A lot of discussion goes on in the #kidlit world about the all-important Query Letter. Do editors and agents even read them? How do I format one? Should I mention that I follow this editor on Twitter? Do I say how much I like the other books on their list? How personal/not-personal should I get?
I can only speak for myself as a children's book editor, of course, but I have to say: when I acquire a book for a publishing house, I don't read most of the query letter. I jump straight to...The Pitch.
Within the all-important Query Letter should be the even-more-all-important Pitch-with-a-capital-P.
What is a Book Pitch? It's a very short synopsis of your book. But it's so much more than that!
Where should you place your Book Pitch? It should appear as close to the top of your query letter as possible, in order to grab the reader's attention. Sound familiar? Yep, your book pitch should be like a killer first line in a story.
Why is the Book Pitch so important? A great 2 or 3-sentence book pitch will grab an editor's attention. And if that person likes your story enough to bring it further within their publishing house, your pitch will likely become the headline to your book's acquisition proposal. It will make an appearance in a board room, in front of some Important People who may or may not decide to green-light your book for publication. An editor will almost always use a great book pitch to kick-start that book's life and gain traction in-house.
Then, if your book is acquired for publication (hip, hip, hooray!), it is very likely that your li'l ol' Book Pitch will continue down the chain to help create flap copy, marketing pitches, and sales materials.
So, how do you create a 2 or 3 sentence pitch for your book? Hopefully, after you've drafted, and written, and revised your picture book, chapter book, or novel many times, you'll know it backwards and forwards. It'll be like a good friend (who might also annoy you at times!). Think about how you'd introduce your book to someone at a party, in between grabbing food at the buffet and the next dance. You don't want to bore that someone, you want to entice them to ask for more. If you find yourself explaining too much, reign it in and scale it back.
put your story on a delicious-looking platter
Your pitch should include no more than these details:
How they solve that conflict
What the "heart" of the story is. If you can't quite figure this part out, you might need to go back to do some revising (possibly after reading my blog post on The "So What?" Test)
To practice, see if you can come up with snappy pitches for some of these famous books:
Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by JK Rowling
...or one of your own favorites! It helps to try this out on a book you love as much as your own, to see how a Book Pitch sounds coming out of your mouth.
Good luck, and happy pitching!
If you need some help perfecting that pitch, reach out for a Query Letter Critique at Alli Brydon Creative. Having been both an acquiring children's book editor and an agent, I'm uniquely suited to helping you craft a pitch that might make your book get noticed.