writing a killer pitch

Write a Cover Letter That Will Get You Published


I was at Listowel Writers' Week recently, gathering information for all you lovely blog readers. And can I just say a big thank you to everyone in the last month who has contacted me to say how useful this blog and my website are to them. I'm glad my small words of encouragement are hitting the mark. And remember - keep the writing faith and never give up!

Back to Listowel - I attended a most interesting panel session on Getting Published, chaired by writing.ie's

Vanessa O'Loughlin


Simon Trewin

, head of the book department at United Agents in London, Irish agent,

Faith O'Grady

, Ciara Doorley, Editorial Director of

Hachette Ireland

and John Walsh from

Doie Press

. Among the topics discussed (many of which I've covered in this blog over the years) was covering letters and how to write them.

Faith gets 50 to 70 submissions a week and says that the cover letter is vital. She reads the submissions with the best cover letter first and incidentally she also said that she much prefers postal submissions . Even after many years of being an agent she still finds her post bag exciting. She said that the covering letter is your calling card - you must spend time on getting it right.

You must put your 1/2 line pitch (covered in this previous blog) in the covering letter. You should also explain (briefly) setting, characters and dramatic conflict. Keep this 'book' bit to one paragraph she suggested.

Edit your covering letter carefully. Both Simon and Faith agreed that it is perfectly acceptable to contact several agents at the same time as long as you are transparent about it. Simon suggested 'If you write like a particular writer, send it to their agent.'

It can take 3 to 4 months for agents to get back to you, so be patient and keep writing in the meantime.

Best of luck with writing your own perfect cover letter!

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

What Agents are Looking For + How to Write a Killer Pitch

Last week I gave a workshop on writing popular fiction and I asked a highly respected literary agent for some information. What are you looking for at the moment? I asked her. 'There's no definitive answer,' she said. 'But I am looking for something that stands out from the crowd, and the writing must be exceptional.' She explained that although her agency works with writers on their proposals/books, it is an expensive process if you can't be sure of a good outcome. So good writing is more important than ever. 'The writing has to be fresh, individual and clever,' she added. 'They must own their book and write with conviction.' 

She does not follow trends as they change so quickly. She also said 'What every writer must remember is that the agent has to sell it on to a editor, and the editor has to sell it on to sales and marketing. So if there isn't a 1 or 2 sentence pitch, it probably isn't going to work.'

Interesting, I thought. Very interesting.

I went away and thought long and hard about this. It's a difficult thing to do. I tried describing some of my own books in 1 or 2 lines:

Ask Amy Green: Dancing Daze (out in Sept) is about a talented young Irish dancer who moves to Budapest at fifteen to study ballet at the famous Budapest Ballet Academy. When her dreams turn sour, can Amy and Clover help save her ballet career?

Ask Amy Green (the series) is about a thirteen year old agony aunt, Amy Green, and her crazy seventeen year old aunt, Clover. Together they right all kinds of teenage wrongs, but when to comes to solving their own problems things aren't quite as simple.

When the Boys are Away (one of my books for adults) is about a young mum, Meg and what she gets up to when her partner, a professional sailor is away. The pitch is also in the title pretty much - it's one of my best titles, it says exactly what the book is about, which is really important. But that's a blog for another day.

Can you describe your book in 1 or 2 sentences? It's not easy but it's worth spending time on a killer 1 or 2 line pitch if you want to catch an agent or publisher's eye.

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

(With sincere thanks to the agent who so kindly gave me her time!)