Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Perfect Pitch—Grabbing My Attention by Literary Agent Susan Brower

I can tell you right now, I am not a big fan of April Fool’s Day! Mostly because I am usually the one at the receiving end of the punchline.  But I do love that it also means Opening Day for baseball. So, what do the end of Speedbo and the beginning of baseball season have in common?  It’s time for the BIG PITCH!

Today, I’m going to tell you what works for me after over twenty years publishing fiction and in my new role as an agent for Natasha Kern Literary Agency. It may not be what you are told by other agents and editors at conferences or workshops, it’s what I have experienced to be successful.  

Like it or not, the only way you are going to sell your novel is to learn to be a Sales Rep! And your proposal is your sales kit!  You can think of the pitch is the jingle that gets our attention. So, other than writing a stellar novel, your proposal is the first and most important piece of marketing material you will ever create for you book.

What should be included?

Ø  Jacket Blurb: This should be 250 words of compelling copy that grabs the reader. Take a few minutes and look at the backs of your favorite books in the genre in which you are writing. What was it about the jacket copy that intrigued you? What is the tone?

Ø  Short Summary: One to one and a half pages of description that tells the beginning, middle, and end of your story. Include major characters, story arcs and conflicts.

Ø  Hook/Pitch: A two to three line reason this book will appeal to readers. Focus on what you think will be important to them.

Ø  Overview: First, note if the manuscript is complete and how many words it has. Then write the overview. This is not a retelling of the story, but rather a commercial for it. What reader need does this fulfill? What trends does it support? Are there popular movies or films or television series that attract the same audience? Is there any historical significance to the time or setting of your novel?
Literary Agent Susan Brower

Ø  Comparable Titles: Which authors and titles are your fans buying now? This is a very important element if you are a newer author. What I want to know and what the publisher wants to know is “Who is the audience for your novel? And you have to be specific. “All romance readers” is not enough.  “Fans of Mary Connealy and contemporary romance with cowboy heroes will want to read my books.” You can find other novels that fit this audience by looking at “Customers Also Bought” on Amazon. Try to stick with novels published in the last two-three years that have similar tone, structure, and themes. 

Ø  Author Bio: Keep this tight. Include things like “best-selling,” award-winning.” Is there anything that makes you more qualified to write this novel? Do you have a speaking schedule?

Ø  Author Track Record: List all of your previously published books and sales if you know them.

Ø  Reviews and Endorsements: These can be from previously published novels or reviews. My rule of thumb for all authors is to seek endorsements from people in the same genre who are well known.

Ø  Marketing: Hopefully you have been paying attention and online and have some ideas for how you can market your book. How are you going to partner with the publisher? How are you going to increase your presence on social media?

¨      Facebook

¨      Twitter

¨      Blog

¨      Website

It’s always good to include numbers if you think they are significant. How many followers, friends, and subscribers do you have in your various forms of social media?

These are all the elements that an agent or acquisitions editor needs to determine whether they will accept or reject a novel. Yes, we can always come back to you for more information once we our interest is captured. But it is so much easier for me to respond to an author if I have all the pieces right there in front of me.

Overall, this is just a guide. Make it work for you. If you are missing information for any one section, emphasize another. You don’t have a track record? Ok, this is where you have to make your overview and comparable titles really work for you. In most cases, though, it is the first three sections, Jacket Blurb, Short Summary, and Hook/Pitch that are going to catch the eye of your potential editor or agent.

These are just some of the elements that make a great proposal. There are also some elements that have little to do with what you present, but how you present it.

¨      Proofread all your materials!

¨      Include the title, approximate word count and status of the manuscript in your queries.

¨      Research your agent and publisher targets.

¨      Read and follow the submission guidelines!

¨      Don’t send queries until your manuscript is finished.

¨      Send proposals with documents attached NOT inserted into the text of the email.

¨      Always send sample chapters with your proposals (usually three chapters or about fifty pages if chapters are shorter).

¨      Send the full manuscript only when asked.

¨      Proofread all your materials (It’s important enough to say twice).

Pitch Perfect
Questions?  What is the most difficult part of a proposal for you to write? What recommendations would you make to your fellow authors?  Are you overwhelmed with the “selling” part of the writing process? Please share you questions and experiences with the group.

A chance to pitch to Susan Brower. We can all learn how she wants you to pitch to her the next two days--but you are eligible to enter the contest--ONLY if you were involved in SPEEDBO--The rules are under the rules tab at the top of the page for our PERFECT PITCH CONTEST!

