We’re excited to introduce The Renegade Word’s newest contributor, Carys Jones! Carys is a UK young adult author who aims to help take the mystery out of the publishing process. This week she shares her tips for pitching your novel to potential publishers and agents.
If you’re reading this because you just finished writing your awesome first novel, congratulations! But before you can breathe a sigh of relief and begin to relax, you must realize that the toughest part has yet to come. You know that your story is great already — after all, you wrote it! But now you’ve got the tricky task of convincing someone else of its awesomeness, most notably potential agents and publishers.
The first step in this process is sending out your initial query letter. This is a simple, one page letter describing your book and asking if the agent or publisher would consider reading it. But what to say? How do you condense a 60k + word manuscript into a meager 300 word synopsis? More importantly, how do you sell yourself enough to stand out from the hundreds of query letters which land in their inbox on a daily basis?
I don’t claim to know all the answers, but I can advise on what has seemed to work for me. Different people have different approaches, but I’ve found a tried and tested method which has generated decent results.
1. First, introduce yourself — but be succinct.
So, “Hi, I’m Carys from Shropshire”? Great!
But “Hi, I’m Carys, I’m 5ft 3 and currently enjoying catching up on Revenge after all my friends raved about it. My favorite color is pink…” Not so great. You don’t want to include too much detail. Remember: you are selling your story, not youself.
One thing you do want to include in your bio: mention any relevant blogging that you do, also if you have a website or Twitter account. These days it pays to be active online, as this will ultimately be a really useful tool in marketing your book.
2. Next, offer an overview of your story.
Mention the genre, word count (or your predicted word count if the novel is incomplete). Then launch right into a brief synopsis. Around three hundred words is the general rule so describe key points and main characters. Think of what you would expect to read on the back cover of your book. This is your chance to sell your story.
3. Draw parallels to other successful novels.
Next, it helps to mention at least two books currently on the market which are similar to yours. Let the agent know who you anticipate will be the core market for your story. If you have any marketing ideas for your story, this is a great place to chance them up as well.
4. Wrap it up quickly.
Offer a conclusion, perhaps even allude to what happens further on in your story…and then sign off. Try to avoid being overly familiar with whomever you are approaching. I find that being friendly yet formal works well.
5. Do your homework.
Make sure you research where you are submitting prior to contacting them. Different agents and publishers have different criteria. Some want three sample chapters attached to your query. Others want five pages pasted into the text of your email. Make sure you know which, because they probably receive a large volume of submissions every day, and some publishers will delete all emails with an attachment without even reading them.
It also pays to personalize your email, even though it is basically formulaic. Just indicating someone’s name in your opening line goes a long way to show you are being diligent and not just sending out a generic form email.
6. Do not spam the publisher.
One last thing. It might be tempting to send out blanket emails — but don’t do it! Generally people won’t respond, as they just find them irritating. No one likes being spammed.
7. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
Please remember that these are just rough guidelines, and I’m only drawing upon my own experience. I’ve seen examples of really creative pitches, where they are written from a character’s POV for example, which worked well. It depends on the genre you are working in and also who you are pitching to. Not everyone will welcome a creative pitch.
8. Remember your manners.
All in all, my best advice is to be polite, concise, and remember that you are pitching a truly awesome story that they just have to read! Hopefully you will pique someone’s interest and then they will want to read more.
9. Don’t let the fear of rejection hold you back.
Whatever happens, don’t be disheartened. You may not get the response you want the first time around. Pitching is a really tricky aspect of professional writing and I’ve yet to find a writer who enjoys it! So good luck and happy pitching!