Sunday, May 08, 2016


Donald Maass (L), a famed New York literary agent and my fave writing instructor, led a three hour master class over a decade ago, which I attended at the Surrey International Writers' Conference. The topic then was "Perfecting your novel's pitch" but Maass's content is timeless. His major thrust was teaching us to avoid the mistake that most aspiring authors make when pitching their books to agents and editors. Pressure, nerves, and lack of preparation cause writers to talk or write about why they wrote it, how good their work is, and too much about themselves.
Agents and editors are ONLY interested in the story, and if it and the author are saleable. They want to know the essence of your novel and what makes it original. So, answer their dominant question, "Why should I read this book?"
According to Maass, a verbal pitch should take no more than sixty seconds and a written one should have only four sentences. Both pitches must contain the title and category, the novel's setting and era, the name of protagonist and what s/he does, and the main problem, conflict, or goal of the protagonist. Maass urged authors to clearly define the protagonist's problem and to inject some "out of the ordinary" into the pitch because these two issues are often left wanting.
When to send a  query letter? Maass advises not to send them during Christmas week or immediately after a major writers' conference that the editor/agent has attended.
For more details, read some of Maass's own books on the subject, such as The Career Novelist: A Literary Agent Offers Strategies for Success. c.$17.54 CAD and Writing the Breakout Novel, $17.99 CAD. He has written many more on the craft of writing.
Donald Maass's coordinates include
 © Julie H. Ferguson 2016