The Deep-Thoughts Query

Sometimes authors feel the need to wrap their pitch inside pretty philosophical paper. Consider:

Like a butterfly, we all undergo change. Not as extreme as metamorphosis like the butterfly, but change of physical maturity, mental maturity, and spiritual thinking. Jane and her friends…

What’s all this deep-thoughts stuff about butterflies and metamorphosis? Is there a story pitch in our future? The appearance of “Jane and her friends” gives me hope, so I’ll keep reading.

…have graduated from one milestone of elementary school, as stage one of their completion. The second stage of change will be starting middle school…

Whoa. This is a book about middle-schoolers? Here’s the ten-dollar question: How confident would you be—given the vague, new-agey phrasing here—that the manuscript is written in a style that will capture the hearts, minds, and imaginations of middle-school-aged readers?

Me? Not very. But I’ll keep reading to see if this query gets a little more grounded.

…a stage of uncertainty, and independence of having more control over their educational and social involvements. This new experience spurs Jane’s thinking, and will test she and her friends in all that they know and don’t. After will be high school, and then the real journey of life into the world to find who she is, what her purpose is and try out her wings to fly like never before.

OK. There’s no story here. I. Need. To. Know. What. Your. Story. Is. Turns out, this is a pitch for a series of twelve books about Jane and her friends; in each book, the girls are in a different grade.

This query doesn’t work. Two reasons why:

  1. If you have a series (complete or planned), limit your query pitch to your first book. Readers (like publishers!) won’t buy all twelve books in your series at one time. They buy your first book. Book one is your audition. Nail your audition.
  2. Ditch the deep thoughts and philosophical framework. If you want to write commercial fiction, then keep your query grounded in story:

Character wants (goal) because (motivation). When (inciting incident), Character realizes s/he can’t have (goal) because (conflict). Now, if Character doesn’t overcome (conflict), then (big, tension-packed stakes!).

See you next time!