Tag Archives: editors

5 Shockingly Easy Ways to Create a Successful Pitch

Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery by Diane Holmes, Chief Alchemist of Pitch University

In my other life, the one where I wear my “evil genius” costume and am secretly a billionaire, I help writers with their verbal pitches.

It’s rather addictive.



Today, I share 5 secrets that I usually guard with my life.  No, wait.  Make that your life. (Cue evil laugh.)

1. Tell us how to listen to your pitch.

Assume we’re expecting to hear a pitch for something that is not remotely like your book.  Perhaps we expect an a story about an alien love-child’s secret trip to corporate America where she falls in love with a janitor?  Yes, why not.

Now, correct our expectation.  This is your opening.


  • This is a young adult, fantasy romance about a 16-year-old high-school student who falls for an exchange student from the North Pole.
  • This is a literary mystery about two murders that happen 300 years apart but are unfolding in parallel timelines.
  • This is a non-fiction book about the inconsistencies in courtroom testimony and how to correct that during a trial.

2. Talk about people.

Most books involve people or characters (fake people) doing things. 

Coincidentally, that is how readers think about books, too. 

So even if you start out with an epic situation, setting, or high concept, tell us about the most central players and their initial actions (the big thing that really gets the plot going).


* This book is about the Gold Rush.  When Mira’s husband dies, she takes her 5 children to California to pan for gold.

* An asteroid is headed to Earth.  Arnold is a boy of 7 whose believes he’s an alien, and his missing family will be on that asteroid.  He sets out to the projected Ground Zero to make sure they’re able to find him.

*  Set across war-torn Europe during World War II, Jim searches for his younger, disabled sister, who is missing after their town is bombed.

3. Tell us only the stuff that makes up important scenes.

We listeners think everything you tell us equals “a whole lotta important scenes.” 

  • Sean, a comic book writer… (Oh, good, there will be lots of scenes where Sean is drafting a new comic book!)
  • Terry, an Admiral in the Navy… (Yes!  This is a story set in the world of the Navy, and we’ll get to see Terry fulfilling the role of Admiral!)
  • Jauny, the wife of a serial killer… (Cool!  This will be a story about a woman who is married to a serial killer… and that life.)

Imagine our confusion when we find out that…

  • Sean is on vacation in Costa Rica and never references writing comic books.
  • Terry’s story is about his ancestral home which is haunted, and the whole story is set there, not on the High Seas.
  • Jauny left her husband before he was caught 10years ago, and now she’s a chef on a cruise line, who wants to sing.

4. Take out every generic description and cliché.

Tempted to say things like “she must learn to trust again,” or “he’s handsome and sexy”?


This tells us nothing about how your book is special.  Instead it tells us that your book is like all the others.  Pass.


Instead of  this: “A jaded cop doggedly pursues a serial killer before he kills again.”

Tell us only what makes your story unique: “Tom Mallory, A rookie patrol officer, gets involved with a homicide detective obsessed with the work of a famous serial killer—a killer who might be her twin brother.”

5.  Don’t tell us the end.

In most cases, it will only sound underwhelming.

And disjointed.

And a big, fat let down.

(Or so obvious we roll our eyes.)


  • And they do find gold after an earthquake and a stampede.
  • But the asteroid misses Earth.
  • He looks for a long time and finally finds her.  She’s okay.


And notice, nowhere did I tell you the number of words your pitch needs to be or any other silly rule. 

Also, no formulas to fill in. 

And certainly no threats that you’ll fail if you don’t follow everything I said in this column.

You don’t have to be perfect.  Just be the best and most interesting you can be today.

clip_image004Diane writes two alternating columns for Freelance-Zone:Fiction-Zone: Leaps in FictionMastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.

Relationship Maintenance 101

Catherineby Catherine L. Tully

Being a writer means cultivating a variety of different contacts. You need to develop relationships with editors, other writers, and depending on what type of writing you do, companies, associations and other venues. The good news is that a writer who keeps these relationships in good repair will have a network of people to turn to for work and advice. The bad news is that all this takes time.

First of all, people can really tell when you are faking it. If you are going to drop an e-mail to a writer buddy to ask a question, don’t think they won’t remember that the last time you e-mailed you wanted something as well. Be genuine. Foster relationships with people you like and it will be a heck of a lot easier to care about what they have been up to in their writing career. Make it easy on yourself.

Editors also know if you are always coming to them with your hand out. Why not drop a line once in a while just to wish them a nice summer or share an article that reminds you of them. Stop thinking of everyone as a gateway to a paycheck and start thinking of them as a person. It matters.

