On Query Letters, Pitching Events and Generally Freaking the F#%k Out


Last weekend, I went to a pitching event at the university where I work. It’s touted as the “American Idol for Books.” Terrified at the idea of pitching itself and then getting critiqued on my efforts, let alone doing in front of a room full of people, I decided it was better to pull a Statler and Waldorf and sit on the sidelines with my husband.

What ended up happening truly surprised me. Instead of the cringe-worthy even I thought I would be watching, I was incredibly impressed with the honest and overwhelmingly positive feedback the coaches gave. I took notes on pitches, quickly picking up on what was good and what was bad, and walked away from the afternoon wishing I’d gotten up there myself.

It really lit a fire under my ass to get started. In the last week, I’ve read sample pitches, query letters and advice blogs, as well as Submission FAQ’s for the publishing houses I’d like to submit to. I’m overwhelmed. No, I’m not just overwhelmed. I’m freaking the f#%k out. Everyone seems to want something different: a query letter. A query letter with a summary (which I haven’t written yet.) Both of those with a synopsis (also, not written yet). Some seem to give the impression that my query letter will self-destruct upon opening if I word even one thing incorrectly.

It’s enough to give me an ulcer.

After all that, and attending my local R.W.A. meeting where nearly everyone there has either already submitted something, won an award, been published, or is on track to doing so, it’s made the accomplishments of completing my novella, and being *thisclose* to finishing my novel, seem very, very small. It’s also occurred to me just how much work I still have to do.

My friend Jeanette Grey recently wrote a post on the Bad Girlz Write blog about “Giving Birth to a Book.” Her words on the gestational process:

“It will take longer than nine months. It will hurt. And no one will give you an epidural.”

That alone is enough for me to call Turpentine and run away. (And kudos to you if you know what that reference is from.) Maybe it’s because I’ve decided to work on this on Tax Day, and I’m absorbing some kind of national melt-down that’s probably happening across America right now. Maybe it’s because as I write this, I’m sitting here waiting to find out if I have to go to the nastiest part of town for jury duty in a few hours. It’s not the ideal time to be working on the very thing that will hopefully get my words off my computer and into the hands of an editor, agent or publisher.

I know myself well enough to know when it’s time to pull a Scarlett O’Hara and think about this another day. And I will, because I want this. I want someone out there to read my characters and love them as much as I do. And I know that I’m just going to have to endure some pain and tears in order to get there, hopefully with no muppets heckling me on the sidelines.

In the meanwhile, next month I get to be a Bad Girl for a day. Keep a look out on their site for my guest post. And if you have any words of wisdom for the querying process, hit me up. I’m all ears.


  1. My main advice: breathe. It’s definitely overwhelming in the beginning stages. QueryShark and AbsoluteWrite are awesome resources for helping you craft a kickass query letter. Also, a good tidbit I recently learned is to have someone who’s never read your book, read your query. They can let you know how your story comes across.

    Good luck, and welcome to the query trenches! 😉

  2. I promise to be that Muppet for you, if you will be one for me. I choose Fozzi. Who will you be? 🙂 We can discuss it over our next lunch at Panera.

    On a serious note, please know that you are not alone in this journey. You are not the only one scrabbling in the dark. Keep working, keep plugging away. You can do this. You have done this. Your novella is done. 5 chapters….you can do it! If you need a reader, send me some. If you need an ear to bend, call me. If I can do this, you certainly can!

    Now get back to work.

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