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Tip Tuesday #50

I have another great Tuesday Tip today. Kay Em Evans sent this one in. Make sure you stop by her blog. She's been doing a great series of interviews and the most recent one was with award-winning author Nancy Werlin.  Here's the tip!

I participated in a pitch workshop at the conference where we worked on our verbal pitches (since we'd be verbally pitching agents there). One thing that really stood out was this: It's not always about "strict accuracy" in the pitch. It's about conveying/evoking a visual image in the agent's mind.

For instance, the agent giving the workshop (Laurie McLean) made a suggestion to one writer, explaining she should use a comparative to another book. I, unfortunately, can't remember the name of the book, but it involved unicorns. I talked to the writer off-to-the-side, and she said she wasn't going to use Laurie's suggestion because her main character wasn't a unicorn. She was missing the point. The book Laurie McLean named wasn't supposed to be a comparative with all the exact details as her book. It was supposed to evoke a certain visual image in the agent's mind.

(By the way, I spoke with the writer later; based on what she said, I don't think she received any requests from agents at the conference. I wondered to myself whether this had to do with the fact she refused to take literary agent Laurie McLean's advice.)

I think this could likewise be applied to queries. Of course you don't want to site things in your query that aren't really in the story, or are flat out lies. That would be very bad. But sometimes I get so wrapped up in the specific plotline that my query starts to ramble. Instead, I should be focusing on evoking an accurate VISUAL IMAGE in the agent's mind -- instead of focusing on telling the agent what the specific/accurate/actual plotline is.

Since I've been doing this, I've been able to cut my query pitch to 3 sentences. AMAZING for me, since I am quite obviously a rambler. :-)

Make sense??

Hope this helps.


Great advice, Kay!!  You definitely don't want to get too detailed with your pitch.  Details and particulars make the mind wander.  The idea is to peak the agent's interest, whether through a great plot hook or well thought out comparison.  Something concrete they can latch onto and visualize. 


Martina Boone said...

This is a great way to think about pitching. Evoking an image in an agent's mind helps them connect and hopefully remember our story better. Thank you for this excellent tip!

Laura Pauling said...

Great tip. So many great posts on query letters lately, it makes me want to work on my query early. :)

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Thanks, K. I've never been to a pitching workshop. Sounds like great insight can be found there.

Erinn said...

A great pitching workshop is awesome. This is a great tip!

Alicia Gregoire said...

Oooh... This is a great tip. *files away*

Jm Diaz said...

Very good tip, just in time as I ready for the begining of my query process.

Matthew MacNish said...

That is great advice! For my most recent query I was focusing on what was the coolest part - which happens to be kids at reform school kicking ass using martial arts - and made it the focus of the query. Of course that's not the whole story, but it is probably the coolest part.

Great advice! Thanks Kay and Casey.

K. M. Walton said...

I need to get good at verbal pitching because I blah-blah-blah my books to death.

I like to think I'm pretty tight with my written pitch. Took me 2+ years to be able write that, but I'm confident in my written pitch.

Great pointers in this post, as usual!!!

Ammie said...

Such good advice. You are basically trying to SELL yourself and your work, so you have to really nail the logo. I have never been to a live pitching thing, but if I do, I would definitely take this advice and figure out how to evoke an immediate image and make them want more. I guess yelling, "Want more, dammit! Want more!!!" won't really work, now, will it?

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great advice Kay. I would love to go to a pitching workshop with an agent. I bet it'd help my query a lot.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Great tip! It really gets to what the point of a verbal pitch really is.

Beth said...

Yet another great Tuesday Tip! I love the idea of focusing on the visual image; it's not something I'd thought of before. Thanks for this great suggestion, Kay!

Sara {Rhapsody and Chaos} said...

Another awesome tip :) Love this series Casey! xo

Okie said...

This is a great tip...though from the (very few) agents I've actually had encounters with, I've seen some that encourage this and some that absolutely discourage it.

Those who discourage it say this tactic can be used, but you must be careful. Their reasoning is that if you compare your book to another book that some agents will compare it not necessarily in terms of the imagery, tone, plot or whatever...but rather in terms of the quality.

So if you compare yourself to an amazing book (mainly in terms of critical acclaim or sales), the agent may think you're being precocious or may hold you to a higher standard...while comparing yourself to a book that may have been critically panned as "bad" could cause the agent to think your book will be bad for all the same reasons.

The advice given was that when you use comparisons that you do so with enough generalizations that they realize you're not claiming your book to be a "clone" of the other book in any way (writing style, characterization, plot development, etc) because if you tie yourself too tightly to another work, you could be shooting yourself in the foot.