In the movie “A Knight’s Tale”, the character Ulrich, played by Heath Ledger, creates an identity in order to compete at jousting competitions. At his first tournament, he’s nervous, scared --- worried that everyone will find out that he is a fake.
Enter his Herald, Geoffrey Chaucer, a man so eloquent with his words that his introduction incites the crowd to a frenzy, causing them to route for a man they had never seen joust before.
This only goes to show that introductions are every thing.
I’ve been reading Donald Maass’ The Career Novelist. (I know I should be reading his book The Fire in Fiction, but I haven’t gotten to the bookstore yet. See Susan's post for great summaries of that book.) I just finished his chapter on “Pitching Errors”. Needless to say I now read with a highlighter in my right hand.
Basically he says that sooner or later we have to bring our novel into society and introductions are everything. Picture this; an agency receives 5000 queries a year (this book was written a while ago, so I’m sure that number is a lot larger now). Said agency only requests one or two partials a day and out of those partials only 40 full manuscripts are chosen. The numbers are daunting.
What’s Donald Maass’ advice: Learn to pitch.
Three questions that need answering:
1. Where is your story set?
2. Who is your hero or heroine?
3. What is the main problem they must overcome?
A setting, sympathetic character, compelling problem. Easy stuff.
I know queries are hard, but he’s right when he says, better to learn now then to try and cram later on.
His last analogy is the best. Few consumer products sell without affective advertising. Think of your query letter as your 30-second commercial.