Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The difference between "pitch" and "query"

I'm one of the horde of agents attending the Writers Digest Pitch Slam this coming Saturday.  I'm also the one helping writers hone their pitches earlier in the day before the big event.

One of the first things writers need to know is "pitching"--talking about your book in person-- is not "querying" --writing to an agent about your book.

A pitch is short (VERY) and verbal.

A query is short (250 words, but not 25) and written.

A pitch is face to face.
A query is not.

A pitch requires some set up: my novel is finished; it's a historical romance; it's 78,000 words.  That helps your listener get ready to hear your pitch.

A query starts with the name of the main character and what problem or choice he faces.

A pitch is about 25 words.

A query is 250.

Guess which one is harder?

A couple of very brave people will be asked to pitch to me at the Saturday prep session--pitch to me in front of everyone attending the conference.  Are you brave enough to be one of them?


Andrew Rosenberg said...

I'll coming to WDC. How do I find the prep session? I'm willing to be pitch in front of everyone.

Emily White said...

I would NOT be brave enough! Haha! Good luck to the people who end up doing it!

I do have a question for you regarding pitches, though. I'll be attending the SCBWI Winter conference at the end of the month and I'm trying to get my pitch ready. The problem is, I have two books at this point. One of them is completely finished and I've been querying it for a few months without success. The second is in final edits and (I believe, since reading far more YA) more marketable. If I were to start by saying that said book is in final edits (rather than finished), would this deter agents?


Sarah said...

Writing a query was difficult enough. Pitches terrify me! Good luck, brave pitchers.

Terry Towery said...

I'll be there Friday, but I'm certainly not brave enough to pitch you Friday night!

That said, I'll be lined up to pitch you Saturday (even though you've already rejected my query) because I know you will be very helpful and kind (ahem). :)

C. Michelle Jefferies said...

Thanks for the post. That helps me alot. :)

Shannon Heather said...

Another agent did a 1 hour pitch session last week on twitter - 140 characters to pitch a MS. It was incredibly hard, but well worth the try.

It was really cool. The agent asked questions decided right there if they wanted a partial.

Good luck to everyone who is fortunate enough to go!

Meg said...

I wish I were... Best wishes to those who will face that mic on Saturday!

I'm attending DFW Writer's Con and I'm terrified.

Julie Weathers said...

I wish. I would love to be there and try to figure out how to pitch to you.

Unknown said...

Would love to be fortunate enough to be there and pitch to you. Twenty five words is significantly longer than the 120 characters I whittled my pitch down to for a Twitter pitch (had to leave 20 for the name I was pitching to and a hashtag).
Will be thinking of all lucky enough to attend and wish everyone the best of luck!

AimeeLSalter said...

Short answer: No. But I'd love to be there to see the carnage.

Anonymous said...

Sure, I'm brave enough.

But I won't be there. More's the pity. *shrugs*

Another time, perhaps?

icountwords said...

I'll be there, though you don't rep my genre. I'm a little confused though, as on the conference website it says your pitch should be 30-90 seconds long?


I attended a "Librarian Speed Dating" event several months ago in which published authors got to woo Seattle area librarians with the hope they might buy our books. I was astounded at how many of the authors seemed to struggle with this. These are PUBLISHED authors, we've all jumped through the query process before. But the pitch is an entirely different animal from a query.

I agree with Janet 110%...if you start honing your pitch skills early (i.e. BEFORE you're quivering before a panel of librarians trying to remember the name of your debut novel) it will serve you well in your career for many years to come.


Ari said...

No, ma'am, I'm not. I admire anyone who is, though. Yes, I do.

ryan field said...

Pitch is much harder.

It requires a close shave, comfortable underwear, and a certain amount of smiling.

Corinne O said...

Pitch is much harder.

I did it only once, to a really nice petite blonde agent with adorable cat lady glasses and sweet smile. She didn't have anything sharky about her. I almost sweat through my jacket.

Have fun!

Bagby said...

Is a Twitter pitch a Twitch? That would quite accurately evoke the sensation I associate with both pitching and querying.

Janet Reid said...

A twitch! That's exactly what I *DO* when someone suggest they want to pitch me a book on twitter!

peajayar said...

I am quoting you - with acknowledgement and url - in my blog, which is read, as far as I know, by about 15 people. It felt rude to quote you, as illuminating a mistake I made in the previous post about the difference between a query and a pitch, without letting you know.

(Not sure if this qualifies as a "comment.")

Unknown said...

I'm in NYC. So excited about the conference. I would love to pitch in front of everyone. I'm not afraid.

pattiewelekhall said...

Great advice. Good luck to all attending the conference. You can do it!

Karen L. Simpson said...

Got a few agents to take a look at my novel by going to pitch sessions at conferences. Writing the query was a piece of cake compared to learning to write and give an effective pitch. I about fainted when I got up to speak but learning to condense my novel down to 25 words was extreamly valuable.
That said I'm glad I don't have to it again for my next book, at least not until it's done. .

Christine Tripp said...

Here is a snap shot of an Illustrators "pitch" (I will call it a pitch because we are there when it happens:)
Sweaty Illustrator stands beside an open portfolio of art, laid out on a table that contains a sea of other portfolios (all better then theirs, they are convinced)
Editors slide slowly along the tables. They get to yours, they flip a few sleves, glancing at the work. You are sure they are looking at more of the images they would normally do because you are standing there, they are nice people after all, they don't want to be rude.
You make eye contact with them, they smile, they walk on.
Authors, just know you are not alone:)

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

I saw you do this in May of '09 at BEA and I'm still shaking from the trauma. ;-)