Sue Brower is an agent with Natasha Kern Literary Agent www.natashakern.com. She is looking for novels in the Suspense, Romance (contemporary and historical), and Women’s Fiction categories.  She is also a consultant and freelance developmental editor at Susan Brower Editorial www.susanbrower.com.


  1. I am not a writer but love the line proof read your material. (that's my problem) I am even worse at present with my comments and post. I look at them and see how I got the wrong word or misspell a word (I do use Aussie english). I know I am doing it much more than I use to due to this constant headache and some days I just can't focus. But when I use to write reports for my studies I had to proof read several times and even ask someone else to proof read it before sending.

    I can see its a good rule for many different areas.

    Our April fools joke is weather close on 100! This is not normal.

  2. Coffee's ready!

    YES, I am overwhelmed by the "selling" part of the writing process.

    The jacket blurb and hook/pitch are the hardest part of the proposal for me to write.

  3. I'm excited for this contest! Speedbo helped me progress through my WIP, and the finish line is in sight. :)
    Great information here.
    Cannot wait to use it for my proposal.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Okay, now to get the finished projects into the hands of an agent! Great job, authors! Thanks for all you do!

  6. Just when I thought we had gotten all the stellar info.. Thank you for this post !

  7. Sue - thank you for the fabulous information! And for taking the time to talk with newbies at the ACFW conference the last few years. I can't tell you how appreciative I was my first year and I know others are as well.

    At the moment, it's too late and I'm too drained to say much more [big writing day], but I do know there are some great tips here. I'd never thought about getting endorsements before submitting to an agent, but I did with the last one I sent out [a well-known author in the genre happened to crit the whole MS and gave me a quote and permission to use it]. I do have a list of potential endorsers that I've included for a couple years. [Why, yes, Seekers - at least some of you are on that list ;). Hey! I asked!]

    Every time I look through that list, I am in awe of those [at least potentially] willing to support my fledgling career. I don't think there's actually a link between including that endorsement and getting an offer of representation, but hey. Whatever works ;).

    Thanks again, Sue. I had the pleasure of having lunch with and pitching to you several years ago [before ACFW stopped doing those lunches]. You were a lovely and gracious hostess then, putting this then-newbie at ease, and you continue to be a blessing to many now.

  8. This is so helpful! I hope I can finish the book I started in time to do this.

    I wrote a proposal on a non fiction book I wrote and was rejected so I sort of gave up on that one because I had no clue what to do next. So many people who aren't writers kept telling me I should write the book so I did and my dream died with the rejection.

    Perhaps now I will learn how and will help with both books.

    I must say writing a fiction book has been so different than writing the non fiction book.

  9. Getting an insider's word on what's needed for pitching is always helpful. Now I'll need to go take a closer look at what I've prepared.

    Proof reading my own work is a challenge. My eyes see what my brain thinks I've typed. I see other people's typos (ahem!), so I find the solution is to swap material with fellow writers and proofread for each other.

    Thanks for coffee, Helen. I've appreciated all the caffeine you've served up during this month of Speedbo. :)

  10. I love writing back cover copy. I'm one of those weird people who love to post book reviews so I can write a new blurb in my own words and maybe give the potential reader a hook from a different angle. :)

    The pitch/hook is harder for me, since it's so condensed.

    In my research for writing fiction proposals last fall, the overview was hardest to find a solid definition for. Especially for fiction proposals. That may be why I'm still tweaking mine. I think it was Nathan Bransford who said, "To write an overview, pretend you're a broke screenwriter pitching to a big time Hollywood producer." :) That's about as specific as I had come across until this post. Thanks for explaining.

    Can you recommend a book or website with example overviews to study?

    Thank you for sharing these proposal elements with us!


    Oh sweet saints be praised, this is too fun for WORDS, PEEPS!!!!!

    I've got the Hallelujah chorus ringin' 'tween my ears because I love it when SEEKERVILLE THROWS IN A CONTEST!!!!!


    And these great points, oh my stars, when I was a newbie I wasn't the good listener I am today! Oh, some tough lessons learned, but eventually I learned them and ran with them.

    Lesson #1: Listen to Natasha and Sue.

    Lesson #2: Refer to Lesson #1.

    I'm educable!

  12. Okay seriously. That pitch list absolutely terrifies me, and I'm multi-published. So yeah, if I have have to do a proposal for a different publisher, I am so sunk.

    Good luck to all you contest entrants! (Cuz you are waaaaaaaay going to need it).

  13. Oh my goodness, Ruthy! I don't know that two more different people could ever walk this planet. Seriously. You look at those contest rules and go YAY!!!!! This is awesome!!!!!

