Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pitching, Querying and Proposing

Award-winning editor Ally E. Machate recommended attending writing conferences and online events to make contacts in the publishing world, as well as for learning and meeting other writers, as she spoke on Pitching, Querying and Proposing.
Ally E. Machate

As well as attending conferences to learn and meet other writers, they offer a great way to make connections, she said, especially those with one-on- one meetings. This is a chance to sit down with an agent or editor. Later you can mention this meeting in a query letter, such as “I met you at…and you said…Here is...”

Ally worked with ex-Navy Commander Mark Divine, A SEAL for 20 years, to write The Way of the SEAL, a practical guide to defining and focusing on your goals and how to think like a SEAL.

Having worked in the publishing business for years, Ally was able to explain what your book goes through if it gets past the slush pile or gatekeepers, the decision makers.

For medium to large publishers, you need an agent, someone who knows the houses that publish your type of book. Search for agents who may be interested in your type of writing. Then find out what publishers they’ve sold to and what connections they have.

Lists of agents and editors are helpful, but they often use a generic email address. You may find a better source through networking with others. Find people who may be interested in your type of writing, with sources such as LinkedIn. Research magazines, literary journals and other online sites.

Try to learn a little about the agents or publications you are considering. Then you can write “I read your interview in …” or “I learned you were looking for a….”

Be sure to follow submission guidelines and make sure you get their name and gender correct. Propose one project at a time, although can mention if you have others.

She recommended giving the agent ammunition with a good synopsis. They can use it to sell your book and if they are successful, the publishing house can use it in audio pitches for their salespeople.

Do not send out queries if you are not quite finished your book. If they are interested and ask you to send a copy right away and you still need to finish writing and editing the story, you may lose this opportunity.
Ally and writer Mike Crowl

Ally explained that platform is industry language for anything that can be used to sell your book. This may include awards, publishing credits, a blog or social media column, credentials, ties to large organizations, or connections.  Planks are what you stand on to stand above the crowd.

Agents and editors will search your name, so it helps if you have a footprint online: a website, blog, Facebook or Twitter account. 

For fiction, authors should send a query letter and a synopsis. Fiction and memoir are treated the same. For non-fiction, a detailed book proposal is necessary. A proposal may be more than 20 pages of detail.

Start your query letter with some kind of hook, a personal connection or catchy plot line, she said. Next you want a description of the project. Think of this like writing marketing strategy or cover copy. Then tell who are you and why you are you proposing this book. Give them your credentials. By the end of your query, you want them to ask to see your complete work.

A synopsis is usually three to five pages double-spaced, a complete recap of your entire story – start to finish. Focus on main stuff. Give them a flavor of the book.

Novels are generally 60,000  to 80,000 words.  Non-fiction usually runs 50,000 to 70,000 words.

Ally is a bestselling book collaborator and expert publishing consultant. Since 1999, she has assisted, guided, and supported would-be authors on their publishing journey and takes pride in serving as their books' best ally. You can learn more about Ally at and


If you don’t get that first book published it doesn’t mean you are not good, it just means you might not be good enough right now. Keep writing. Also, it is important to get to know your craft. This is a business.

CCMWA President Kerry Peresta
and Ally Machate
Take your business seriously.

This event was sponsored by the Carroll County Chapter of the Maryland Writers Association. For more information, check out or

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