January 21, 2011

A query is not a pitch

Oh dear. I gave my last blog post the wrong name. I should have said “query,” not “pitch” in the title and in the plog post itself. In my rambles around the internet I stumbled upon the blog of Janet Reid, literary agent (http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2011/01/difference-between-pitch-and-query.html) and discovered the following:

"A pitch is short (VERY) and verbal.
A query is short (250 words, but not 25) and written.
A pitch is face to face.
A query is not.
A pitch requires some set up: my novel is finished; it's a historical romance; it's 78,000 words.  That helps your listener get ready to hear your pitch.
A query starts with the name of the main character and what problem or choice he faces.
A pitch is about 25 words.
A query is 250."

So now I know. And so do you. I am querying publishers in New Zealand re my novel. Seven of them. Each wants something different: a different length synopsis, more or less sample chapters, and so on. Have posted two, and have two more nearly ready. Response times vary between two and four months, and by all accounts (the extremely low percentage of unsolicited mss that get accepted) are most likely to be negative. Why am I doing this, then? I guess I want to try out the system before I grapple with knotty problems like confronting my own inabilities in the marketing area, the pros and cons of print on demand, ebooks and so on.

I am reading 99 Ways Into New Zealand Poetry, by Paula Green and Harry Rickets. It’s a fabulous book, a “how to read poetry” with oodles of examples and a mass of cross-referencing. It’s also an overview of New Zealand poets and poetry and the various ways they have clumped, or been clumped, together over the years. And the writers give poets who are women their due place and comment on ways they have been denied this place in the past. And there are useful short breakouts which are definitions of things like modernism and romanticism and some lovely covers from poetry books and photos of poets and pieces about their poetry by some of the poets and all in all it is a stunning cornucopia. I wish it wasn’t so heavy and the paper was less shiny, it’s hard to read in bed and/or some lights. Otherwise, it’s an education in a book.

A  novel that’s been on my to-read pile for a while that has just made it to the top, is The Housekeeper + The Professor, by Yoko Ogawa. She’s written a lot of novels in Japanese, some have been translated into English, some into French. A charming story involving a single mother and her son and the professor with a memory problem she housekeeps for and maths. It’s built around the excitement of numbers. I loved it. It didn’t matter that I didn’t understand the bits about baseball — which incidentally involves pitching, which we all know I am not doing.


  1. I read The Housekeeper and the Professor a month or so ago - I loved it. We seem to like many of the same books!!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Susan. Looking forward to seeing you in March.

  3. Hi Pat. So lovely to talk with you recently. This is me checking if commenting works. I am deep into the Glass Room by Simon Mawer -very powerful, very beautiful but also may be uncannily close to what happened in Silva's family history. Don't know yet but my job is to pre-read it and be there when needed! Good luck with your querying..Can't wait for your next book to emerge..

  4. Yep, your commenting worked, Jicca!
    I loved The Glass Room, too. Working on a new book, not actually a novel this time, more in due course.