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Pitching your book - query letter & synopsis

Updated: May 18, 2023


Julianne Ingles, director at Guts Publishing

If you’re looking for a publisher or agent for your book, the first thing you'll need to do is spend some time working on your query letter and synopsis.


Years ago, after I'd written my first book, I remember how tripped up I got about writing a synopsis. It seemed like an impossible task. Everything I wrote sounded horrible. What it actually was was a stumbling block that prevented me from pitching my book.


So, keep in mind, if you run into a similar stumbling block, just recognise it for what it is. Then try to let it go. Then get back to pitching your book.


If you need some feedback on your query letter and synopsis, here are some ideas. They're not groundbreaking ideas, but these are things you can do on your own without hiring an editor.


Ask a writing friend to read and edit your query letter and synopsis. Ask them to make sure it's concise and gets to the point quickly. Keep your query letter around 300 words (or even less). I wrote a blog post once and included two query letters that landed publishing contracts. Both were under 200 words. You can take a look here: gutspublishing.com/post/pitching-tips-for-writers


For synopsis tips, I recommend taking a look at this blog post by Jane Friedman. Please bear in mind, these are guidelines which means they are flexible. She recommends 500-1000 words, although I would say 500-700 words (max), unless a publisher or agent asks for more. I always tell my clients that shorter is better. This shows the agent or publisher that the writer has control of their writing.


The best advice I can give you is just get started. Don't get tripped up over fears of being rejected. It comes with the territory. Just start writing your query letter and synopsis. Don't worry about whether it's right or wrong, good or bad, just start. Set these aside for a few days, then edit. Then send them to your writer friend for feedback.


Also try not to get tripped up on perfection. There is no right or wrong way to write a query letter or synopsis. Keep your tone positive and confident. Follow your intuition. Believe in yourself, and others will too.


One of our authors, Aidan Martin, wrote a blog post about his publishing journey and said:


"If you care enough about a subject or genre then others will too. Believe in yourself. Believe in your idea. If something inside is speaking to you, don't ignore it. It's speaking to you for a reason. Self-doubt will creep in constantly but that's natural. Don't feed into it."


Give it your best shot and pitch as many agents and publishers as possible. Make sure you do your research and find out if they publish in your genre. Make a list of 50, to start. See how it goes. If no one replies or asks for the full manuscript, change your query letter. Then start pitching again.


Some people are naturals at this. They just know how to pitch. Or they've been doing it for a while and feel comfortable with the process. It takes a while to get the hang of it. If you feel you need some guidance, you might want to consider one of my Publishing Coach services.


My Pitch Your Book option is the most popular. Here are some details about what we do:


- Define your genre

- Write an effective query letter

- Create a compelling synopsis

- Improve your digital platforms

- Create a targeted pitch list of agents and publishers


We work together for four weeks and have weekly Zoom meetings to discuss your progress, which many of my clients say is the best part. I edit and provide feedback on your query letter and synopsis. Normally, it's many edits on each! We keep at it until we've nailed both. We research and make sure we've got the right genre for your book. We create a targeted list of agents and publishers. Throughout the process, you gradually start to build your confidence. And you learn a hell of a lot along the way - in particular about editing. You'll see exactly how I edit and how you can use that method to edit your own work in the future.


I offer a free 20-minute intro meeting for the Pitch Your Book service. To book this, please email gutspublishing@gmail.com with the subject line: Intro Meeting.


For prices and to find out more, visit our website: gutspublishing.com/publishing-coach


I'm really proud of my clients. They work hard. We work hard together. And I'm always cheering them on, even after we finish. Here is one of my success stories:


“I had only experienced rejection or complete indifference from publishers. Julianne helped me to put this right and I finally got that contract.” Richard Wills, author of Bloody Social Worker (Dec 2022, Thinkwell Books)


I'm also really excited to announce that my client Erin Hosfield was recently offered a publishing contract by Elsewhen Press! Congratulations Erin!


xx Julianne

Director at Guts Publishing

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