Monday, October 29, 2007

Three-sentence pitches

Jessica Faust at Bookends is currently critiquing pitches or hooks from query letters. She asked that they be one to three sentences long, though she graciously seems to be critiquing pitches that are a bit longer. Of all the hook critiques contests I've read, in my opinion, Jessica Faust gives the clearest explanations of what works and what doesn't. Here are a few things I picked up from the first day of critiques:

Remember, you have about two sentences to grab an agent in a query letter and about two minutes in a verbal pitch session.

Eek! I didn't know that. I thought agents read until they were confused, completely turned off by the idea or writing, or reached the end of the query. That information certainly changes how I'd write my query letter.

Things that she brought up that bear repeating are:

I need to know the why more than the who. Why are they solving this case? What’s their motivation? What’s the threat?

What's your character's motivation to start in the quest, the investigation, or whatever, and why do they continue despite the danger to themselves? Jessica also stated that you should start your pitch where the conflict starts.

Since condensing a plot makes it sound like a lot of others, include what makes your book different. What is it about the conflict that makes your story stand out? Why would readers buy your book instead of the many others with similar plots?

And don't forget to show, not tell, and let your "voice" come through in the pitch.

As usual, I'm left staring in dismay. I keep wondering why it's resonable to expect that we can do all that in three sentences. Especially when what sounds unique and intriguing to one agent seems totally uninteresting to another agent. Still, this pitch critique series will be a good learning experience for everybody. Thanks, Jessica, for taking the time to do it.


Deb said...

Oh man, three sentences? Good thing I stumbled across your blog or I wouldn't have had a clue.

Thanks for the information. I plan to wander about your blog a bit more, as it looks to be right up my alley.

Deborah K. White said...

Hi, Deb. Jessica Faust's pitch critique is three sentences long. Query letter "hooks" (i.e. descriptions of the book) are usually about 7-11 sentences long, and I think verbal pitches can be up to 5-10 minutes long.

I think one reason Jessica is restricting the number of sentences for the pitch entries on her blog is so that she doesn't have to spend as long reading and critiquing the pitches. However, she has made the point that you need to grab the interest of an agent within the first few sentences, so it's a good idea to have a short, catchy pitch worked out.

I hope that clarified any confusion caused by my post. Hope you enjoy the rest of my blog.