Wednesday, February 08, 2006

It's like a cross between the Prince of Tides and Bonanza?

J.A. Konrath hit on something yesterday that tickled my brain. In a post titled, Writers, Start Your Pitch, he asked:

Which is more effective:

This is a book about a guy named Bill who goes on a journey of self-discovery while battling an evil force that's invaded his home town.

Did you like the Matrix? It's like the Matrix written by Stephen King, with giant flesh eating monsters and an ending that you'll NEVER see coming.

I told you a couple of days ago that I would soon be pitching agents again (the two agents who were reading partials have had three months of semi-exclusive reading time, which neither requested). I sent out several queries, and have already received two more requests for partials, and four personalized rejections. I'm pretty happy with those numbers. My pitch to agents is pretty simple. If there is some really good reason why I think they should be my agent, I lead with that...

Dear Ms. Agent,

I saw the seven figure deal you landed for I. M. Arichwriter, and knew you were the agent for me.

I follow that with my hook:

Reno Sanders was rich, good looking, and charming, and when he asked Peggy Mallory to wear his 4-H pin, she wanted to tell the whole world. First, she had to tell her husband and three sons. This is their story.

After the hook is a longer paragpraph with some plot details. To keep with the fishing analogy, I call this feeding them line. Then I reel 'em in with my summary paragraph:

Transit Gloria (Latin - Passing Glory) is a character driven drama, and readers have to ask not just who, but why. The answers are heartbreaking. Reno Sanders is a charming antagonist, and watching his descent is as hard for the reader as it is for the characters. Sex and sexuality are important parts of its themes, but this is not gay fiction, or erotica. At its heart, this is a story about growing up and learning that hate and love are two sides of the same coin, and that revenge isn't always sweet.

My final paragraph talks about what a stud-monkey I am, and begs for the opportunity to send the agent a box containing the full manuscript and some home-made cookies.

Now I'm wondering if I couldn't save a lot of ink by just saying...

Did you like Brokeback Mountain? Transit Gloria is like Brokeback Mountain written by Pat Conroy. It has sex, murder, cowboys, and a huge emotional trainwreck that you see coming a mile away and are powerless to stop.

What do you think? Have you got your pitch ready?

Mark Pettus,
Wednesday, February 08, 2006

17 comments so far. Thank you, Blogger Kelly Parra, Anonymous Caryn, Blogger anne frasier, Blogger Shesawriter, Blogger Rene, Blogger Jeff, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger Bernita, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger Faith, Blogger Bernita, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins, Anonymous Spicy Cauldron, Anonymous Spicy Cauldron, Blogger Mark Pettus, Blogger serenity,

Let me know what you think

Leave a comment


at 11:50 AM Blogger Kelly Parra said...

It's a great query, Mark! And that's awesome about your new requests. Hey, I hadn't thought about Brokeback Mountain. This is probably a great time to have started your querying again.

Good luck!

at 2:43 PM Anonymous Caryn said...

It's great to see what others are doing with their pitches! Yours looks very good--and it sounds like it's working, too. I know I'd want to read it. As for having my pitch ready, I have my query letter written, and the few I've sent out have netted some positive responses. But I want to play with it a little more and finish this draft before starting my full scale querying campaign.

at 9:06 PM Blogger anne frasier said...

i probably wouldn't say what the book isn't.

"this is not gay fiction, or erotica."

i really like this:

It has sex, murder, cowboys, and a huge emotional trainwreck that you see coming a mile away and are powerless to stop.

that's definitely your most powerful line.

i have mixed feelings about using a currently popular comparison or author comparison. sometimes that can backfire on you.

at 1:12 AM Blogger Shesawriter said...


You are on your way, man. It sounds like you've got a great thing going here. Keep up the good work and good luck to you.


at 11:38 AM Blogger Rene said...

I agree with Anne, I was hooked with the one line she pointed out.

I've read how some agents do like a comparison to something current and others despise it. I suppose it is a crapshoot.

My query is pretty simple. It isn't flashy but it seems to resonate with agents. I've had about a 70% request rate based solely on the letter with three requests for the full based solely on the letter. Now if only one of these agents would like the book...

at 8:11 PM Blogger Jeff said...

Good luck, Mark. :)

at 9:47 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Kelly - Thanks. I hope you're right.

Caryn (please don't change your name again without giving me notice, I already stay confused...) - Is it working? I think I'm past the point where I feel successful because I'm getting requests for partials. I need more. Gimme more.

Anne - ordinarily I'd agree, but by saying what it isn't - I'm actually telling you a great deal about what it is without using a bunch of words I don't have room for on the page. Now you know it has gay characters and sexual situations, don't you? Explaining it requires I tell you about those gay characters, and about the sex... this way I let you know, without having to give you details.