    I look at them and go, "And this is about the time I crawl under a rock and pretend not to know anyone."

    I could probably write half a book in the amount of time it would take me to write that proposal.

    Although, I will say that I've seen some of the Seekers's proposals for different series (and of course I've seen Melissa J's), those proposals didn't seem quite as scary as this list. So maybe I don't need to crawl under mu rock quite yet. I'll just get really really close to it so that I can dive under at any time. :-)

  14. Sometimes one feels like a penguin in the middle of the iceberg with the Polar bears floating by on bigger chunks.

    Thanks for tossing out a lifeline.

    No fooling.

  15. Batters up! I love the baseball/perfect pitch analogy! Sadly, I wasn't a good ball player, so I hope I don't strike out at this. I think a common mistake that we newbie's make is that we don't target our audience correctly...at least not in our proposal. We don't want to exclude anyone so we say "all romance readers". I like the idea for comparing it to other titles. That will really help in getting me focused on my audience correctly. I'm so excited for day 2! Thanks for the post!

  16. Thank you, Susan, for the great info! It's going into my 'jam packed' keeper file.

    I'll finish my manuscript one of these days and then I'll pull this out and put it to work for me!


  18. Great tips. Thank you. So hard for me to "sell" myself. I'd rather say something like "Well, you might like it if you want to read it." The only way I can sort of do it is distance myself from this is "my baby" and make it more like something I read and liked and recommend to others. Even then it's less than exuberant. Any ideas for getting past the shyness thing?

  19. Good Morning, Sue. There are so many details to consider. Thanks for your valuable post.

  20. Susan, thanks, some really useful tips.
    I'd add a third admonition to proofread. I sent out a query with the agent's name misspelled. She still asked for a partial, but -- ewww. Don't be that dumb, guys.
    I've been practicing queries, proposals and elevator pitches for a couple of years now. It is an art. I've had a couple of requests for "fulls" since I began writing better queries, but no actual sales. Still, it's progress. Every skill counts in this writing life.
    Two years ago I participated in "Pitchapalooza," which is where these two New York writers and agents go around to bookstores and hear writers' pitches and coach them. You have to buy their book to get it, but it's not a bad book, and the event itself is fun and helpful. They liked my elevator pitch but said it was too long -- they put you on a timer. I trimmed it back after that.
    The hardest part for me will be getting endorsements. Established writers don't usually have the time to read a full ms from an unpubbed writer. Comparative analysis is also hard because I read widely and not always in my genre. But it's doable. The "doability" quotient is there.
    This is fun, thank you Susan.
    Kathy Bailey

  21. Putting myself forward is also going to be hard. It was something "nice girls from the Fifties" never did. I'm going to have to rely on God for that part, and not go before Him or lag behind.
    Kathy Bailey
    Pre-pubbed and puzzled in NH

  22. Welcome to Seekerville, Sue! These are wonderful tips for writers searching for an agent.

    And CONGRATULATIONS to all of you who survived SPEEDBO 2014!

    So for those of you who qualify, polish up those proposals using Sue's great insider tips! Natasha Kern Literary Agency gets at least 1,000 queries a month, the majority of which won't be contacted to submit a full proposal. So this is a FABULOUS, not-to-be-missed opportunity to get your work in front of top-notch agents!

  23. Hi Seekerville! Long time, no see! Life has been SO busy--but not to busy to stop by and take in all of Sue's great advice! I look forward to seeing her at the Blue Ridge Writing Conference next month.

    Patty Smith Hall

  24. Yes, the thought of marketing and selling can be overwhelming, but information like this helps! Pinned this post...looking forward to part two! :)

  25. HI,
    I'm a new follower of Seekerville! And I just signed with Susan Brower!! I have to tell you looking at that list I'm still not sure how it happened! I've presented a workshop called "Gone Fishing How To Catch an Agent." And my biggest advice is to remember you are a professional. While Susan's list may look daunting, she's spot on in giving you the ingredients needed to catch an agent's and then an editor's attention. I agree with everything Susan said and if you start to implement these elements in your queries/proposals you are going to start to see more requests. And the hardest part of the proposal for me is writing the back cover blurb and asking fellow authors for reviews.

  26. Condensing a 96,000 word Historical romance that has lots of plot points is intimidating, as is the overview where I need to figure out my target audience. Yikes! Never one to turn down a challenge (I am a preschool teacher so that qualifies me for very brave), I am going to tilt my chin bravely and begin checking off this daunting list.

