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Kim Tomsic

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dispelling the Rumors and Myths about Pitches, Queries and Synopsizes


Pitches, Queries, Synopsizes, Oh My!

Twitter is an amazing social networking tool that offers the opportunity to engage people with whom you wouldn’t meet unless traveling to a conference.   #Kidlitchat moderators Bonnie Adamson and Greg Pincus host a weekly forum for those interested in children’s literature. Authors (both published and unpublished), agents and editors show up online at 6 p.m. Pacific Time to discuss a weekly topic. In order to view the conversation a person need only login to Twitter and search #kidlitchat. To participate, type your tweet and add #kidlitchat to the end of your post. Because of the hashtag, both followers and non-followers will see your post if they are participating in the forum.  


Last night’s #kidlitchat covered a topic that often keeps writers up at night. Pitches, queries and synopsizes, oh my! The conversation covered the daunting question of what to include in your pitch to adequately express the essence of your 50,000 word manuscript while using only a few lines.  Here are highlights from the discussion:

Advice:

“Focus on major plot points. Clearly define character conflicts.” Debbie Ohi writes, draws kidlit/YA. Illus I'M BORED (@SimonKidsYA, 2012). Rep: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown. 

“You always need a pitch. Even when your neighbor asks you "what's the book about?" Pitch=30-second commercial.” Kristine C. Asseline Author of contemporary YA & MG fiction & non-fiction. Organizer of Central MA Kid Lit Gatherings. Repped by Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary Management.

“One thing my crit group has joked about is writing each other's pitches. should do it!” Amber Keyser. Amber is the Go-to-girl & YA novelist for action-adventure transmedia saga, Angel Punk. Rep'd by Stephen Fraser. Wielding pen & pitchfork from Portland, OR.

“I have a 60-word limit on the summary reviews I write for publications. I try to write one before and after I finish a project.”  Also “Synopses = plot; queries = plot + emotion; pitches = hook + plot + emotion crammed on the back of a matchbook (or in a tweet!)”  David Elzey  David is a writer and reviewer of books for children and young adults, currently unagented, working on a YA comedy set in the 1970s called THE EROSION PROJECT.

“Synopsis is about the emotional arc: what the MC wants, the struggle to get it and the resolution.” Shevi Arnold. She also said, “Plot is this happened, then that happened. Emotional arc is about the meaning behind actions.”  Shevi is an Author and illustrator of the literary fantasy, Toren the Teller's Tale, and the humorous middle-grade novel, Dan Quixote: Boy of Nuevo Jersey

“My wisdom on pitches is here. press Kurtis Kurtis Scaletta is a kid lit author, online ed manager at @loftliterary, baseball fan, dad. Rumors that I'm building an army of robots to take over the world are unconfirmed.

“Great resource from Georgia McBride - head to http://YALITCHAT.org to see real pitches and responses from Agents and Editors.” Greg Pincus Greg Pincus writes poetry, novels, and screenplays, blog kidlit at gottabook.blogspot.com. He also talks social media strategy at the Happy Accident.· http://www.thehappyaccident.net

“Leave out all extraneous detail. Make sure you focus on what's at stake for your protagonist.” Danielle Rumore Danielle is a PR exec by day. Aspiring YA novelist by night. Part-time runner. Defender of boy books. Repped by John Rudolph of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

“1st tip is to remember queries and synopses are different things. Queries should not try to tell "the whole story." And “For the pitch in your query letter, just the tease, not the resolution.” E.M. Kokie E.M. Kokie’s  debut YA novel PERSONAL EFFECTS to be published by Candlewick in 2012. Represented by Chris Richman of Upstart Crow.

“Agree with E.M. Kokie - queries are meant to "hook" someone. Get them interested enough to request MS - but don't tell too much!” Danielle Rumore

“For pitch-make sure you have something in there about what is interesting/different about either character or situation” Dee Garretson  Dee is the author of WILDFIRE RUN & WOLF STORM HarperCollins teacher's/bookclub guide http://bit.ly/gaYWr9 GARGOYLE IN THE SEINE, his. mystery, repped by Michele Rubin Writers House

“It's all about....who is this character? What do they love (and fear) more than anything?” Crissa Chappell Crissa is the author of TOTAL CONSTANT ORDER (HarperTeen). Next up is NARC (Flux summer 2012).

“Pitch=what is your book about? Synopsis=tell me the plot, who is the book about and what happens, including  the ending.” Jill Corcoran Jill Corcoran is a Literary Agent with Herman Agency. Editor of DARE TO DREAM...CHANGE THE WORLD, Kane Miller Books, Fall 2012.



