Last Thursday, I participated in the Writer’s Digest Webinar–Critique Series: Novel Queries & Pitches with Chuck Sambuchino.
It was absolutely worth it. Chuck is a great speaker giving you helpful tips and a good overview and then delving right into the critiques. We went through 21 pitches in the 1.5 hours webinar. He packed a lot into that time.
He gave a great overview of the three main parts of a query: Intro, Pitch, and Bio and what each paragraph needs to do, keeping in mind the purpose of the query letter is to get the agent to request more. The Intro should include: word count, title, genre, and why you picked this agent. The Pitch should include: what makes this story unique (focusing on the hook and the conflict) WITHOUT giving the ending away. The Bio: any previous publications, platform and a thank you for considering you work.
With the critiques, it was super helpful to have someone walk through the issues in each critique and hear what each of us was doing right and wrong.
Some of the running issues across queries were:
- Speaking in generalities and themes instead of showing what made your story unique
- Not focusing on the protagonist and making her unique
- Not explaining what the problem/conflict is
- Not having voice
- Flat undefined characters
- Too many names in the query; simple is better
I came away with new insight into my query and I’m revising it again before the Backspace conference at the end of May.
The cool thing about the webinar is that all presentation materials will be accessible online for a full year. So if you missed something you get to go over it again. Takes the pressure off about getting everything on the first go through. Plus you can ask questions throughout, which gives you the interactiveness that no book/website has.
Chuck’s recommended reading for query writing included:
- A bookazine available on Writer’s Digest website called Get an Agent
- Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript
- The Successful Queries section of his blog, Guide to Literary Agents
I have Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript and I found it very useful in terms of what agents and editors expect to see. I’m ordering the bookazine.