  27. Sue, this is a GREAT post! A very succinct, precise outline of what is needed in a proposal. I am sending every writer I know to your posts today and tomorrow! :-)

  28. Good Morning Seekers! I hope all is well with you today. Thank you so much for reading and commenting on my blog. I will be here today and tomorrow to respond to your questions and comments.

  29. Sue,
    What a wonderful list of guidelines. I'll be honest here and say that I've never pitched a book before, but I'm more than willing to step up to the challenge!

    I'm with Ruthy when seekerville hosts contests. I love 'em!

  30. Good morning, Sue.

    Welcome to Seekerville. Thanks for taking time from you busy day to chat with us.

    I think the hard part is getting all that information into a one page letter. Talk about tight writing!!!!

  31. HA!! Naomi publicly admitted what I was thinking.

    If I had to do it all over again, and search for a new agent, I'd be beyond shaking.

  32. Naomi, LOL!!!!

    You know it's not as bad as you think. It's like eating a bear or wild bison... One bite at a time!

    So you break it down.

    Once the chapters/book is written, the rest is like a college exercise, no biggie I promise. BUT... to have it laid out in detail is so stinkin' nice!!!!

    I promise, I'll coach you through anything you need for the price of a hug when we see each other. We early morning people have to take care of each other.

    'Sall I'm sayin'!

  33. Helen Gray, instead of "selling" think of it like a parent talking about their new baby. Put as much passion and effort into your proposal as you do into your book. Thanks for the coffee!

    Everybody: Re Endorsements. This is probably the most debatable element in the proposal. Final word--quality is more important than quantity. If you don't know influential author or if they don't have time, it's okay to not have endorsers when it's your debut manuscript. Also, keep in mind that most major authors do not have the time to read all the manuscripts that people ask them to endorse. Do not feel let down, they have deadlines too!

  34. Wilani Wahl,
    I am sorry a book that was so important to you was rejected. Be sure you are checking publisher and agent submission guidelines and that if they have a suggestion for how to organize your proposal, you follow it. Steve Laube at http://stevelaube.com/guidelines/ has a great section on non-fiction proposals.

  35. Natalie Monk: There is a great book on writing proposals called Book Proposals that sell by W. Terry Whalin. I hope this helps.

  36. Congratulations to all of you who completed Speedbo. What an accomplishment. I am in awe of the creativity you all have.

  37. Cindy Regneir: I am sooo with you. I am definitely an introvert at heart. Try to think of it in Third Person as if you were writing an article about a new fiction novel that you just love. Preparation does a lot for overcoming shyness and if you've done a great proposal, you can talk about your book with ease and focus.

    By the way, many of the editors and agents you will be presenting to are as shy and introverted as you are.

  38. Sue, what a great post! I haven't written a proposal yet, but I've been doing a little studying. Your suggestions help. Thanks for addressing getting author endorsements before the book is represented.

    I think the hardest part for me is writing back cover copy. And figuring out what the reader benefits will be. I think I know the message that they'll take from the book, but is that enough?

    I'd love your thoughts on these two aspects of the proposal. :)

    Thanks for taking time out to chat with us today!

  39. Good morning all. April Fool's Day always reminds me of how my mom never forgot to 'catch' my dad each year.

    Hi Sue!!
    I think the hardest part of a proposal is the comparisons. When I finally finished my first novel, I couldn't find anything similar. I had to use 'similar in setting', or 'similar in tone'.

    Also, as blogs seems to be losing readers (YES. NOT SEEKERVILLE!)are agents and editors looking for other samples of a writer's social media presence outside those you listed?

    Congratulations to all the Speedbo participants!

  40. Welcome to Seekerville, Susan! Love how you tied your Perfect Pitch post into the opening of the baseball season. I'm not a baseball fan. The game is too slow for me, but I am a fan of this great opportunity to pitch to you! Thanks for the excellent points for grabbing an agent.


  41. Sue, when you have an appointment with someone at a conference, what do you expect out of them? Do you like a one sheet? Or is there something else you look for in a one on one meeting?

  42. Welcome, Sue! We're so glad to have you here. Thanks for agreeing to do the pitch contest!

    I'm hope a bunch of you who did Speedbo are going to take advantage of the opportunity.

  43. LOL, Naomi! That's what I love about LI, too. :)

  44. Yay for all of you who finished Speedbo!!

    I have to say April 1st did not start well. My daughter texted me from school and said she got a speeding ticket on the way there.

    Ugh. I wrote back OH NO!! Then said I was so sorry (cause SHE was going to be paying for it.)

