Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More queries and pitches and blurbs, OH MY!!!

February 12, 2007

Dear Ms. Werksman,

I am a new author seeking publication of my erotic romance novel, THE RESCUE, a futuristic story of 72,000 words. The heroine, Jacinth (Jack) Rutland, is a tough, independent space trader in search of her kidnapped sister, Ranata. To aid her on her quest, she buys Carkdacund (Cat) Tshevnoe, a slave who is one of the last of a race of feline humanoids with some rather remarkable sexual traits. Their quest takes them to a planet where all women are enslaved, and where Cat must pose as Jack's master. Along the way, they encounter strange aliens, harrowing adventures, joy and laughter, a truly unique romance, and sex beyond your wildest dreams.

This is one of fifteen novels that I have completed to date, and I am currently working on a prequel to this story.

Enclosed are a synopsis, the first four chapters and a SASE. I look forward to hearing from you.


That was my query letter for The Rescue, which later became The Cat Star Chronicles: Slave. Don't know if it's any good or not, but Deb did say there was something about it that made her want to keep reading. Interestingly enough, there was a mistake in the version I sent to her, and though I don't recommend putting one in on purpose, I guess it just goes to show you that even a small error won't completely destroy your chances.

The funny thing is, I didn't put a whole lot of effort into writing that letter. I'd sweated bullets over so many of them that I'd sent to agents and other publishers, only to be rejected, that when I saw in RWR that Sourcebooks was a newly approved publisher of romances and that they were taking erotics and paranormals, I thought, what the hell, I'll send them The Rescue. It was too short, but Deb liked it enough to accept it when I rewrote and resubmitted it.

I've never pitched a book to anyone in person, and even over the phone my explanations of other books just fall apart. I do better when I can write it down and and then edit it to death before anyone sees it. If I were to pitch something in person, I'd probably have to read it off an index card, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that.

I may have never pitched a book, but I have written some blurbs, and the writing style is very different from writing a book. You have to use superlatives, and if you're as shy about self-promotion as I am, that won't come easily for you. Though I've never tried it, it might be best to think of it as a book someone else wrote and you're the agent trying to sell it.

It takes a lot of courage to submit a book and for those of you entering this contest, it will take even more courage because it's out here on the Internet where anyone can see it and comment on it. Even so, you have very little to lose and everything to gain by entering, and I wish each of you the best of luck. Something tells me the competition will be fierce!

15 comments:

  1. Cheryl, no you're not alone! I always wind up sounding like Porky Pig when I try to describe my books off the cuff and in person. Let me edit that sucker and put it on paper, though, and I do just fine!

    I LOVE this description of Slave. Totally not surprised it caught Deb's eye!

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  2. Yep, people look at me like I'm nuts when I try to explain some of them. Of course, there are a few that just sound weird when try to sum up the contents. When you read the book it makes sense, but the hook just isn't something you can distill down to two sentences. Guess that's why I haven't sold those....

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  3. I can see what Deb meant that something about your query made her want to keep reading. Curious, I looked at the "bones" of the hook. (below) I count sixty-six words and I'll bet a very little tweaking would get it down to fifty.

    Great demonstration of what a few words can do! I hope all our contestants are taking note.

    ****
    Jacinth is a tough, independent space trader in search of her kidnapped sister, Ranata. To aid her on her quest, she buys a slave who is one of the last of a race of feline humanoids with some rather remarkable sexual traits. Their quest takes them to a planet where all women are enslaved, and where Cat must pose as Jack's master.

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  4. LOL! Luckily I wasn't counting the words, MM! I would have driven myself nuts! I just hope we don't drive our contestants to drink!

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  5. Mary Margaret,

    The bones you picked out are right on, but if you don't mind a bit of tweaking, Jack and Cat in the last line sound like too much like male then female, which is not as it is, so it might be confusing.

    I would suggest dropping the sister's name in favor of making that last line clear by keeping the name Jacynth, perhaps "where Jacynth must trust Cat enough to pose as his slave", which I think gets to the heart of the conflict between them.

    To reduce the number of words, it is often best to get rid of as many is's and of's as you can. eg first sentence could read.

    Tough independent space trader Jacynth, in search of her kidnapped sister, buys a male slave to aid her quest. One of the last of a race of feline humanoids Cat has remarkable sexual traits. Arriving on another planet Jacynth must decide whether to trust Cat and pose as his slave. (50)


    Okay, so I'm procrastinating on my revisions, but had to join in the fun. Not that this is at all vital because you sold the book! and I read it. And it was great! lol.

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  6. Thanks, Michele!
    Hey, the idea here is to INSTRUCT our contestants as well as each other, so rip away!
    Have fun on your revisions. I finished Fugitive last night and sent it off just now. Not sure whether to laugh, cry, or get smashed....

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  7. Cheryl Brooks said..."I just hope we don't drive our contestants to drink!" I will admit to several glasses of wine...lolol!

    I'm glad I stopped by this morning to read the blog. It was fun to see query styled idea and then watch it morph into a 50 word "pitch".

    I'm the opposite, I can pitch most anything face to face--if I know my material. But, I think the practice of writing it down helped me to distill the bones. Watching you guys do it here sharpened my eye. I practiced with a couple books I've read recently--blurb to pitch line. It's much easier to do it with another's work, then your own, lolol!

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  8. Hi Sia,
    I agree wholeheartedly that it would be easier to do this with someone else's book. I mean, as the author, it took me 90,000 words to tell that story, and now you only want fifty?????

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  9. Can I just say it is so interesting to find out where everyone started--reading pitches, etc. Very cool!

    Thanks for sharing!!!

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  10. Hi Danielle!
    What I thought was most interesting was the date on that letter--almost exactly two years ago. Seems like a lot longer than that, and I'll have to say, it's been quite a ride!

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  11. What a great 'lesson' on pitching/queries.

    I'm just glad I didn't have to pitch Romeo, Romeo to Deb. Although I don't seem to have a problem pitching other books to her now, I'm pretty sure it's because I know her. I am the world's worst when it comes to pitching to anyone else. I think this contest is so much better than a face to face pitch. You can delete all the stuttering. (grin)

    Good luck everyone!

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  12. Cheryl Brooks said... "as the author, it took me 90,000 words to tell that story, and now you only want fifty?????"

    Exactly, Cheryl, lolol! I'm still at a loss when someone asks me what any of my books are about. I mean, of course I KNOW what they are about but condensing it so their eyes don't glaze over you end up like Kendra said, "sounding like Porky Pig when I try to describe my books of the cuff." So now, I'm doing a bit of blurb practice so I can do it and sound like I have SOME intelligence, lolol!

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  13. Hi Robin!
    I can't imagine doing one of those quickie face to face pitches to an agent at RWA. Just the thought of it makes me feel a little sick, but I think the DH wants me to try it. Arrrgghhh!

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  14. Sia,
    I guess practice is all it really takes. Often, I'm completely unprepared when someone asks me what I write about. Then I sound like, yeah, Porky Pig....

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  15. Michele,

    Thanks for taking the "pitch" which I extracted almost word-for-word from Cheryl's query, and distilling it the rest of the way--down to fifty words.

    I hope our contestants are getting as much as I am from this exchange re:pitching.

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