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Before You Send that Query…

I’m in the thick of querying my latest manuscript, so I thought I’d do a quick post on all the knowledge I’ve gained through my 200+ queries and rejections!  It’s a little something I like to call:

Jenna P’s Top Five Truths of Querying

1. Don’t query too soon

It’s SO tempting to hit that send button the minute you type THE END, but don’t.  Let it sit for a couple of weeks.  Wait for the feedback.  Use that time to create a list of folks you want to query when the time is right.  You can spend days on just filtering through the database of agents.  Determine how many you’ll send out in a batch and what those batches will be.  Gather it all into a spreadsheet and start googling, but don’t hit send.  Not yet.

I’m impatient.  I know it, so there’s no point in lying about it.  I can’t tell you the number of opportunities I probably blew by querying too soon, so trust someone who’s been there.  Give it time.

2.  Choose your strategy

Every writer has an opinion on what works best.  Some like the “spaghetti on the wall” approach, querying everyone under the sun in hopes something will stick.  Some are more selective with who they query, targeting only those they feel would fit them best.

I started out with the spaghetti method, but have since moved to the selective method.  It’s really just a matter of experience.  The longer you follow someone on Twitter, the more you understand their interests and if you’d fit well together.  The more writers you meet, the more you hear about this agent or that agent and if they’re the kind of person you want a lasting relationship with.

The list can also narrow as you discover who you are as a writer.  Do you write literary or commercial?  Women’s Fiction or Romance?  Paranormal or Magical Realism?  It seems like a no brainer, but all these terms can be confusing to a new writer.

Querying, if you’re doing it correctly, can take up a lot of your writing time.  And being rejected over and over again can mess with the mojo of even the thickest skinned writers.  Why not save it for those agents and editors you have the best chance with?

3.  One size doesn’t fit all

There is not a query template out there that will satisfy every agent and editor’s preferences on query format, so don’t waste your time or money trying to find one.  Some like an introductory paragraph, others want the hook immediately after the salutation.  Some say three sentences, others say seven.  Some want you to compare yourself to other authors, some think that’s pretentious.

Personally, I like a quick couple sentences before I jump into the meat.  It’s kinda like kissing a guy without introducing yourself to do it the other way.  But remember….it’s not about you.  It’s about what the agents and editors like to see.  If you can’t find anything about their preference, then do it the way you feel most comfortable.

Of course, there are a few items you should ALWAYS include in a query, and they are:  Title, genre, and word count.  I have never submitted a query that didn’t include these.


In today’s internet and social media world, there is no excuse for not doing your homework.  Twitter, Facebook, blogs, websites, Writer’s Digest, Publisher’s Marketplace, AgentQuery, QueryTracker – agent and editor likes and dislikes are all over them!  Follow them, google them, read every blog they’ve posted and guest posted on.  It won’t guarantee a request, but it will get you one step closer.  And for the love of God, people…


Repeat after me:  No matter how amazing my mother said my manuscript is, I am probably NOT the exception to the rule.  Guidelines apply to EVERYONE.  You might just be the next Stephen King, but no one is going to have a chance to discover it if you send three chapters instead of the requested five pages, or call daily at 10am to check on the status of your query.  Do your research, follow the guidelines, and pay your dues.

There you have it.  They may not help you write that perfect hook, but I hope they give you a better chance in having that perfect hook read by the agent of your dreams!

Happy Querying!

Jenna P.


Special Bulletin: #PitchMadness!



Twitter + Writers = True Love, or as the priest in The Princess Bride would say, ‘twoo luuuuve.’ It’s how I get all my good gossip and news on awesome upcoming events. *greedily rubs hands together and laughs evilly*

Enjoyed Pitch Wars? Missed out? No fear! A new fun contest begins March 1st. More details are upcoming, but you can find the contest’s schedule and entry form on the fab Brenda Drake’s blog. The one stipulation is that you must have a completed manuscript to enter.

Now go get those entries ready or I’ll be giving people the stink eye!

princess bride gif

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Dar’s News From The Front Lines: It’s… #PitchWars!

*stands to attention* Sgt. Dar reporting for debriefing, SIR!

