agenting · querying

The Pitch Letter

I’ve been thinking about pitch letters to editors a lot lately, mainly because I’m working on several. Authors are always talking about querying agents, but I notice many don’t know what to expect when their agent pitches editors. Basically the pitch letter is querying 2.0, but this time to editors. What makes the pitch letter more difficult is they can vary more than your regular queries in style. I’ve seen completely different approaches to pitching. Agents hone their own pitch styles. Some even prefer to call up editors to pitch over the phone.

I remember during one of my internships we did an exercise where all of us interns wrote a pitch for the same project. None of them were the same. Even when we focused on the same aspects of the book, we all chose a different wording. All the pitches varied depending on each intern’s own style and what stood out to them. I’ve talked about subjectivity playing a role in offers and sales before, but subjectivity can also play a role in how an agent pitches.

I enjoy writing pitch letters because each book is it’s own challenge. As an agent I use the pitch letter to make editors feel like they need the book. I want them to be excited to read it. Personally I’m a fan of comp titles, especially in crowded genres like YA fantasy. Comp titles can help place a book in the market and highlight specific aspects of the project. When I pitch I aim to bring out the strengths and unique aspects of a book. I don’t want an editor to think a project is bland or too similar to what’s already in the market or in their inbox.

I start thinking about my pitch letter as soon as I read a manuscript and find myself considering offering on it. While I finish reading I consider possible comp titles, the strengths of the manuscript, and how it stands out from similar titles. If I have a hard time trying to figure out how to pitch a project I could have a hard time selling that project. I’ll also be thinking about possible editors to send the project to. I won’t make a submission list until I start working on sending a project out on submission, but I like to have several possible editors in mind before making an offer on a project.

I’ve also sent queries to agents for my own books and my query letters are different than my pitch letters. My query letter focuses on the story itself. In my pitch letters I highlight the specific strengths and where a project falls into the market. Not being the author of the project changes the approach. In a query I would never say “I specifically loved this one unique aspect of my book” but I might say that about a client’s manuscript in a pitch letter and that is a big difference between query letters and pitch letters. A pitch letter is coming from an agent, not the author, and that changes part of the pitch.

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