    Then she said "April fools!" (and made fun of me for falling for it)

    Sigh. Yep, it's one of THOSE days. Now I'm plotting who I"ll pull a prank on. :)

  45. Tracey Lyons, congrats to you on signing with Sue!!!

    Asking for endorsements would be the toughest thing for me, too.

  46. The thing that helped me (a little) when pitching was knowing that the Editor or Agent is hoping they find someone great. They WANT you to have a good book and also, in the end, they are going to judge you on the book you write, not on how well you talk (I'm thinking of face to face interviews here) What they are listening to is if you write something they need, if you fit their search.

  47. Jeanne T,
    I am not sure the jacket copy is so much the benefit of the book (that might sound too preachy) so much as it is an introduction to the dilemmas the hero and heroine face. Take a look at books in your genre and see how they are written. Emphasis on characters? or emphasis on story? What do you look for when reading jacket copy? You only have a couple of seconds to get the readers attention, do the most you can with it.

  48. Eileen, it is so true. 96,000 words down to a blurb or even a sentence. It's a killer.
    But we all get onto it. The key is just cut everything but the bones.
    Who your hero and heroine are.
    Why they're in conflict.

    A vegetarian and a cattle rancher go to war and fall in love.
    That's my blurb for Buffalo Gal.

    A feisty lady rancher with four daughters marries a mountain man who's never been around women. She can't believe he wants to take charge, he is terrified and charmed by turns with the all-girl world he's in.--Petticoat Ranch

  49. Patty Smith Hall: Excellent question as we go into the conference season. I expect to see a one page that tells me the title, , genre, word count and status (complete or when it will be complete) Hook and short synopsis. However, when you get into the interview, I will ask you tell me about your story. It's so awkward to sit there and read a one sheet in front of the writer. The one sheet acts as a reminder of who I talked to among the 20 or so appointments that I do. Be prepared to talk to me! It's only fifteen minutes.

  50. There's a line that says "I love having written."

    I love having pitched. lol

    Thanks for the tips, Sue, and welcome to Seekerville!

  51. WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE, SUE, AND TO NKLA, TOO -- heck, you're like the second face in the literary Mount Rushmore as far as I'm concerned!!

    WOW, what a post!! Probably one of the best keeper posts I've ever seen on Seekerville -- a true workshop in a blog, as Tina is fond of saying!

    I have to laugh at Naomi, quaking in her boots over all the components in a pitch. I'm with her, I'm afraid, shaking my head at Ruth doing cartwheels. ;)


  52. NATALIE MONK SAID: "I love writing back cover copy. I'm one of those weird people who love to post book reviews ..."

    I'm with you, Nat -- LOVE writing back cover copy as well and actually like writing endorsements (when I have time) too, so much so that one of my friends joked I should do it for a living. HA! Probably make more money that way ... ;)

    I agree with Glynna -- SUPER CONGRATS to all the Speedboers, large word count and small. Crossing the finished line is a true accomplishment either way.

    PATTY SMITH HALL!! Long time, no see, my friend -- hope you are doing well and your back is better than ever!


  53. Sue, Great to see you in Seekerville. I had the pleasure of meeting you at RWA Nationals last summer. (Since I know you met many people while you were there, I don't know if you remember me. I know my being a male helps jog the memory of most of the people I meet at any RWA-event. However, there were a number of male attendees at Nationals in Atlanta.)

    Good luck in your new role.


  54. You know, when I'm trying to condense to a back cover blurb or a tagline, I think of the moral premise.... Or if it's easier, think of the theme...

    And then if you reflect that in the blurb or tagline, it just seems so much easier. Not focusing on the whole story, but on what they have to LOSE....

  55. Sue,
    For this contest, should I include sample chapters with the pitch? Your post says to always include them in a proposal, so does that mean I should put them in this? Thanks for being here, willing to help all us newbies!

  56. I'm pretty sure I just heard Natalie Monk and Julie both volunteer to write the blurb part of my next proposal. And Ruthy is evidently going to write the rest of it, since she's doing cartwheels and giving hugs. ;-)

  57. Debra Marvin, the "platform" part of the proposal is always the most difficult and the most subjective. I wanted to see that the author was at least knowledgeable of what they would need to be doing to promote their books. I can't imagine having a big platform if you haven't published anything yet. Platform is not a substitute for good content--maybe in non-fiction, but not in fiction. I still the believe the most underrated form of marketing is the newsletter. Social media comes and goes, but bestselling authors have been sending some form of newsletter for years. Here the consumer is ASKING you to send them information about your books--when is next release? when is it being promoted online? Daily Deals? Capturing your own fan information is well worth the cost, time and effort. Just my two cents...

