Friday, March 9, 2012

LTUE Recap: Queries and Pitching

Okay, so I didn't get a picture of this panel, either. Sorry about that. Instead, I'm showing you a picture of what I look like when I think about querying--and what I'll likely look like when I do my first live pitch in May:

Torn-out hair, vacant stare,
lips that don't know WHAT to say
Querying and pitching are hard, yo.

So this panel was one of my favorites: you can never get too much query and pitching advice.

Lisa Mangum (author and editor at Shadow Mountain)
  • Use what you know about the agent/editor: Lisa is a heavy metal lover, so if your book has that in it (and you get it right), you'll catch her attention
  • Verbal pitch at conference: 
    • Need to have elevator pitch down (one sentence): be able to rattle it off in one breath. 
    • Also know what makes your book different from other books on the market--and don’t just repeat the elevator pitch if someone asks. 
    • Be excited, show passion for book—that's easier in person than in a query letter. 
    • Short and sweet: Frodo must take the ring of power to mt doom or all of middle earth will fall into shadow 
  • Don't include an implicit threat in your query [Shadow mountain is an LDS publisher]
    • I.E. "Just pray about this and I'm sure you'll want to publish it"
    • Don’t tie your testimony to your submission 
  • Write the best book you can, practice your pitch 
  • Deseret Book publishes 1+ books per year from debut authors 

Chris Schoebinger (acquisitions editor at Deseret Book)

  • He loves animals, so putting animals in your book appeals to him: mention it so he knows they're there
  • Find someone today to practice your pitch with – if you can’t sell me in 4 sentences, you've lost me (can have more than one, but not more than 4) 
  • Most surprising query: Bill Bennett: story of Jacob Marley: "how did Jacob get to be where he was and why did he get the chance to come back and warn Scrooge and why didn't he have the same chance Scrooge did… or did he?" 
  • Have beta readers before you submit, Know about marketing—blog followers, networking contacts, are you at liberty to do author tours? (That will increase publisher value) 
  • Taylor Whitesides: simple pitch: secret society of janitors… because he used to work as a custodian: they can use that detail in a publicity package 
  • More interested in building a brand than publishing an author: want multiple bestsellers 
  • There's a difference between annoying and assertive 

Jeff Scott Savage (whose querying days are recently behind him, but who will be selling his books forever)
  • Started writing books at 38, had 70 jobs, plumber, mall Santa 
  • High concept: take small idea and make it your hook (shoe store ONLINE): hero + DIFFERENT
  • Need likeable protag, goal, obstacles, consequences: if you don’t know what those four things are, you won’t be able to communicate it to the agents/editors 
  • Wants new stuff from Covenant rather than LDS exclusively (Sara Eden, regency romance) – going to conferences will help you learn what publishers/agents want 
  • Having an agent/editor ask for a rewrite or to have different projects is a good thing—jump on that right away: take that opportunity 
  • Don’t write Book 2 in a series while submitting Book 1: write Book 1 as stand-alone, then write another series – you’ll have plenty of time to write Book 2, but if you’re in the middle of Book 2 when Book 1 is rejected, nothing much you can do about that. Don’t focus on selling THIS BOOK. Get a career plan.  

Kirk Shaw (editor at Covenant Communications)
  • Almost majored in vocal performance, loves music (mention music in your query if your book has it)
  • Common mistake in querying/pitches: authors can hold back on what they give: agents/editors want to know what the story is all about, beginning to end. [I don't think he's saying you should tell the end in your query/pitch, but even if he is, keep in mind that other agents/editors say differently.] 
  • Take your subgenre, find titles that are strong, and associate your book with theirs 
  • Tiffany Fletcher’s agent came and said book “Tiffany’s memoir of dealing with a parent who had associative personality disorder.” At the time they weren't taking anything like that, so they decided to pass. A year or so later, Tiffany pitched it to Kirk's boss at a conference… a week after they decided to look into memoirs. Timing is everything.
  • Don’t give up. Sara Eden self-published 9 books before Covenant decided to publish her books 
  • If you’re writing a Rapunzel book and have long hair, that’s relevant: know what your platform is, etc 
  • Keep writing while the first book is out on submission: Sara Eden had multiple books written, so they can release 2 books each year: get in the habit of writing regularly so you can release regularly 
Donna Milakovic (writer)
  • Know who you’re pitching to – what they’re working on, etc. 
  • Can put your in-progress books in your query letter [Again, look at the specific agent's preferences: some don't like this.]
And that's all the notes I have.


  1. Very helpful. Thanks for posting notes about the conferrence.

  2. Your picture looks like Ducky Momo:

  3. Or a face on view of an angry bird.

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  5. That was another good session, though one panelist said something that seemed to contradict everything I'd ever heard about querying (as opposed to a synopsis). This panelist said we were supposed to tell the end in the query.

  6. Just found this post, and really glad I did. Thanks for the great information!