Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

After 200 Webinar Pitches…Take 2

STATUS: Heading out early to meet with tax accountant.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE SWEETEST TABOO by Sade

Sara was in the office today so we put our heads together on a couple of other tidbits of feedback we gleaned from the all the pitch critiques we did.

Here are a couple of other culprits we discovered while critiquing that would have made us pass had we not being doing that editorial input.

1) Too much emphasis on the world building without giving equal weight or emphasis to the story and the characters in it.

2) Mechanics of the writing was unpolished—as in there were syntax and obvious grammar errors within the pitch itself.

3) Vague descriptions such as: “suddenly a new discovery threatens everything INSERT CHARACTER NAME holds dear.” The problem is that such grand but vague statements don’t tell the reader anything. It’s like saying “this restaurant serves food.”

4) We couldn’t understand the world because the description was unclear. (By the way, we debated whether this fits under “convoluted plot” of yesterday’s entry but we don’t think so it. It feels separate.) You have to choose the right details about your world in the pitch because you can’t explain everything. You can only highlight an element or two that will stand out as unique about the world.

5) Writers who made up a name for a creature or an element but didn’t include any explanation of what it was in the pitch so it didn’t have context. This leads to confusion.

That’s all she wrote folks.

More Sade music on iLike
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19 Responses

  1. Yttar said:

    I just have to say thank you so much for posting these. I already visit sites like Query Shark, Evil Editor, and Absolute Write to learn more about writing and revising query letters. But it’s so nice to have a more concrete list of things to avoid.

  2. Meagan Spooner said:

    Wow, these are great tips, thanks so much for posting them! I’m especially guilty of the last one–or rather, I try to include the names of things AND explanations for them, and end up with a query letter two pages long. Learning to just cut those references entirely was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn about pitch-writing!

  3. Dan said:

    I nailed three on this list (last three). I was far too vague, and the lack of info created more confusion than too much would have.

    I can’t emphasise how valuable this critque has been. I”m so close to nailing it this time. Maybe.

    Thanks again!

  4. Tzalaran said:

    It is awesome that you took the time to critique Pitches from all the attendees.

    It was nice to have a list of turn offs in fantasy pitches. Knowing that will help significantly when the time comes to query for me. Thanks!

  5. Lillian Grant said:

    As a tax accountant I have to say the day you get to visit one of us is a good day…for us. 🙂

    Your posts are a wonderful. Next time I query an agent I will be much better prepared.

  6. John K said:

    Is having similar tastes in music enough to say I think Kristin would be the perfect agent for me? Today is Sade, my MS has a scene that includes Sade’s haunting ‘Maureen’ where the protagonist knows he’s dying the next day, and a kooky character name Maureen wants him to hear her theme song. If only I could get Kristin to read the rest!!!

  7. Jim Johnson said:

    Quill, Kristin mentioned the workshop on her blog, but it was also announced through Writer’s Digest’s free email newsletter. Sign up for that as well and you’ll be informed about all their upcoming webinars.

  8. mdal said:

    Again, the webinar was awesome, and the pitch feedback I got was both helpful and encouraging. Too bad I’m only in the planning stages of my novel. I wanted to start submitting immediately. 🙂 It’s a lot of anxiety off my shoulders knowing I have a good pitch when i also actually have the book.

  9. KaelaQLC said:

    Thanks Kristin – I’m getting ready to query and have written a rough draft of querying that contains at least one of these, I’m sure! I can’t tell you how helpful your blog is for a first-time novelist who has no clue how this business works.

  10. Wicked-Sassy said:

    How do you feel about an opening that is somewhat floating regarding world building, but answers the questions the reader has on page 3 from a different POV?

    Is 2 pages of disorientation okay, or should it just be anchored from the get-go?

  11. Natalie Aguirre said:

    Thanks for sharing more helpful tips on how to make our queries better. I know I suffered from not describing my world enough (at all). It’s hard to know what to focus on in the pitch. Even rereading your examples, which were excellent, I still feel like I’m struggling. And I’m a lawyer and write letters everyday with ease. Why can’t I get this right? Thanks for all your help.

    BTW, Sarah’s live chat on WriteOnCon was so helpful too.

  12. Taurean Watkins said:

    Kristin,

    This is something I’ve struggled with for two years, soon to be 3 this summer.

    I’ve really tired so hard to get this, and it’s just not happening.

    None f the 50+ versions I’ve tried trying to get these super nitpick letters right.

    I’ve been to Query Shark a couple times and I don’t think reading others query letter mishaps will solve my problems, and the snarky abrasive tude I get from her brutal critiquing style.

    Some people do respond well to those style of tactic,

    Me? Not so much.
    But I don’t think you have to be vicious to be honest. I know this from personal experience, when I get mad one too many times, when I hear my query letters have the same problems cited over and over again.
    Anyway, this is why as much as I need/want to write another book, I truly do, the fear of another dud paralyzed me for a long time. Because regardless of how “better ” the post Gabriel work is, if my queries continue to be too vague, too detailed, to everything but what it’s to do, I’ll get nothing but form letters.
    But I’m starting to rebound, and yes I know my emotions have been like a yo-yo lately.
    I’ll be talking about this on my blog next week so thanks for giving some ideas for it.
    Ciao for now,
    Taurean

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