What is the difference between a query letter and a straight pitch?
This question came up more than once during the pitch contest. Although I promised at the beginning of January that I would talk about a pitch, what it was and wasn’t, I got incredibly busy at work and never followed up on that. I apologize.
A pitch is the hook for your story. It’s that quick, succinct synopsis or summary that will make an agent or editor sit up and take notice. It’s the hook that reels them in and makes them want to read the book. Think of it as the blurb on the back of a softcover, the inside flap of a hardcover or the description of the book that gets printed in a sales catalog. If well written, it sells the book for you. It grabs the attention of the casual browser at the bookstore
Most of the time, a pitch is a verbal presentation at a writers conference when you’ll have 5 to 10 minutes with an agent or editor. You want to give them enough information that they’ll be hooked into the story and ask for more.
A written version of your pitch should also be included as a paragraph (or two) in your query letter. It can be your first paragraph, if you want to lead with it, or your second paragraph, if you want to introduce the basics (genre, title, word count, etc.) of your book first. Either way is fine. But a solid, polished hook paragraph must be part of your query letter or you will get a rejection.
When is it appropriate to use a pitch instead of a query?
At a face-to-face meeting with an editor or agent. But bring your query letter, which includes a written version of your pitch, with you.
Where would we find resources to show us what is and is not an effective pitch and when to use one?
You can find this info in many books about writing and submitting to publishers. Go to your library and browse the TOC of the various how-to-write books. I did a quick google and here are two things that I found.
Pitch Lines That Don’t Work
How to Write a Query (This one talks more about queries than pitches, but it’s good info.)
Many conferences offer the opportunity to meet with an editor. Would we use a pitch at that time? Would we write it down to give to the editor or simply state it to him/her?
Yes, you would use a pitch at these meetings. This is a verbal presentation. Practice your pitch in front of other people so you can give a smooth delivery. But bring your query letter, a partial and a full, in case your pitch is so stunning that it blows the editor away and they request more on the spot. (This rarely happens, but it could. I’ve accepted fulls at conferences.)
Is the purpose of a pitch to have an editor ask for a query and then a partial and then a full, or does the pitch take the place of the query?
Yes, the purpose of the pitch is to entice the editor to ask for more. It does not take the place of the query, although it should be included as part of your query (see above). If an editor requests that you mail him/her a partial or full, include your query letter with that submission. Make sure you mention in your introductory paragraph that you met the editor at such-and-such conference and that they asked for the partial/full. And thank them for their time and interest in your manuscript.