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How to Write Queries, Synopsis and Proposals

Sometimes being an editor at a writers' conference must be like being the fox at a fox hunt. Sometimes being an editor at a writers' conference must be like being the fox at a fox hunt.

Now remember that at conventions – or at least it used to be this way – editors can feel very much like they’re surrounded by people wishing to talk to them about their new books.  The one thing you don’t want to do is appear like you’re crowding them or pushing them into a corner, or in any other way forcing yourself to their attention.  But you do want an opportunity to talk to them.  What to do, what to do?

Some conventions/workshops (more the workshops) allow you to pay for the privilege of a few minutes with an editor or agent.  I don’t know how effective this is. The only time I did it, the proposal was requested, but I got back a standard rejection saying the agent didn’t represent that genre, so I got the impression the whole thing was a bit of a scam.  On the other hand, I have friends who have managed to sell from such sessions, so perhaps I just didn’t have any luck.

Another way to get to pitch is to attend enough conferences and be perfectly polite and good natured around the editor in question, until they get comfortable with you.  Then, it is quite likely – this has happened to me twice – that the editor will give you an opportunity to pitch a story idea at them.  The standard opening for this is “So, what are you working on now?”

These “pitches” that are solicited in that way are the briefest form of summary for your story. They’re often called “elevator pitches” because they sometimes happen in elevators.  Imagine you enter the elevator on the eleventh floor, the publisher asks you “So, what are you working on?” and you have to the lobby to pitch.

It helps to imagine it this way, because you don’t want to go on and on and on, and make the editor’s eyes glaze.

Ways not to start a pitch “Well, you know, there’s this thing with the girl.” Or “This woman, she’s crying and he says—”

I’ve heard newbie writers start pitches in just that way, and I could see the editor’s eyes glaze over.  No, you want to have your pitch ready, and focused.  The initial pitch should be a line or two and make reference to movies (because you can be fairly sure that the publisher/editor will have seen a popular movie) or a classical book.  Modern works might or might not have been read by the publisher.