Next. Relationships necessitate regular contact. Continue reading Relationship Maintenance 101

Avoiding Negative Responses To Your Book Pitch: Part 3

It’s time for the next edition of our seven-part series on pitching your book with Diane Holmes, where she helps talk you through some of the potential issues you may run across when trying to bring your work to print.

Today’s issue:

#3 “You’re putting lipstick on a bulldog.”

Translation: “You’ve gone to a lot of effort to pretty up a bad idea, make a blue-collar idea seem hoity-toity, or take a meat-and-potatoes idea and make it into caviar.   And I am not fooled.”

Reality: Your efforts to make your book’s hook, idea, or premise (the bulldog) exciting and BIG are transparent.  Agents and Editors are on to you, and it’s kinda insulting that you think they’d fall for that.

Solution:  What’s wrong with a plain ol’ bulldog?   By trying to take something and fool people into thinking it’s what it’s not, you miss out on both accounts.  At this point, the listener doesn’t want the plain bulldog or the fancy bulldog.

You must be passionate about what your book is really about.  And when you look for your book’s unique hook, look for something that is essential, captivating, and authentic.

Diane Holmes
Diane Holmes

Diane Holmes is the Founder and Chief Alchemist behind Pitch University, an online website where writers learn to pitch from the literary agents and editors (and maybe even sell their book in the process).  http://www.pitch-university.com/

And yes, she was born in Texas.

Avoiding Negative Responses To Your Book Pitch: Part 2

Today we continue our seven-part series on pitching your book with Diane Holmes, where she helps talk you through some of the potential pitfalls you may encounter when trying to bring your work to print.

Part 2 is:

#2 “Son, I think you brought a knife to a gun fight.”

Translation: “There’s a basic understanding about what we’re going to do today, but  you didn’t get the gunfighter’s memo.  Whew, kinda embarrassing.  Next time you need to bring the big (mental) guns and put away that butter knife.”

Reality: When agents and editors take pitches, they’re expecting to meet at a peer level.  They’re the industry pro; you’re the writing pro.  This means you’ve done your homework on book writing, pitching, and how this whole publishing industry-thing works.

When you haven’t become an expert on your part of the equation or don’t have a solid idea about what the other side does, it shows.

Of course, even when you’ve done this, you’re likely to feel nervous during a pitch.   That’s actually not a problem.  But not taking the time to thoroughly understand your genre, publishers’ needs, how agents work, what goes into a pitch….  That’s on you. Continue reading Avoiding Negative Responses To Your Book Pitch: Part 2

Know Your Client – Become Your Client

Amanda Smyth Connorhero

It’s always exhilarating to take on a new client. I personally enjoy taking on clients who specifically want to focus on site copy. It gives me great joy to be the voice of a company. To create the tone, the style and the narrative for a website feels powerful. I feel like the company’s success is somehow riding in my hands and flowing through my pen. But the mistake many freelancers make is in not learning to write in the client’s voice.

You can’t just describe the company. You can’t just talk about the company or your client. You have to become your client. Think how they think. Speak how they speak and represent the company as though you had worked there all of your life.

Nailing down the tone, style and narrative of a company’s voice is really tough. I’ve seen companies plow through a dozen freelancers in an effort to find just one who could carry the perfect tone and style that the client demanded.

I managed one project for client “Anonymous-Huge-Nationwide-Chain” whose list of writing style guidelines was like nothing I’ve seen before. Continue reading Know Your Client – Become Your Client

How To Start Freelancing Part 3: Where To Send Your Query or Content

how to start freelancingby Joe Wallace

Once you’ve picked out a publication or two to submit articles or other content, you need to know how the process works when it comes to actually firing off those query letters and articles.

There’s no one right way to submit content to a mag, website, or publisher. There are some best practices, though.

First, do your homework. Research the magazine to find out who the editorial staff is and how you can contact them. Don’t waste time sending queries and articles to the editor-in-chief of a big publication, look for a departmental editor instead. On small publications the editor-in-chief may well be the right person. It all depends…

Sometimes all you have to do is call the magazine and ask who you should send a freelance article query to, but sometimes you might have to do some detective work if you can’t get the help you need by phone or by looking at the masthead of the publication or the About Us section of the website.

Here’s a clue to finding the right editor. If you can’t get a specific name, pick an email address that IS available and write a quick e-mail asking for some help in the right direction. Usually e-mail addresses for people far lower on the the magazine’s staff are listed–use one of them but remember that you’re not sending your actual query or work to them–just requesting information.

Here’s my secret for getting the right names and e-mail addresses. You will often find more useful information in the ABOUT US section of a publication’s website. CONTACT US sections aren’t as useful in my experience. Go to ABOUT US first. Many list the editors, e-mail addresses and other crucial information. Continue reading How To Start Freelancing Part 3: Where To Send Your Query or Content