“Even when I don't need official synopsis, I always write a pitch during process to keep writing on track.” Jody Feldman Author of books even boys will read. Thanks AZ and GA for making The Gollywhopper Games your winner! And look for The Seventh Level, now in paperback.

My favorite tweets of the night include advice for writing a one page, three paragraph query letter:
“@mimicross: @crissachappell my fav query formula is, The Hook, The Book, & The Cook, basically 3 paragraphs”
The three paragraphs of a query are: 1)Why this agent 2)the book's hook 3)Why you” Shevi Arnold.

Questions:

Q: “I've been told not to ask questions in the pitch/hook. Agents/editors please weigh in on that.” Julie F Hedlund, Julie is Author of Children's Picture Books + Freelance Writer, Essay Writer, Travel Writer.  

A: “Don’t ask questions in your pitch/hook” Jill Corcoran.

Q: “How about questions in the query? Questions like, "Will Susie make it to the palace in time to catch her prince?" Been told it's a no-no.” Julie Hedlund

Q: “Why is that a no-no?” Katie Davis  Katie writes books. Draws pictures. Records podcasts. Makes movies. Has webinars. Gives speeches. http://www.katiedavis.com

A: “It isn't, if it is at the end.” Jill Corcoran


Q: “Some say PITCHES aren't for kid lit and only queries and synopsizes are used to land an agent. Is it true that PITCHES are for adult lit only?? True or False? #kidlitchat” Kim Tomsic @bkshelfdetectiv (that’s me!)

A: “False.” Jill Corcoran

A: “Don't know who told you that. I've been to pitch sessions at SCBWI conferences.” Shevi Arnold.



Q: “Jill, have you moved next step with someone (now a client) based on starting with an elevator pitch or only w/ queries?” Kim Tomsic

A: “Oh yes, I have been moved to action by an elevator pitch, but the ms has to stand on its own.” Jill Corcoran


Q: “Hi, Tommy Greenwald. Did you personally Pitch Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading to agent or Nancy Mercardo or did you query?” Kim Tomsic

A: “I pitched CJJ to agent as PB called THE BOY WHO HATED READING, her advice was to make it MG.” and also “then I sent her new title (CCJ's GUIDE etc) and first couple chapters and she was interested... “Tommy Greenwald Tommy is the author of Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading (Roaring Brook Press). He is also an ad guy and kids book writer, father of charlie, joe, jack and charlie joe jackson.



Q: Should your query represent/show your main characters voice or even be written in the main character’s voice?



A: “Voice is like salt in a query = a little goes a long way. Get the flavor of the MC's voice, but don't overpower.” E.M. Kokie. E.M. Kokie’s  debut YA novel PERSONAL EFFECTS to be published by Candlewick in 2012. Represented by Chris Richman of Upstart Crow.


General Thoughts:


“Pitch sessions are like speed dating--harrowing concept, IMO :-).” Bonnie Adamson Children's writer/illustrator, represented by Marietta B. Zacker; ARA/IC, SCBWI-Carolinas; co-host of #kidlitchat and #kidlitart.

“Pitches are not hard unless you don't have a clear understanding of what your book is about. If you do, just answer that question.” Jill Corcoran

“Weird to (1) write novel ~80K (2) distill to 1 page synop (3) 1 paragraph hook/pitch (4) 1 sentence for elevator. Whew!” Amber Keyser.

RESOURCES:

Jane Friedman's blog includes a fantastic article called  "The Basic Pitch Formula for Novelists" Here she provides step by step instructions for crafting a perfect pitch.

My wisdom on pitches is here. press Kurtis Kurtis Scaletta is a kid lit author, online ed manager at @loftliterary, baseball fan, dad. Rumors that I'm building an army of robots to take over the world are unconfirmed.

“Great resource from Georgia McBride - head to http://YALITCHAT.org to see real pitches and responses from Agents and Editors.” Greg Pincus Greg Pincus writes poetry, novels, and screenplays, blog kidlit at gottabook.blogspot.com. He also talks social media strategy at the Happy Accident.· http://www.thehappyaccident.net

2 comments:

Julie Hedlund said...

Great recap! I missed the suggestion to have CPs write pitches for each other but I must say I LOVE that idea! So much easier to boil down someone else's book than your own. :-)

Kim Tomsic said...

I know! Isn't that a brilliant idea. Then you can see what highlights your CPs are getting are they "delivering" in the way you intended.