Another successful event for my new book “Water Music,” at The Loft: LGBT Community Services Center in White Plains Thursday night. What provocative conversation that ranged from sports to domestic violence and was every bit as stimulating the discussion at The Lionheart Gallery in Pound Ridge this past May.
There are few things as satisfying as connecting with people deeply. Well, that and meltaway coffee cake from Enrico’s Pastry Shop in Hartsdale.
Then on Saturday, I attended another publishing workshop sponsored by the Sarah Lawrence College Writing Institute. Editor Caitlin Alexander and agent Cynthia Munson led a session on writing a query letter to an agent or publisher that contained a lot of tips from formatting (don’t forget to double space your manuscript) to pitch conferences (the December New York Pitch Conference presented by the Algonkian Writer Conferences and New York Publishing).
Perhaps the biggest thing I learned is that for the query to work – in other words, for your letter to entice an agent and publisher to consider your manuscript – you have to have a catchy hook, which involves a succinct, specific description of your book as well as comparative titles.
For example, if I were pitching “In This Place You Hold Me” – the second novel in my series “The Games Men Play” – I might begin this way:
What if “Brokeback Mountain” married “Fifty Shades of Grey”? The result would be “In This Place You Hold Me,” my 73,000 literary male/male romance about a gay quarterback’s search for identity amid the brutal beauty of the NFL.”
At first, I thought such a pitch would be pretentious: I’m neither Annie Proulx nor E.L. James. But one thing I’ve learned: Agents, editors and publishers need for books to be packaged clearly, quickly, crisply. It’s all about niche marketing, Caitlin Alexander said.
This is one case in which thinking inside the box is the name of the game.
Which is not a bad thing, as it can really sharpen your thinking.