You know, these things are actually quite similar. I’d never realized it until after talking with one of my coworkers, but the similarities are pretty obvious.
He’s a college student preparing for a career fair next week. Of course, that means amping up a resume and preparing his pitch. I was a liberal arts major and didn’t really plan for the future after college aside from living in a mansion purchased from the tears of my readers (yeah, that hasn’t happened yet), so I never went to a career fair. I didn’t realize how intense they were. He was describing everything he needed to perfect and convey, aside from his resume. He had to know which companies he walked to talk to beforehand. He needed to be aware of their mission and interests and be able to convey how they aligned with his own. He needed to be aware of their projects and how those projects would benefit from him working on them.
He also had to convey all of this–and more that I can’t remember, just being overwhelmed listening to him–in a 30 second pitch.
Naturally, I felt for him and do not envy being in his shoes.
Instantly, it made me think of the querying process and reflect back on the single time that I pitched in person to an agent (and completely botched it). I explained to him how I’d suddenly made the connection. When you’re pitching your book, you need to get to the heart of the matter quickly and succinctly: who are the main players, what are the stakes, who is the audience, what is the age range, what is the genre, how long is it, what makes it unique? In a live pitch, do this in under a minute and as few sentences as possible. In a emailed query, a few paragraphs, tops–and don’t forget a hook to make the agent keep reading in the first place.
Naturally, he felt for me and does not envy being in my shoes.
I was never very good at cover letters or resumes. It’s not surprising that my track record with query letters isn’t exactly fantastic, either. Or that my fluttering nerves and innate awkwardness makes pitching in person a nightmare for all involved. Yet as we compared the seemingly impossible tasks that we both were faced with, both of us not at all jealous of what the other was trying to accomplish, deeming their plight the harder of the two, I have to admit that I’m grateful to be querying again hopefully later this fall. Despite how difficult it is. Despite sucking at it. Despite it feeling impossible sometimes.
Because one day, that work is going to pay off. One day, I’m going to connect with that agent and they are going to understand exactly what I am doing with my book and they aren’t going to reject it. They are going to love it, sign for it and help me make it the best version it could be. And all of those blotched pitches, all of those less-than-fantastic query letters? They got me there, to that moment, when I write a bomb-ass query letter. I had immediate faith that my coworker is going to kill it on Wednesday and land some interviews and hopefully, a job that will jump start his career post college. I need to work on having a little bit more faith in myself to do the same.
And in the meantime, waiting for that faith to set in? You guessed it: back to query writing.