brown, went on to become represented, but not by an agent that liked that pitch. (Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post that shares Lauren’s path to agent rep!). This goes to show that not everyone’s journey to success is the same! But it’s still such a great pitch, and it definitely played a role in her querying journey, so let’s analyze it:


And one more example is from a writer friend of mine who connected with her agent through #PitDark. Jessica Payne is the host of #momswritersclub, a bi-weekly Twitter chat, and the YouTube channel of the same name, which she co-hosts with fellow author Sara Read. Jess’s debut is due out in spring of 2022. This pitch was after many others had been posted and liked, but this is the one that did it. All it took was one like, and this was the agent she signed with.


One important thing to keep in mind is that pitching is not the only path to publication. In fact, it’s less common to find an agent that way than it is from simply cold querying. BUT. You certainly won’t find an agent through a pitch event if you don’t participate!

Even if you don’t get any agent likes, you’re still benefitting from the event by gaining invaluable writer friends. You never know where or when a door is going to open.

So crack those knuckles, stretch those out-of-the-box thoughts, and craft the best pitch you can!

Remember how in the exercise above I suggested to use your blurb and pull out only the most important elements? So using my query letter examples from PART I, let’s focus on the blurbs and see some pitches I came up with. The one on the left was used in pitch events and saw some action. The one on the right was also used in some pitch events, and has an agent like who has asked for a partial. All of the full and partial requests came from pitch event agent likes, which is pretty “lit” (see what I did there?)

No?

Just me?

Ok. Ahem. Moving on.

The one below is the pitch I’ve written for my current WIP (work-in-progress), so you’ll notice I’ve scheduled it for a future #PitMad date (just in case I’m not agented by then) 😉 (Click to enlarge.)

You can experiment with form, too! I’m seeing more and more pitches that use bullet points or emoji bullets and the pitch is in a list format. It’s creative and fun, and it works! I’ve seen many other writers get lots of likes on them, and I’ve gotten several agent likes on my emoji-bulleted lists pitches, like this one:

Don’t forget to leave space for your comps (PUT THESE IN ALL CAPS) and your hashtags (look at the hashtags for each pitch event, as they are sometimes different). You generally don’t put your book’s title in a pitch. Your title doesn’t matter at this stage and it takes up valuable space you need to explain your story in an enticing way.

Note: It’s a good idea to craft several pitches because you are allowed to pitch multiple times for each manuscript (how many times depends upon the rules of each pitch contest). Change the wording around a bit, use different comps, etc. Take advantage and take as many chances as you can to get your pitches seen!

And remember: there really is no hard and fast “rule” to crafting a pitch. The only thing to make sure you do is follow the rules for each pitch event. Other than that, go wild, but these standard guidelines and tips can help you make the most of your precious real estate in an effective way.

DO NOT INCLUDE A MOODBOARD OR AESTHETICS IN YOUR PITCH unless it is allowed in the event. That one is pretty big. I absolutely LOVE moodboards, I love creating them, I love looking at them, I love the tone they represent. But they are generally not allowed and frowned upon in most (not all) pitch events. When in doubt, reach out to the event host for clarification on rules.

IMPORTANT TIP: Make sure when you’re crafting your pitches, you get some eyes on them! 👀 The feedback we can get from our writer friends is invaluable. It’s imperative that we not skip this step, because it’s our chance to see what our brain isn’t showing us. (WE know what the story is and what we’re trying to say, but sometimes it doesn’t translate onto the page that way.) Having a few other writers take a look and offer suggestions for improvement will only help you learn and grow as a writer.

Thank you to the authors for allowing me to showcase their wonderful pitches here!

Feel free to reach out here with any questions you may have about pitching! If you read my previous post on how to craft queries and book blurbs, you may have noticed at the bottom that I do offer query critiques. If this is something you’re interested in, find out more here, and if you let me know you read this and need help crafting pitches, I’ll throw in some pitch critiques as well! 😊 The next #PitMad is coming quickly (Dec 2/21)… do you have your manuscript complete and polished, query package ready, and pitches crafted?


Tips are so greatly appreciated! If you enjoyed this post and found it helpful, your tip can help me continue to provide more content!


Stay tuned for PART III, which is all about the dreaded synopsis!

Published by kathleenfoxx

Author of domestic thrillers and gothic horror.

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