My First Writer’s Conference, Part 1: Pitching and Querying

Some of the most useful sessions I went to at Penn Writers were the ones on pitching and querying. Mind you, I do my homework, so I already had a vague idea of how to go about this, but hearing things in person and seeing pitches and query letters dissected really helped make things so much clearer.
My take-aways:
  • Agents and editors want to love your stuff. That’s not saying that they will, but they want to. So put it all out there, be confident that you love your stuff, and give them the best possible chance to.
  • Flattery never hurts. If you know the agent/editor’s work, if you’re a fan of other authors she represents, or if you saw her speak at a conference, drop that into the pitch/query.
  • Keep pitches short and to-the-point. Establish characters, goals, conflicts and goals.
  • Figure out the hook – what makes this book unique – and put that front and center.
  • Show how the main character is active. Focus more on what she does than on what circumstances befall her.
  • Expect to have an actual conversation about the pitch. Agents ask questions because they’re interested.
  • Keep your query letter short and to-the-point. Establish characters, goals, conflicts and genres. (Are you sensing a theme?)
  • In the blurb, it’s more important to show the voice and style of the novel than to give a full synopsis.
  • Identify what’s important for the reader to know and let go of the little details that – while critical to your writing process – aren’t completely integral to the novel.
  • Include the first few pages (or more, depending on the agent’s submission guidelines) directly in the body of the email, just under the subject line. Unlike an attachment, it’s impossible to ignore.
Honestly, this is pretty much all information I’ve read before, but hearing it presented in such a condensed, targeted format helped clarify things in my mind, and I’m feeling so much more confident in my ability to successfully sell my novel to agents.
Anybody here that’s been through the pitching process? How did it go / what did you learn?


  1. Hey, lady. I just wanted to tell you that I'm really thankful that you're posting these tidbits of information. As someone who is (suddenly) making rather frightening progress on a work of original fiction, it's really helpful.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Glad it's helpful. Sending you lots of good writerly vibes.

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