Since Steve dealt with some terms in Monday’s post, we thought it appropriate to discuss some other basic ones today.
When a person undertakes to write for publication—and especially when that individual starts taking webinars, attending writers conferences, and hanging out with other writer types—he or she will encounter some words and phrases that can be confusing, at least at first. So, because I’m such a great guy, I thought I’d take a few minutes and write a few lines defining some of those terms—in particular, those that apply to the process of submitting one’s work for publication.
A query is a brief but detailed, single-spaced, one-page letter or email used to interest an editor in your article or book idea. Some aspiring writers are hesitant to query because they think an editor or agent can more fairly judge an idea by seeing the entire manuscript. However, many editors and agents prefer to see a query first, for numerous reasons.
A one-sheet (alternately, “one-page”) is a one-sided single page adaptation of a query (including the same elements as a query but usually also dressed up by a creative layout, graphic, author photo, etc.). One-sheets also sometimes include additional features, such as an endorsement. Whereas queries are sometimes mailed or emailed to editors and agents, as well as handed to them in editorial appointments at writers conferences, one-sheets are used exclusively in writers-conference appointments.
A book proposal is a long, detailed document that presents a writer’s book idea to agents and editors. The length and ingredients of a book proposal depend on the genre of the project being pitched, but they’re typically around forty pages long. Typical elements of a full book proposal are hook, summary, target-audience section, author section, comparisons, manuscript status, marketing/platform section, outline (for nonfiction), synopsis (for fiction), and sample chapters.
An elevator pitch is a short, snappy verbal description of your article, book, screenplay, etc. It’s called an “elevator pitch” because it helps to imagine that you’ve just stepped onto an elevator with a big, important editor or agent (like me), and that person turns to you and asks, “What do you write?” And you have only a few floors before those elevator doors will open again, so you make your pitch quickly and sharply. Two or three sentences, bing bang boom, that are designed to prompt that editor or agent to say, as the elevator doors open, “I like it; send it to me.” I often recommend writing out an elevator pitch, memorizing it, and keeping it handy to refresh your memory as often as necessary, so you’re always ready. A good elevator pitch beats “hummina, hummina, well it’s a sort of kind of something or other” every time.
Each of the terms above is a pitch. That’s a catch-all word for the many ways (including such recent innovations as a Twitter or Tik Tok form of elevator pitch) to put your best foot forward and impress an editor or agent with your perspicuity, perspicacity, panache, and pizzaz as a writer.
Outside of the short appointments that are available at many writers conferences (and, in the case of live conferences, informal conversations at the lunch or dinner table or coffee shop or lounge), different agents and editors have different preferences and requirements as to how they begin the conversation with writers. Some want to see a query before anything else. Others, like me, prefer to see a full proposal. Some work solely via email, others accept mailed hard-copy submissions. (Remember mail? Anyone? Anyone? Buehler?) So, of course, it’s wise to follow the guidelines such people make available on their websites in submitting your work (again, apart from writers conference processes).
Does that help? Did you learn anything new? Do you have anything to add?