Or at least that's my theory.

Tanya - if the support of my blogging friends would guarantee my success, I'd have already won the Booker... Thank You.

Rene - I love your blog. Honest and emotional. Welcome to the Bluff. So you and Anne both think I need to follow Joe Konrath's lead?

Jeff - sorry to hear about your boat, man. Ever read Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea? Same thing happened to me, except I was actually drunk and what I thought was the sound of sharks banging on the hull was actually the hull banging on the dock... I quit drinking rum after that. Okay, I quit drinking that particular brand of rum, for at least a week.

at 6:24 AM Blogger Bernita said...

What matters is if it gets results.
Therefore it's a good query.

at 1:50 PM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Results. Now there's a subjective measurement. Most of the time I'm pretty happy with my query. I have a good response rate, and a couple of folks have said I wrote a really good letter.

I like compliments as much as the next person, but what I really want are results like this:

"The fourth agent I queried requested a full read, and a week later called me on the phone and said she loved my manuscript."

Until I get an agent, it's just a letter, neither good nor bad. If it helps me get an agent, I'm going to give that letter its own web page.

By the way, did it make you want to read more? If not, what would?

at 5:32 PM Blogger Faith said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. I wish you much success.

at 4:33 AM Blogger Bernita said...

Mark, the purpose of the query letter is to get a request for a partial or a full.
It's the manuscript that gets you the agent - not the query.

at 8:25 AM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

I know that, Bernita, but it never hurts to dream. I've been on the query-go-round long enough that a request for a partial no longer makes me beat my chest and yell like an ape-man. I wish I could write a letter than would get someone excited enough to skip past the work, right to the results.

I'm spoiled, a victim of my own success. When the first request for a partial came in last fall I was an excited rookie, certain that my publishing career was shifting into high gear. Three months later, and I'm a grizzled veteran who wants to feel that excitement again.

I want someone to get so excited reading my query that they are waiting by the mailbox for my manuscript - all other projects on hold. Realistic? Not a chance, but if being realistic was a requirement, none of us would be writers.

at 11:17 PM Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

I like your pitch, Mark. Great link, too.

at 4:20 AM Anonymous Spicy Cauldron said...

Mark, the only thing I'd be wary of is prejudicial assumptions on the part of an agent. I'm all for writers, irrespective of their own sexuality, handling all sexualities in a realistic way but as a poet primarily and occasional dabbler in longer fiction, I find handling the 'gay' aspect of myself and only some of my writing to be problematic. An agent might assume the work is niche, or even make assumptions about the sexuality of the author - wrong but it happens, and you don't want your work to be dismissed on the basis of false assumptions and discrimination.

Say, for example, taking not too extreme a notion, that the person who reads your submission is a Christian - not an evangelical, give me your money now, bomb abortion clinics Christian but just a Christian who is generally a decent person but with homophobic prejudice thinly veiled as religious principle. Bang. Out goes the manuscript. If they read it, they might be less dismissive - they'd actually get the style, the plot, the power of it.

On that basis, I'd say unless the gay aspect is pivotal, don't mention it. You could talk of two men entering into a relationship... sexual intrigues which cross social or cultural barriers... Whatever is appropriate. But the focus of your proposition is not a gay readership. While I know that's going to be welcomed as much as any readership, you want to avoid the assumption of a niche market. As for eventual film rights, while on the surface you might think Hollywood has become more receptive to anything with 'gay' in it, as it were, Sir Ian McKellen went on record only last week to decry Hollywood's blatant homophobia. When straight authors touch upon homosexuality, they can sometimes find themselves, um, getting burned along with the rest of the, um, witches. If you catch my drift. X

at 4:21 AM Anonymous Spicy Cauldron said...

Oh, and have you considered looking to European markets for your work? As in, maybe try the UK as a prime example? I don't believe we're limited to trying out agents and publishers in our own countries. x

at 8:26 AM Blogger Mark Pettus said...

Joanne - Thank you. Imagine my surprise when I recieved a letter from an editor this week (about a book I'm planning to review) that contained a blurb by Joanne D. Kiggins. :)

Spicy - I hope I made clear that my book is not gay fiction, but I understand your concern.

My manuscript may offend an agent with an anti-gay prejudice, but an agent with that prejudice isn't going to represent me.

A full read will tell them that Transit Gloria isn't gay fiction, any more than mine is a gay life, but there are gay people in my book and in my life. Transit Gloria explores human relationships. If I frighten away the intolerant with my query, I've probably just saved both the agent and myself a lot of time.

at 1:30 PM Blogger serenity said...

Hi, Mark. Yes, your query made me want to read your book.

So? When can I? Huh?



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