Pitching the Novel – Agent Query Draft #7; Synopsis Draft #4; Manuscript Draft #8

The POTUS and Ms. Maroney are not impressed with your pitch.

The POTUS and Ms. Maroney are not impressed with your pitch. Photo by Pete Souza.

I’ve been re-drafting and cleaning up my query, synopsis, and novel quite a bit in preparation to pitch my book.

With my first writers’ conference coming up next month, I want to focus on improving all my pitch materials to get some feedback from fellow writers and other folks in the industry. My stuff needs to be awesome before mid-September (or at least awesome-ish).

Over the last month or so, I’ve made a few observations which taught me (or reinforced) the following lessons:

1. You cannot write a good query without first having written a proper synopsis.

Alright, maybe you can, but it’s very unlikely. I found that after revising my book numerous times and writing multiple synopses for it, I was much better able to condense the more-interesting bits of my novel into the form of an agent query.

If you can’t condense your work into two pages and make it sound interesting, how can you possibly condense it into half a page?

If I may say so myself, my current query is many times superior to my original. I’m not surprised the six agents I queried sent me rejections (yeah, I only sent queries to six agents; that was about a month and a half ago). Well, four of them sent rejections, the other two just ignored me altogether.

2. Your work will never be good enough for you.

Every time you read through your manuscript, query, or synopsis, you will inevitably spot a bunch of things to be improved.

However, this doesn’t mean you should just say “@#$% it” and submit it to agents as is. It means you should revise repeatedly for a “reasonable” amount of time until things are very solid (maybe draft 7 of the query, draft 4 of the synopsis, and draft 8 of the manuscript), but don’t wait until you think it’s perfect.

There is no perfect (unless you’re somewhat delusional).

3. You should be able to pitch your manuscript orally.

After finishing draft four of my manuscript and speaking to writers and family about my novel, I realized I wasn’t able to give a compelling answer when people asked, “So, what’s your novel about?”

With a few more drafts of my novel and query done, I think my answer to that question is pretty awesome now.

I’ll have to write it out and try to memorize it soon (pretty much a dialogue version of my query; how hard could it be?).

4. Character driven novels without a crazy premise are hard to pitch.

Mainstream, commercial fiction generally relies on its premise more so than anything else, often leaving feasibility, character development, and prose as secondary priorities. In writing my book, my priorities were flipped around, and it left me with a premise that couldn’t be summarized into a good one-or-two-sentence hook. After major revisions, I believe I’ve remedied the problem.

4. Business cards are fun.

Yep, I got some writer-business cards. Makes me feel fancy.

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32 thoughts on “Pitching the Novel – Agent Query Draft #7; Synopsis Draft #4; Manuscript Draft #8

  1. I’m at about the same stage as you (querying). I agree with all your lessons. It’s funny how one day the query seems brilliant, and the next day I think, “Hmm, not sure this will cut it.” Good luck with your queries!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, I just ducked in from margaretjean’s ‘comfy blog with occasional tabasco’ (my police sketch) because I saw that you are a blogger she follows, and I sort of adore her laconic murmurings and even her sometimes bewildering remonstrations. Sorry to barge in. Your thingy seems genuine and not overwrought. Rare. That’s it.

    Oh; I made writer’s biz cards, too. They’re black so that on the ~ 35% chance my hesitant khaki-wearing benefactor plucks one from my shaking hand, the inky screw-up will likely stain the pocket area as she jams the card annoyedly out of sight and into her pleated Annie Hall wear. So I need to redo the cards in a watery, oil-based mauve. And so on. Good night!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for following me! I’ll look forward to reading more about the process and your first hand experience; I’m not ready & brave enough to take the first step yet… one step at a time 🙂 Good luck!

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  4. This made me giggle:

    “There is no perfect (unless you’re somewhat delusional).”

    I think that needs to be in my mantra collection for life in general. =)

    I’ve been writing for decades, and am just now making my first by-plan revisions. I love it, although this first pass is very slow (the first several WIPs I completed had no plan whatsoever; this one was a NaNo, and it took me 35K words to even find a story at all!). It makes me feel like a paleontologist, reconstructing the story…

    I’m many drafts from done, and then there are the other seven books in the series, and that novella series, and the fan fiction…

    I will get there.

    And you? Nearly there, already! =D

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      • Always good to have new projects. I’m at a spot where I have several new things ramping up, many in progress – but not so many wrapping up!

        I guess I’ll keep reminding myself that I’d rather have an abundance of projects than no ideas! =)

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  5. Best of luck! You’re already a heckuva lot further than I’ve ever gotten. I’ve got my rough draft from February collecting dust in the office and I have no idea what to do with it because I’ve never gotten this far before!
    I think its incredibly encouraging that you received responses from 4 out of 6 people that you queried. Keep it up and you’ll land a deal for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have the weary feeling that some people (editors, agents, publishers, what have you) still do not realize they are living in a dying industry. All this “query”, “pitch” cr… stuff is a thing of the past. It’s over. Gone. Like travel algencies, yellow pages, the post. The minute e-books are priced at their real production value (0.99$?) the paper publishing industry will be gone. Someone has to invent a new industry. ‘Cause we can’t stay in the sole hands of Amazon.
    Cheers
    Brian

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    • I guess the market’s still adjusting to ebooks and self-publishing. Old school publishers will readjust and, hopefully, some entrepreneurs will rise up to give Amazon a reasonable challenge. Some competition is always good for the public.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Good luck. I wander around books stores (here on the East Coast) and pick up random books. I’m constantly scratching my head, wondering how the hell some of them were published. I hope you break through. More importantly, I hope your writing is good. Thank you for sharing your knowledge concerning the process. Even if traditional methods are out dated, books are still being placed on shelves.

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    • Yeah, one of the catalysts for me to finally complete a novel was also from walking around a bookstore and randomly picking up books. I thought, “There’s so much crap out here, I can totally write a piece of crap and have it be here, too.” Thus, my book was conceived.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I totally agree with all your points except for point 3, I personally think pitching one’s work orally is the easiest of all and this is coming from experience from friends, professors and mentor writers. One can get carried away easily with the oral pitching than the written one. Good job you are doing here.

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