(…Or would I be a Private First Class? Maybe a Specialist? …I’m not sure if Sergeant is the appropriate ranking for me on this blog. I don’t do nearly enough work and- blog post? What blog post? Oh. Blog post. Right.)

“We’re extremely excited to announce an upcoming event where agented authors, industry interns, and editors team up with aspiring writers to shine up their manuscripts and pitches to present to some awesome agents.

Here’s the deets…
·        The teams will consist of 1 agented author or industry intern or editor (coaches) and 1 aspiring author.
·        November 26: The coaches (listed on the linky below) will post on their blogs what genre/category they want to coach. They’ll be very specific genres. Aspiring writers will hop around and decide which coaches best fit their manuscripts.
·        December 5: Aspiring writers will submit 3 “applications” to their top choices for coaches to the contest email ( during the allotted times (8AM to 8PM EST). That means, participants will send three separate emails to the contest email addressing each with one of their three top choices for coach…”

There’s more! Read full details on Brenda Drake’s blog post.

With the popularity of second-gen talent shows like The Voice and X Factor (feel like I must mention more than one, even though Xtina tops crazy-phace Brit Brit, sorry) it’s easy to see where the inspiration for this awesome event came from and the wild success in its future. Or the wild success I’m hoping it has and helping it out by spreading the word. I know so many talented, hard-working writers (cough cough great minds cough cough) who are still unagented.

While there are many great YA authors involved, the event is open to all ages and all genres. The announcement for what mentors are looking for is happening on November 26th, but they’ve been giving hints on the #pitchwars hashtag. Stalking the hashtag is the best way to get up to date information and meet all the cool peeps involved.

[Warning: Dar’s Soapbox Alert] For those reluctant to get involved with the writer community on Twitter… Need any more convincing than this event? Twitter is an amazing tool for writers, breaking down barriers and new ground in strides. Everyone needs to find what works for them, but I’m a fan of Twitter and its versatility.

Entering also gives you a chance to interact with new writers outside of your usual circle. Writers who know people who know more people who know even more people. In this industry (and this applies outside of publishing as well) networking is crucial to a successful, healthy career.

By saying that, I do not mean using people for all you can get. When I meet someone and develop a relationship with them, when we are like-minded and get along really well, I want to help them and put resources in their hands to help them succeed. This attitude, hopefully, doesn’t end with personal success.

“My idea of good company…is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.’
‘You are mistaken,’ said he gently, ‘that is not good company, that is the best.” – Jane Austen, Persuasion

Quoting Jane Austen was totally necessary. Totes. [/end Dar’s Soapbox]

For easy stalking, I mean, following on the #PitchWars updates, check out the hashtag or subscribe to my handy Twitter list of all the #PitchWars mentors.

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Pitch Room Propriety

We’ve covered all the conference How To’s and To Do’s – now it’s time to laugh and learn, because even I can’t make this junk up.

You know the Pitch Prep Area, right? The room, hall, or lounge where dozens of writers gather just before pitching their novel(s) to the editor and/or agent of their dreams?  Yeah, that area. It’s an important area. Any writer who’s been in it will tell you it’s like the green room before you go on stage. The following is a list of things NOT to do in the pitch prep area. Unfortunately, I didn’t make these up. Like the “Do not use hair dryer in the shower” warning tag on your ConAir, someone had to actually do these things to make it on this list. That whole adage about life being stranger than fiction? Never more true…

