Episode 18: The Pitch and Query Show

On November 10, 2018 we presented a follow-up episode from the prior week’s Writing Workshop of South Carolina by focusing on the pitch and query activities. Here are the show notes:


Dr. Kasie Whitener, Clemson Road Creative, fiction writer

Rex Hurst, fiction writer and English instructor

Mary Sturgill, non-fiction storyteller

Theme for the day

The pitch and query episode


  • Who we are and why we’re here; NaNoWriMo check in
  • The topic for the week: pitch and query
  • Book discussion — currently reading and its analysis through the lens of the topic
  • Craft book discussion — The Fire in Fiction
Photo by Tim Gouw on Pexels.com

Segment 1

The difference between a pitch and a query – from The Nelson Agency

  • A query is a professional business letter that introduces your work to an agent or editor. These days, this letter is sent by email rather than snail mail. In the query letter, you will have something called a pitch paragraph. The query letter will also contain an introduction and the author’s bio or credentials. It will be one-page long.
  • A pitch is the verbal delivery of the main pitch paragraph from your query letter. In other words, you need to have a quick way to sum up the opening plot catalyst of your novel in a sentence or two while talking to someone. That way your audience gets a clear and immediate gist of what your novel is about.

When do you need a pitch?

When the recipient is receiving pitches, when you have a short period of time, when someone is already interested in YOU and possibly your story.

When do you need a query?

When you don’t know if they’re receiving pitches, when you have a little longer — like an email cycle — to get it right, when that someone might not be THE someone, but you’d like to ask them to be interested.

Try this article for some warm-up activities you can do to get people interested in your pitch.

Twitter takes on pitching

There’s a decent history of writers connecting with agents and publishers through Twitter but now it seems Twitter has lit up with opportunities for writers to avoid the digital (email) slush pile and just be one of the many ignored pitches on Twitter instead.

This article talks about all the hashtags or conversations you can get into on Twitter to promote your work to agents and publishers.

What is a pitch? Per Writer’s Digest (of course)

  1. Concisely describes what the book is about
  2. Conveys the book’s age category and genre
  3. Stands out among hundreds of other pitches
  4. Demonstrates proficiency at writing and pitching

Elements of a good pitch:

Per this article you should start with your query and shrink it.

This one says to button down the essentials and choose your words wisely

Another link about preparing for a twitter pitch event

This link claims to know the best pitch parties. Check them out and let us know.

Are pitches a chance to show off your vocabulary? How much jargon or references can you get away with?

Segment 2

Tons of advice on querying — most frustrating? It’s all per recipient. UGH

Some advice from our local Hub City Press Meg Reid and Crazy Horse Literary Journal out of college of Charleston, Jonathan Bohr Heinan:

  • Tell us why you wrote what you wrote — why are you uniquely qualified to tell THIS story
  • Tell us how your book fits into the marketplace — demonstrate you have some knowledge of the marketplace and an understanding that book selling is an industry, a business
  • Tell us about similar books that we may have read, that have come out recently, or that offer a good compare/contrast with yours

So the query letter is about context? It’s about how you are contributing to the body of literature with your work? Why the agent or publisher will want to represent your book?

NY Book Editors gives us this “How to write a darn good query” article suggesting we follow a formula:

  • Hook the agent
  • Summarize the story
  • Add your writing-relevant bio


  • Use short paragraphs and sentences;
  • use a similar tone to your narrative;
  • follow submission guidelines

Elements of a good query

In 7 Steps? Sure, bloggers love lists:

Writing an Effective Query Letter

  1. Capture the agent’s attention with your greeting
  2. Craft an irresistible hook
  3. Write a tantalizing synopsis
  4. Reveal your credentials and your publishing savvy
  5. Personalize the letter for each agent
  6. Proofread everything you’ve written

Segment 3

Book Discussion

Fire in Fiction — so this book doesn’t deal with publishing at all; it’s entirely about writing a good book. But its author is the owner of the Donald Maass Literary Agency so if you plan to query them, it couldn’t hurt to have read this book.

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