1. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Difference between Pitch, Query, Synopsis and other terms :(

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Mckk, Jul 20, 2012.

    I'm getting awfully confused so any clarification would be really really appreciated!

    And exactly WHICH of these do you need when you query an agent!? Of course you'll need the query (which I understand to be a combination of the hook and pitch in one letter, sandwiched in the middle of an author introduction to the MS and author's credentials) - or is this understanding wrong? When do you need a pitch? And at which stage do you submit a synopsis - with the query, or only afterwards upon request for examples of your writing?

    Please excuse the poor examples - I banged them out as I typed this post and they're non-existent stories anyway.

    Here's my understanding of these terms:

    Hook/Logline (same thing?) - it is a short sentence that should "hook" the reader or agent, for example:

    - "When Tom came back from the dead, he realises that none of his friends or family were who they claimed to be."
    - "What would you do if you had the chance to live again?"

    Pitch - 2-3 line "blurb" that acts much the same as a hook. How detailed should this be? For example:

    - "Anya is caught in a web of lies bigger than her mind could comprehend and if she wants to get out alive she will have to use all her strength, wit and resources to find the ancient scroll before the Dark Lords of Harban find it. Staking it all on one mysterious man who claims to be on her side, she must journey to the end of the world in the hope of finding the next clue to the scroll. The cost, however, is much dearer than she knew, and when she gets to the end there will be no turning back."

    Query - acts much the same as a blurb. I know consensus here varies - some say this should be the summary and others say it should be like a blurb - all online examples point to the blurb version and I am inclined to think the summary should be a synopsis, not the query - is this correct or at least acceptable, even if there's no one-rule-fits-all standard? I also know that consensus vary on whether one should include the ending of the book - I personally wish to go for a cliffhanger rather than the ending. So far I have not seen a query example that spells out the ending either online.

    The query body should be short - 3 paragraphs usually. There should be the hook. Brief intro to the MS - genre, word count, possibly any potential audience or comparable titles, though I myself will not be using comparable titles. 1-2 paragraphs on what the MS is about (this would sound much like the pitch). With a final paragraph being author's credentials.

    Synopsis - summary of the entire MS including all details, who's who and what's what, the specific milestones in chronological order, to finish with the ending so that the agent knows exactly how it ends.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...it's basically on target, except for the 'pitch' which in a query letter would be a 'summary' or 'mini-synopsis'...

    ...only when you're going to attend a 'pitchfest' where you'll be called on to pitch your novel to an agent, in person...

    ...only when it's requested on the basis of your query, or pitch... and you'd only be asked to submit 'samples of your writing' if you're applying for a writing job... if you're hoping to snag an agent or a publisher for your book, you submit either the first 3 chapters [usually] or the full ms, when it's requested... some will ask for the first 50 pages... you must follow the submission guidelines of each agent/publisher you're querying...

    ...it's called a logline in the film industry... some novelists now use the term interchangably, with 'hook'

    ...for screenwriters, it should be 25 words or less that present the premise of the film in a compelling manner... your example for a novel is flawed in that it must be in simple declarative present tense and should not include a question...

    ...if you meant this for a verbal pitch, it's too wordy, doesn't need to include names... more important is to make it clear what the mc is, not her name... is she a child?... a teenager?... a woman?... from where, in what time/age, what kind of person?... what lies?... who tells them and why?... need to be more specific about the most important plot elements w/o going into too much irrelevant detail...
    ...not at all... a query is a business letter aimed at getting an agent or publisher to want to read your ms and consider taking it on...

    ...it should contain a summary, as the middle of 3 paragraphs... and yes, a summary is a brief synopsis... but you seem to be using the term 'query' incorrectly... it only applies to the letter that you send to agents or publishers, asking them to consider your work... nothing else... as for what to include, you must follow each agent's/publisher's submission guidelines to the letter, regardless of what tips you may find on the internet, not all of which will agree with each other...

    ...see above re guidelines... and do not include anything about yourself unless you have some relevant paid credits, or some standing in an area of expertise that is dealt with in the book...

    ...this can be anywhere from a single page, to 10... be sure to find out what is wanted... it's good to have both a short [1-2 page] and a medium [3-5 page] one ready to send, if requested...
     
  3. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mammamaia is right on target. Solid advice and info.
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I was hoping you'd reply mamma - thanks for the detailed clarification! Yeh I got into the habit of using "query" to also mean the summary of the MS part, but you're right it's a misuse.

    I have another question - I've not published any novels, but I held the title "assistant editor" for a website and did "publish" articles about student life etc (it was a company that provided student discounts etc) - my articles are published in the right sense of the word I think. I wrote them and they were live on their site and it's a national website, though they've since been taken down because of the new image/direction the company's taking. Would I want to mention that in my author's credentials? And should I mention voluntary editing jobs I did at university - although this is much more amateurish - would its mention make me seem as such?

    And I say held the title because in my job I actually didn't do much editing at all. The business back then was at its beginning stages and there wasn't even an editor (so it's strange to have an assistant editor really) and I wasn't a natural born editor longing for contacts and networking and the owner eventually realised he couldn't just expect me to come up with major business strategy plans for web content and finally hired an editor. Then I left because less and less of my work was related to writing at all.

    Also, is it a good idea to state "this is my first novel"? I'd have thought that is actually a red flag for the agent to "run away now and throw it in the slush pile!"

    The pitch is meant to be written, not a verbal pitch - but I wasn't sure how much detail should be included and I've been getting feedback that it needs to be much more detailed etc, so thank you for confirming that!
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If it's not related your novel, then it shouldn't be included. Writing articles published on a website won't advance your cause. Short stories published in the same genre, might, especially if they're with magazines that the editors would recognize. If it's a small, obscure ezine, especially one that didn't pay, it's not going to povide any benefit.

    It is not necessary to say it's your first novel. They could probably draw that conclusion, but it, like being an 'assistant editor' or articles published on a defunct website, will only take up space and words you could better spend related to your work. Filler is just that, filler.

    If it's nonfiction, and you have experience related the topic, or even the novel, it might help. A history professor and/or a retired Lt. Colonel/Korean War Vet writing about the Korean War/Conflict, or a retired police detective writing a police procedural type murder mystery, won't hurt.

    They won't run away and throw it in the slush pile, especially since that's likely where your query/submission package came from. A well-written letter, one that catches their interest (agent/editor) and they think will catch the interest of readers, will garner interest and a request for more, possibly including the full mansucript. If not, a rejection letter will be the result.
     
  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Oh the ezine did pay and the company definitely not defunct - but I get your point :) Unfortunately it's a fantasy novel so there's no much experience to be had, since I've never died and travelled to the Underworld or wielded strange supernatural powers :D I think even a little bit of lying in the experience section beyond being published would be spotted for sure there!

    It's got religious undertone - but I've been advised NOT to mention that unless I'm submitting to a religious fiction publisher/agent. I don't want to fall into the niche market of religious fiction - I just want to be in the normal fantasy market.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    terry's advice is sound...

    i agree that paid credits for non-fiction articles won't help sell your fantasy novel... and it's usually against your best interests to make a point of admitting it's your first novel...

    you're right to avoid risking the religious label being applied...
     

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