Writer’s Digest Conference 2016 – What I learned about Pitching Novels and Magazine Articles


This series is going to cover what I learned in the individual talks I attended during the Writer’s Digest Conference (#WDC16). I’ll try to keep them to 1-2 pages and summarize the most pertinent information. Comment and share to your hearts content!

Pitch Perfect – Chuck Sambuchino

This session was geared toward those of us participating in Pitch Slam (basically speeding dating for writers and agents). Chuck outlined some specific logistics, but he also gave some really good advice on pitching in general.

  • Agents are looking for good stories that are well-written, in other words if you want to be a writer you need to practice your craft and read a lot
  • A pitch is basically your query letter in conversation and you can practice this anytime, anywhere, with anyone – DO IT! Costs nothing and can only help you
  • Introduce your characters and the conflict
  • Never reveal endings
  • Be confident, relaxed, and SMILE!
  • When comparing to other titles in your genre avoid the big names (Harry Potter, LotR, GoT, etc.)
  • What’s interesting about your characters? What do they want?
  • Mention the inciting incident (what kicks off the story)
  • Set the stakes and describe any interesting complications
  • Unclear wrap up – avoid rhetorical questions (Will Jimmy save the day?)
  • Avoid generalities, specifics bring a pitch to life
  • Avoid subplots
  • Paint pictures, make it visual

Not only was Chuck hilarious and friendly, he gave really good advice. I highly recommend examining his work online as he has a plethora of articles as well as sample query letters that worked and landed debut authors agents.

Secrets to getting published in magazines that editors won’t tell you (but we will)  – Zachary Petit & Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Zach and Jennifer gave us an excellent roundup of quick tips and tricks in order to get yourself out of the slush pile and on your way towards getting published in magazines.

First and most important: do it. Publishing in magazines can only help you in your writing career. If you want to focus on writing in a specific area or genre it’s a great way to do research for a larger piece and get some experience.

Secondly, get a copy of the magazine (you should really read any magazines you want to query) and pitch the editor responsible for that particular section. Often you can discover the email formula for the magazine and then fill in the data to get the email address for the person you want to query. For example, if you know Barbara Johnson’s email is BJohnson@variety.com and you can’t find Todd Clark’s email, try TClark@variety.com

Media Bistro can also be a useful tool in this regard, it gives regular interviews with editors which lets you have access to the inside scoop on what they’re looking for and memberships are variable depending on what your needs are. Their paid memberships (they have free ones) only run $55/year.

Never attach anything to your emails, guaranteed way to get deleted before they even read your message. Zach put up his collection of tips for queries on his website.

Mention anything you’ve published or any relevant expertise you may have.

Always address your query to a person, never general Dear Sir or To Whom it may concern

Always ask for more money, at the very least know what you’re getting paid and other details like due date, word count and any paperwork you need to fill out/sign.

Also know if the piece will be First Rights or All Rights, basically whether they own the piece for ever and always or if they can only have the rights to publish it once and afterward ownership returns to you.

That’s enough for one blog post. I don’t wanna make these TLTR, so enjoy the tips, leave your comments in the comments section, and come back in a few days to check out what else I learned.



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