An update on the Author! Author! Perfect Pitch Competition of 2011 — and would anyone out there like to be a guinea pig for Queryfest?

I’ve got three bits of business to cover this evening, campers. For the scrolling ease of future browsers of this site, I’m going to be concentrating on the news in this post, and the discussion of craft in my next.

For starters, something I think is going to please a whole lot of you: in response to literally hundreds of readers’ requests over the years, I am planning to include readers’ queries as examples in Queryfest. Scads of ‘em. And given how enthusiastically readers have lobbied in the past for me to take a pen to their queries, I suspect the slots are going to fill up fast.

Which is to say: if you have ever daydreamed, fantasized, or outright demanded that I turn my notoriously critical eye on your query letter, the time to act is now, as I shall only be accepting queries for the next two weeks. I shall be selecting most exemplars randomly, but in the interests of kicking off Queryfest with a bang, I’m going to use each and every one of the first two dozen queries my readers submit.

Perhaps not in their entirety or all at once — as some of you may recall from last year’s insanely quick Querypalooza, I tend to spend several days on each constituent part of the query. I reserve the right to use excerpts, or to concentrate upon one part of a query while talking relatively little about the rest of it. If I concentrate on only one bit, however, I shall contact the writer privately about the rest.

How does one jump into line for this, you ask? By following a few simple rules. If you would like me to consider treating your letter to my patented close scrutiny here at Author! Author!:

(1) Please send your query via e-mail as a Word attachment to anneminicontest@gmail(dot)com by midnight your time on Sunday, October 2, 2011.

(2) Include the words QUERYFEST SAMPLE in the subject line.

(3) At the top of the e-mail, please include a cheery greeting (hey, I work a long day), a statement that you are granting me permission to reproduce your query on Author! Author! for discussion purposes, and whether you would prefer me to post your query for critique anonymously or under your real name. You may feel free to suggest a pseudonym for me to use, as long as it is G-rated.

(4) Speaking of G-rated, please remember that Author! Author! is deeply committed to keeping this site accessible for young readers and those whose primary Internet access is at a public library. No profanity, period.

(5) Please format your query PRECISELY as you would submit it to an agent; it will make a better example that way. If I select your query as an example, I shall naturally change your contact information.

For the purposes of structure, please address your query to:

Ms. Hawkeye McAgentson
Picky and Pickier Literary Management
111111 First Street
Imaginary, NY 11111

(6) Submitted queries must not be longer than a single page, single-spaced, in 12-point Times New Roman or Courier. The page must have one-inch margins — and trust me, I will notice if they are smaller.

(7) The first 24 entries that adhere to all of these rules will appear as examples in Author! Author’s Queryfest. I shall be drawing further examples at random from the pool of entries that arrive thereafter.

(8) No entries will be accepted after October 2, 2011 at midnight in your time zone.

I’m looking forward to seeing how you are presenting yourselves, campers — and I’m most excited about using readers’ actual query letters as examples this year. Many thanks to the dozens upon dozens of you who suggested it.

On to our second bit of business. Due to an incomprehensible server glitch, about a third of the entries in the Author! Author! Perfect Pitch Competition of 2011 — deadline September 30th! — seem to have been eaten by the Technology Goblin. While I’m fairly confident that Author! Author!’s crack techie team will successfully do battle with the goblin on your behalf, early contest entrants, it probably would be prudent to send your entries again.

Hey, the Technology Goblin is hungry. And we haven’t quite figured out if there’s a pattern to what he likes to eat for breakfast.

Missed the contest rules — and, equally important, the description of the prizes — the first time around? Let’s take another quick gander at ‘em, shall we?

Author! Author! Perfect Pitch Competition of 2011

In order to celebrate the end of Pitchingpalooza and encourage the practical application of the skills learned and polished there, Author! Author! is calling upon its talented readers to enter pitches for their books into healthy competition. Winners will not only receive fabulous prizes (see below), but will have their pitches, the first page of their manuscripts, and an author photo featured in a post here at Author! Author! for all the world to see and admire.

Sound good? Wait, it gets better. To make the experience more interesting for onlookers, pitchers may present their fabulous premises in three distinct categories:

Category I: The keynote or Hollywood hook, a one-sentence teaser for your book

Category II: The elevator speech, a 100-word or less presentation of your book’s premise and central conflict

Category III: The formal 2-minute pitch, a 250-word introduction of your protagonist, the central conflict, and what’s at stake in your story OR the problem that your nonfiction book addresses

All entries must be submitted via e-mail to anneminicontest@gmail(dot)com by Friday, September 30, at midnight in your time zone. Late entries will not be considered.

Entrants may enter more than one category. Please submit each entry in a separate e-mail, in accordance with the rules below.

The grand prize winner in each category will receive a half-hour Mini Consult on his or her query, synopsis, and first 10 pages, as well as having the winning entry, the first page, and an author photo posted on Author! Author! Runners-up will see their entries, first pages, and photos posted and critiqued as well, as vivid examples of how good a pitch can be when it is done right.

Because winners will also be awarded life-long bragging rights and coveted ECQLC , the judges reserve the right to award as many (or as few) prizes as the quality of the entry pool warrants. Awards are purely up to the discretion of the judging panel.

Those are the general rules. Here are the specific steps required to win. Do read them all carefully, as I am anticipating vigorous competition.

1. Polish your pitch to a high gloss and save it as a Word document.
Only .doc entries in Word will be accepted — not TextEdit, PDF, or any other formats, please. Please title the Word file with either your name or the title of your book, not just as contest entry. (The last time I ran a contest like this, I received 37 with that file name.)

2. Make sure that the entry is properly formatted.
All entries must be in standard format for book manuscripts. No exceptions, I’m afraid. If it is not double-spaced, in 12-point type, and featuring a slug line with your name and the book’s title at the top of the page, the judges will not consider it.

3. On a separate page of the same Word document, write the book’s title, the book category, and a BRIEF (

In other words, what is fresh about your book? (Hint: this question will be significantly easier to answer if you mention what your book category of choice is.) Please be as specific as you can about what is new and different about your book. Vague claims of being the best novel since WAR AND PEACE probably won’t impress the judges.

4. On the same page, include your contact information.
Name, address, and e-mail address will suffice. You want us to be able to let you know if you have won, don’t you?

5. Make sure to mention which category you are entering.
Again, the three possibilities are: the keynote or Hollywood hook, the elevator speech, and the formal 2-minute pitch.

6. Attach the Word document you’ve created to an e-mail.
Please include PERFECT PITCH ENTRY in the subject line, and mention the category you’re entering in the body of the e-mail. (It makes it easier to process the entries.) Make sure to say who you are, too, so we don’t get entries mixed up.

It’s also a nice touch to say something pleasantly chatty by way of introduction (along the lines of “Keep up the good work, Anne!”) in the e-mail itself. I just mention.

7. E-mail the whole shebang to anneminicontest@gmail(dot)com by Friday, September 30, at midnight in your time zone.
Do I need to explain that the (dot) should be rendered as a period when you are typing the address? Nah, probably not.

Even if you are not planning to pitch anytime soon, I would strongly encourage you to enter this contest — as I mentioned early and often throughout Pitchingpalooza, writers frequently find themselves having to pitch at a moment’s notice. A hour’s worth of preparation today can save you an eternity of “Um…” down the line. Besides, an elevator speech makes a terrific descriptive paragraph for a query letter.

Wait — weren’t we just talking about that? Or won’t we be in the weeks to come?

How detailed our discussion will be depends largely upon you, campers. Do consider participating, and keep up the good work!

PS: the cute guinea pig photos appear courtesy of

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