  58. Okay, I do actually have a serious question about the similar book part of the proposal, or maybe I'm wondering if Sue can expand on it. If you're submitting to Zondervan and you say that you'r writing westerns like Robin Lee Hatcher, doesn't that make Zondervan go "Sorry, we already have one of those authors. We don't need another."

    I mean, I have writer friends who have been turned down before because the publisher had already acquired a Revolutionary War book or the novel was too similar to a Karen Kingsburry novel with the endless love triangle thing.

    So I don't actually understand what editors and marketing people like to see with the similar book thing, because more often then not it seems like an author is just shooting herself in the foot with it.

    And then, what happens if there ISN'T a similar book. I mean seriously, what was LaHaye and Jenkin's similar book list supposed to look like for Left Behind? What did Suzanne Colin's similar books look like for Hunger Games, or Stephanie Meyers for Twilight?

    Yeah, the more I think about it, the more muddled it all gets. Natasha swears it's not that complicated. Well, maybe in super agent world it's not. Then there's the rest of us peons . . .

  59. Susan, I'm not great with my newsletter. It's a really weakness of mine.

    I need to get my act together.

  60. Walter, I remember you and your samurai stories. I still have a mug that you gave me (I hope it was you). Good to see you here at Seekerville.

  61. Crystal, yes, do include sample chapters.

  62. Naomi, first take a deep breath and relax! Half of the pitch process is being at the right place at the right time and only God can make sure that happens. So, in your question about "like authors" if I had seen your proposal, one year ago, I would have said "Oh, good, Robin has some fabulous ideas for contemporaries, here is her replacement in the historical category." It doesn't necessarily mean that if Robin were still writing historical, I wouldn't still be interested. I had three Amish authors at one time because the market was so popular. I think the benefit outweighs the risk because you don't want the editor to have to guess. Make it so easy for them to see how your book would fit into their program. Hopefully you have been reading there guidelines and your book is in a genre they are looking for. Keep it simple and make the decision easy!

  63. Hi, Sue. Thanks for recommending the book. That helps.

    I keep thinking of more questions. :)

    Which of the items you listed do you prefer as attachments and which are in the actual body of the email along with the query?

    Do you like the usual query ingredients of hook, blurb, title, word count, status and query in the email, with everything else attached in one proposal document?

  64. Hi Susan, Great breakdown of the perfect pitch. Thank you so much for joining us today in Seekerville. We are so honored and hope you enjoy your day with us.

  65. Julie! You should be forewarned I've just put you down on my "Ask For Endorsement" List! LOL. Writing endorsements does sound fun. Though, with time already an evasive quarry, I can't imagine how scarce it is for published authors! ;)

    Naomi, sounds like a good bargain, doesn't it? Ha! Ha! :D

  66. Natalie,
    I do like that information in the query if this is the first time I am seeing it. If I have requested you proposal and sample chapters from a writers conference or from the query, it is not necessary to repeat them. But I do want all of that information in the proposal--one place to look and evaluate.

  67. Sue,

    How do you feel about authors who want to write in more than one genre?

  68. Thanks, Natalie! Same to you. I'd much rather write the book than the proposal. If only it were that simple, right? :)

  69. Helen, what a hard question. The answer is simple, write in one genre. Unfortunately, more authors than I can mention have stories on their heart that don't fit their publishing strategy. Where possible try to stay in the same genre. Create a fan base and feed them over and over. With every new genre you write, you have to capture the loyalty of different readers. Some will crossover, but not most. Now if you simply must publish that off-genre novel that has been sitting in your files, there are a couple of alternatives. First see what your publisher thinks, maybe they like the idea and want to keep all your writing with them. Second, you can self publish; make sure the quality of the novel is the same as your publisher novels--editing is a very good thing. Third, you can try to sell and publish it under a pseudonym. Just remember how hard it was to build the first audience. You will have to start all over again to make this book a success. Do you have time and energy to give marketing support to two brands?

  70. Welcome to Seekerville, Sue! Thanks for all the great information. Publishing is certainly interesting these days!

  71. Helen, I struggled with that question for a while... and Karen White told me years ago to write whatever I wanted then STICK WITH WHAT SOLD....

    And that's pretty solid advice from a multiple RITA finalist!

    So I've done that, I geared my indie books to the very same audience even though they're a little lighter and funnier... but it's still within my "hearth and home" brand.

