My question is, what is the best way to pitch a personal essay? I was told one sentence was enough to introduce the essay (something catchy, of course) and then just include the essay in the email. Would that suffice, or should there be more of a real pitch, something more comprehensive to introduce (and sell) the personal essay?
Caveat: Essays aren't my area of expertise, BUT I have recently landed a few that will be published around the time my novel comes out, so I do think I can adequately answer this. That said, if others disagree with my response, feel free to chime in and correct me.
I have to say that unless it's the most brilliantly written sentence ever crafted, I can't imagine how one sentence would be enough to lure in an editor. I mean, I'm all for masterful writing, but one sentence? It would have to be mysterious, engaging, alluring, potentially funny/sad/emotive/heart-wrenching and intelligent all in one. And yes, every sentence you write should, of course, have elements of these characteristics in them (just so you don't accuse me of advocating useless or filler sentences), but all in one? I dunno...I think it's risky to pin all of your essay hopes in one sentence.
Instead, I can offer what has worked for me. And that's been opening the pitch with the first few sentences of the essay, and then segueing into a summary of the essay. This gives the editor a taste for your voice - which, other than subject matter, is the most critical factor in selling an essay - and also gives them an idea of the direction that the piece will take. I can't imagine how you could accomplish both of these factors in a single sentence alone. It also still leaves room for an element of surprise: you've told the editor the general gist of the essay, but haven't laid out every detail.
So...that's my best shot at answering your question. Essay specialists - how wrong did I get it, or in other words, what would you do?