Query & Pitch Tip: DETAILS

Photo credit: jamelah on Flickr
So while I no longer enter pitch contests and things of the like, I do enjoy browsing through them when I have the free time. And oftentimes, when I do, I’m reminded of a very important tip some very wise writers and publishing people have shared regarding your pitch. 

Thou shalt include specific details.

Details are ridiculously important when you write a pitch, whether it’s a query-length pitch, or a Twitter-length pitch. Why? Because without them, your story starts to sound really general and, I hate to say it, unremarkable.

The thing is, without details specific to your novel, we don’t know what makes your manuscript stand out from the rest. We don’t know what’s unique to your story, what makes your book special—and if you want to snag some interest in your manuscript, you need to make that unequivocally clear.

Here are two examples of the difference between a generalized summary and a detailed one.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass
Generalized summary: An eighteen-year-old fights for her freedom in a competition that will choose a new royal mercenary. 
The actual summary: “After she has served a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, Crown Prince Dorian offers eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien her freedom on the condition that she act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.”  
I bolded some of the parts that are most specific to the novel—the details that really make the second (and actual) summary stand out from the generalized version. The details here really give us a sense of the world in Throne of Glass as well as hinting at some of the underlying tension between the crown prince and our protagonist. 
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Generalized summary: Worried that she will Turn after surviving a vampire attack, seventeen-year-old Tana heads to a quarantine zone to protect people from herself.  
Actual summary: “When seventeen-year-old Tana wakes up following a party in the aftermath of a violent vampire attack, she travels to Coldtown, a quarantined Massachusetts city full of vampires, with her ex-boyfriend and a mysterious vampire boy in tow.” 
The details here tell us more about the actual attack, give us a great sense of the world that Tana lives in and hints as massive tension between Tana, her ex, and this mysterious vampire boy. 
I could go on, but I think these two really illustrate my point.

Your query or pitch shouldn’t just summarize your book—it should summarize it in a way that highlights what makes it unique, because it’s those unique points that’ll really grab someone’s attention when looking through a flood of pitches.

Do you have details specific to your manuscript in your pitch or query?

Twitter-sized bites: 
“Your query or pitch shouldn’t JUST summarize your book…” (Click to tweet)  
Do you have details specific to your MS in your pitch? Writer @Ava_Jae discusses why it’s so vital. (Click to tweet)


Margarita Morris said...

Good advice - I will try and follow it when I write my own book blurb in a couple of weeks!

Ava Jae said...

Thanks, Margarita! Good luck with your blurb-writing!

Robin Red said...

Bookmarking for later!

Ava Jae said...

Woohoo! :)

Hannah Hunt said...

This is a great post, Ava. For me my issue is picking which details to include to make it all make sense within the shorter pitches, as the sci-fi worlds can sometimes be hard to convey, etc.

Ava Jae said...

Thanks, Hannah! I totally understand that challenge—I can't even tell you how many times I rewrote my query for my SF project because I actually lost count. (I can say it was more than ten times.) The important thing, I think, is to pick the details that are essential to understanding the story. Then, if you have room for extras, you can slide a detail or two in for worldbuilding/atmospheric purposes, but if not, it's okay.

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