    You know, it's hard when you have so many things you like to read, and you like to dabble, but getting established I think means staying in your own niche and carving out a nice, cozy spot...

    At least for a while.

  72. Sue, that's a yes on the samurai stories. My line of "Like Shogun, but the heroine survives" still applies, though I am branching out to Biblical fiction and 19th century Pacific Northwest.

    The mug you got from elsewhere, I believe.

  73. Susan, thanks for taking to time to post for us today.
    I'm not ready to pitch my book yet but will definitely pull this list out in the future.

    Good luck to all who enter the contest!!

  74. I'm with Natalie in that I keep thinking up questions!

    Are you okay with cowritten mss? I do write with my daughter, Destanie, although in the past few months we've both kind of drifted apart to write our own mss, and only help the other when we hit a block. The ms I would be pitching has a few scenes that she wrote, but is mostly my own work.
    And is it a serious downfall against me if I don't have a Facebook or Twitter account, as it goes against my personal beliefs? I plan to set up a blog soon.

  75. I love the information in this post. Thank you Susan for being so generous. Unfortunately I don't have anything to pitch because my current WIP (debut if you will) is sort of being pitched already elsewhere.

    I do enjoy creating the short three sentence and back cover blurbs. The longer stuff, not so much. *sigh* At least I'm learning new skills as I go along. Always a good day when learning something new. Which happens every day here at Seekerville.

  76. Welcome, Sue!

    Such great information! I have done a couple of these type of pitches in the past and they are daunting! It sure helps to have an expert decipher the process!


  77. Helen and anyone considering writing in different genres, here's a thought that circles in my head....yes there are many many stories that only fit in one genre, HOWEVER the very fundamental story you want to tell, if you're branded in historical for example, or more specifically historical cowboys, really look at the bones of your story, can it be moved and twisted to fit your genre.
    I know I have taken stories and moved them back into time. Made them historical.
    Sure if your heroine is a computer expert you're in trouble, but LOOK AT THAT STORY, does she have to be a computer expert? Can she be an expert in something else? Can your business executive who needs a computer expert because a rancher who needs a.........something she's an expert in....
    It doesn't always work but often the story you want to tell has more to do with the conflict and characters than the setting. Chances are you can set that conflict in most any time and place.

  78. Sue- thank you so much for the information. I've always had a short Summary and a long one, because I followed the proposal of another author. So I'm guessing the Long One would be somewhat the same as the Overview.

    there is a lot to glean from your post. It looks like a daunting list. Had me gulping a couple times. At least the proposal layout I was given from a well known author has many of same points.

    Now I just have to make my proposal sing. Hmm. Maybe singing it to you would be easier.

    LOL (or maybe not so funny)

    I look forward to tomorrow's post.


    From Anonymous
    Tina Pinson


  79. Thank you for all this helpful information and for recommending the book by Terry Whalin. I'm saving your tips for the next proposal. Have written only one that took a long time to finish. I cringed at the thought of selling myself, but it's part of writing a proposal. Like your suggestion to write a sales pitch in the third person.
    Congratulations to all who were a part of Speedbo and all the best to those who enter this contest. Thank you, Sue, for being here.

  80. For some reason unknown to me my posts keep appearing twice. Sorry.

  81. Mary, that's a great point. Most stories can be adapted, I've done that too.

    And when I dip into historicals, it's the same thing, the basic story set in the time with the effects of that time.

    But yeah, I agree, most things are adaptable.

  82. Pat Jeanne, it only serves to make us love you twice as much!

  83. Sue,
    Thank you for all of this great information. I did send out my first queries last month, and I can see by your post where I can strengthen my query. The one I have trouble with is the comparable title. I write contemporary romance with humor, but if I say, for example, "fans of Jen Crusie will want to read me"- it sounds like I think I'm all that and a bag of chips. Is this just more getting used to selling myself, or is there an art to which authors to use for this? I think I need to print out your list of the parts of a perfect pitch and use it as a checklist. Thanks! Lee K

  84. Thank you. Great questions and answers today!

  85. Thanks Susan for all the great information today, can't wait for tomorrow!
    I'm working on my first novel and thank the Lord it's almost complete! I think the hardest part for me will be the hook and pitch.

  86. Lee,
    That's a good question. That's why you give more than one comparable title. Perhaps you could list one title by Jen Crusie and another by a similar author who isn't as well known. You could write a little blurb that says "My novel is like Jen Crusie because the protagonist is sassy and has romantic and humorous elements." That doesn't sound like you are equating to her sales, it just give the editor a good feel who the fans are.

