Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Introductions are every thing

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.


Jessica said...

I love that movie! Just watched it with my kids. They loved the jousting scenes. LOL
Great example though. And thanks for the tips on the query. :-)

lotusgirl said...

Great 3 questions. I like the idea of the 30 sec ad.

Susan R. Mills said...

That book is next on my list. You know how I feel about the brilliance that is Mr. Maass. :)

Kasie West said...

I love that movie too. And as far as querying goes. I'm so glad I'm out of those trenches. It is hard. Good advice though. And good luck.

Tara McClendon said...

I loved that movie! Now, if I could only hire Chaucer to do my introductions.

Jessie Oliveros said...

I loved him in a lot of movies but my favorite was his singing scene in 10 Things...
I've been thinking about my query since before I actually started writing the book. Which means, the query I have now is actually different from the book. But it's a start.

Tamika: said...

Great questions!

Thirty seconds isn't long to make a sale. Powerful. Precise. Strong.

I have my work cut out for me. Yikes!

strugglingwriter said...

Good post. I love A Knight's Tale, by the way. Great movie.

Carolyn V. said...

I am a little worried about the query. I've even taken a class about it, but still worry about it. Great post. =)

Patti said...

Jessica: I love that we can actually watch a movie with the kids.

Lois: I've been thinking a lot about the 30 second promo, what would I say or write

Tara: If we all had a Chaucer writing our queries, I think we'd all have agents.

Jessie: I think I have as many version of queries as I do books.

Tamika: Now I have to start thinking of the best 30 sec. commercials.

Sw: It's a great movie.

Carolyn: I've very stressed about it. So much riding on one page.

jenniferneri said...

30 second commercial. Agh, I am not a sales woman. One author I know (whose market is in France sniff sniff for me) said that often the best queries are written not by the author.
I have thought about this, but who would I trust to write a query for me? Who would even want to? Besides, do you think it would be cheating?

Candice said...

Your post is perfect for what I'm working on today, another query letter. I'm going to incorporate this advice.

Patti said...

Jennifer: I've thought about that as well and read a few things about it. I've decided it would be cheating a bit, because the agent wants to see how you write.

Candice: Good luck that's what I'm working on today as well.

Robyn Campbell said...

I just recently learned to pitch. It was daunting, but I know that now I can pitch any of my novels. Just takes some thought like anything else in writing. I have this book too. I'm just starting to read it. Thanks Patti. Great post. :)

I would comment more, but I just found out my beloved cat, Blue died at the vet. He was being treated for a virus, but his sweet little heart gave out.:(

Dara said...

I like those thrre questions; it really helps you focus your novel and the query.

I still have quite a way to go before I reach query stage :)

Amber Lynae said...

I have my degree in advertising and marketing. This fact has helped me some in realizing the importance in standing out. It helps with resumes to be able to market yourself, and I am hoping at some point it will help out with my queries.