Editors, agents, and publishers are swamped on a daily basis by submissions in their inbox and mailboxes. They can’t possibly devote more than a few seconds to each individual pitch or query. The impression a writer makes in the first few sentences determines whether the editor or agent wants to see more or drops the letter into the slush pile.
So you have a challenge: make your writing catch the agent’s eye.
The tested and true method for increasing your chance of avoiding the slush pile is to make your piece unique. This doesn’t mean submitting an article about the migration patterns of Canadian geese to a car magazine. Keep the subject relevant to the magazine; just put an unusual spin on it.
For example, the editors at Dog Fancy most likely receive hundreds of article pitches about agility. But why not profile a three-legged dog that competes competitively in the sport?
Books about the supernatural–especially zombies, vampires, and magic–are popular now, and agents have seen it all. Try querying them with a book about the vampire who posed as Bram Stoker and wrote Dracula as a joke.
The trick is to know your audience. Read the magazine or books represented by a particular agent to get a feel of what they like. Then pitch or query with a new twist on the topic.
Remember that rejection visits writer’s mailboxes more often than acceptance letters. Making your article or pitch or book just a little unusual doesn’t guarantee anyone will take notice. But it sets you apart from the writers rehashing the same story lines.
Have you ever pitched anything that had an unusual twist? What was the result?