  87. Thanks for sharing with us today, Sue. I pitched to two editors and two agents at the ACFW conference last year. I don't think I've ever done anything so scary. I struggle with the proposal the most. But I'm learning!

  88. The proposal package is something I've been procrastinating for months. No more excuses. Thank you Susan. You've laid out the details in the clearest way I've ever seen.

    I like those samples Mary gave too. Since I've read those books I understand perfectly. Well, not perfectly, but close enough.

  89. Sue, thanks for the great post. I'll admit I'm intimidated, but more than willing to roll up my sleeves and get it done. I'm excited about learning more tomorrow!

  90. Sorry I'm so late getting to the blog.

    Wonderful wisdom, Sue! Thanks for sharing. I've saved your post under Christian proposal. I'm sure to reference it numerous times.

    Thanks for being with us today!

  91. Naomi, proposals are harder than writing a novel because most writers are not trained in writing sales copy. But agents realize this and that is why it is really rare that we send proposals out exactly as we receive them. If you are not sure about the comparables or subgenre or what will matter or what is your greatest strength to be highlighted, we will tell you. Plus you know that if something is missing, Naomi, I'll tell you :-). And the first biggest missing thing is finish your manuscript and get it critqued and proofed. Do your best in the proposal to describe what you have already done. The writing matters the most in fiction. If you have written a brilliant wonderful heart touching novel, you have succeeded and can get help selling it. And as Mary said we want to find those great writers.

  92. Thank you for the post. I am thankful we have all month to work on the pitch. I'm taking a deep breath and getting to work with some wonderful starting points.

  93. Hi Natasha! Thanks for stopping in. Susan this has been such a great day. Thanks so much for answering so many questions. YAY!

  94. Elaine writing your one sentence or two sentence pitch might be a good thing to do with a critique group. You synopsize it as best you can and let them read it so they get a real idea of what you've written, then you go to work whittling it down shorter and shorter with you always involved in case they go astray and start describing some story you didn't write...blurb writing can stray into brainstorming if you're not careful.

  95. Thanks, Susan, for a great and informative post.

    I find that all parts of a proposal, if armed with a good formula, aren't really that difficult. Challenging, yes. But with patience, a writer can walk away with a great blurb, excellent synopsis, and a catchy tagline or elevator pitch. I've found some really great formulas that work for me.

    Thanks, Seekerville, for Speedbo. I managed to add over 19,000 words (4000 over my target). With this I completed a novelette and submitted it to my publisher, and started work on the next manuscript. I've also implemented a similar challenge to the writers on our online group to write just 500 words a day (obviously, the more the better). Speedbo is a fantastic way to get into that habit of writing daily which of course makes writing easier because you're constantly in your story and don't have to contend with "Now where was I?)

  96. Thanks for the answers Sue--and, evidently, Natasha. I appreciate them, and they were definitely helpful.

    Relax. I suppose that's the first thing to remember. Relax. :-)

  97. NAOMI SAID: "I'm pretty sure I just heard Natalie Monk and Julie both volunteer to write the blurb part of my next proposal."

    LOL ... I have the name of a great ENT who can clean your ears out for a song, darlin'!! ;)


  98. NATALIE SAID: "Julie! You should be forewarned I've just put you down on my "Ask For Endorsement" List!"

    LOL ... key phrase being "(when I have time)," which is pretty much never, but I love to read, so I work hard to squeeze 'em in when I can ... or I used to! Hubby put his foot down on the amount of time I spent on blog interviews, and now he's gunning for endorsements ... :|

    You may just be my very last one, Nat ... ;)


  99. This comment has been removed by the author.

  100. Does anyone know if a contemporary that is a romantic mystery is something we can pitch?

  101. Wonderful breakdown! Thanks Susan for sharing it! And thank you Seekerville!

  102. Cathy,
    I would love to see your romantic mystery! Would it classify in the more recognized category of Romantic Suspense?

  103. Susan,

    Thank you for a very clear, concise sales package guideline. With your guide a writer should be able to determine if the work or the presentation caused the rejection.

  104. My mystery is an amateur sleuth, although it has some suspenseful times. It is in a similar genre as the later stories in the Goldy Schultz series by Diane Motts Davidson.

  105. Thanks so much for your article Susan! I'm preparing to pitch my first novel to Agents and wanted to thank you for your tips.

    Question: Does it help or hinder success if I pitch to more than one agent at a time? Also, I have read deferring advice on pitching prior to having a completed manuscript. How important is it to be complete if you are wanting to get some initial feedback? Thanks again