  1. Do Not not show up for your appointment without any notification. We all have to listen to “Susie Q. Barstool? Bueller?  Bueller?” being called out over and over before someone snags your missed appointment at the last minute and rushes to the woefully vacant chair in a panic.  Let the pitch coordinator know ahead of schedule that you won’t be attending your appointment and she or he will fill your slot well ahead of Go time.
  2. Unless a pitchee is your good friend from church and you both discussed prayer time prior to meeting in the pitch room, Do Not go up to an acquaintance or total stranger and proceed to pray for them right before they pitch. I’m talking Laying on of Hands and all. You don’t know them, their religious affiliation if any, or how much you are freaking them out.  Just don’t do it. Silent prayer is awesome.  So is meditation.
  3. Do Not ask a total stranger about her pitch, moments before she’s about to go in, and then deconstruct it for her, tell her everything that is wrong with it, and what she really ought to say.  Number one: You are not her buddy or crit partner – you’re a stranger. Number two: She’s about to go in right now!
  4. Do Not jabber too loudly. I’m guilty of this so it’s going on the list. Lots of people chatter to stay cool. That’s okay; let’s just use our indoor voice (myself included). Luckily I have my girlz to do the hand pat if my volume dial goes up too far.
  5. Do Not go up to a pitchee, right before she’s about to pitch, and ask about her sick/deceased/recently injured family member, friend, pet, co-worker, or acquaintance. In fact, don’t mention death, disease, or dismemberment at all! Pitchee is trying to focus and rock that pitch. All of the former topics are highly emotional and distressing. Avoid them. If you don’t, people won’t like you. I promise!

And that’s it. *steps off soapbox* Does anybody have one to add? We’d love to hear it. We can laugh, but we also learn in the off chance we’ve committed a pitch prep room faux pas.

I wish everyone the best of luck pitching and dozens of contracts in the future; just don’t be that writer. =)



The Anti-Pitch!

With Moonlight and Magnolias Writers’ Conference next week, pitching has been a major topic of conversation. Here on Bad Girlz Write and on Twitter, I’ve heard a lot of pitch chat. But, today I want to talk about the anti-pitch. Yeah, I just made up that term, but it works.

The anti-pitch is the art of selling yourself to an editor or agent outside of a pitch appointment.

This time last year I was flipping through my note cards, excessively preparing for pitch appointments. It was all I could think about. I could say my pitch in my sleep. My family quizzed me on my manuscript and heckled me while I pitched it to them. But in hindsight, I think I was too prepared. I pitched it the same way to every agent, never reading the situation or the person. That is, until I got to my last pitch of the day…

I was beyond tired. I’d lost my nervousness from earlier in the morning out of sheer exhaustion and I simply talked about my story. When asked where I wanted to be in 5 years, (and yes, I cringed over this later) I said I wanted to be sold just down the grocery store isle from the peanut butter. This is a true statement, but certainly not rehearsed and not what I had in my notes. It was honest. It was a glimpse into who I am as a writer and as a person. The agent asked for a partial at the end of the pitch session, even though I was pretty sure this was simply to get rid of me and my peanut butter dreams. *grins* The following day, at the Maggies awards dinner, I happened to sit at the table with that same agent. Over dinner, everyone at the table talked about college football, we laughed about an “acquired” traffic cone, how we fan girl one another for fun and then we all tore up the dance floor together. Now, a year later, she’s my agent.

My point is this: agents and editors are people too. They have hobbies, interests, families and goals. This is someone you will work with for a very long time and not only on one manuscript. So, pitch your story, then let it go and have a good time. Who knows, you might end up friends with your dream agent or editor.

Here are a few guidelines for the anti-pitch:

Don’t make every conversation about your characters and your plot outside of your pitch appointment or even within it. Your discussions outside of your pitch session should be about you and the agent or editor as individuals and any common ground you may have with one another. If you see an agent or editor at the hotel bar, say hello. Sometimes sharing a drink with someone and chatting about the conference will get you farther than pitching your manuscript. This happened with one of the bad girlz last year, in fact. It went something like this, “I know I didn’t pitch to you, but you’re cool as hell. Can I send you my first 3 chapters?” And the answer? Sure!

Don’t follow an agent into the bathroom. We’ve all heard these stories and you don’t want to be the one who breaks this rule. But, if there’s a long line for the ladies and you’re standing beside Agent X, make a joke about it. If your dream editor is beside you at the sinks touching up her makeup and she has on a killer lipstick shade, tell her so. Everyone likes a compliment. And if you see Editor X standing alone at a function, for goodness sakes go strike up a conversation. No one wants to stand off to the side feeling awkward, even your dream editor.

And finally, if you do pitch and get a request, send it! All of the jokes and drinks in the world don’t matter if you neglect to send in your submission. At the end of the day it is all about your writing, but not during the conference. While you’re there, just have fun with it!

Are you going to M&M? What’s your pitching plan?

XX – E. Michels


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