Pitching Your Projects

Pitching Your Projects I’ve posted on this topic numerous times, but since I’m going to a conference this week and will be hearing dozens of pitches, I wanted to go over (once again) some tips for pitching to agents and editors. We can probably all agree on the “don’ts” of pitching your project. Don’t pitch in the bathroom. Don’t pitch a novel that’s nowhere near ready. Don’t pitch with your mouth full. What are some positive tips we can all use? I think the secret to making a great pitch is to start with a bit of context or background, then tell me about your book. It doesn’t have to be in-depth, considering your time restraints. But take a moment to introduce yourself and your project before pitching. Too often, people sit down and nervously launch...
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Why You Should Pitch a Single Book

Why You Should Pitch a Single Book If you’re like most writers, you’re probably not writing just one book. You’ve written multiple books, possibly in different genres. You may have a whole 3 or 6 or 9-book series planned. So the question naturally arises: Should I pitch my whole series to an agent? Should I tell them about my entire body of work? After all, I want an agent to represent all my work, not just one book. Along similar lines, reader Jan wrote on Facebook: Whenever I check an agency’s guidelines, they always talk about pitching a particular book. I already have a book published, and I’m looking for an agent to help me build my career. How do I query/pitch in that situation? The answer is simple and clear: When querying or pitching an agent, always start with just one...
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Writing a One-Sentence Summary

Writing a One-Sentence Summary Let’s discuss the one-sentence summary, also known as a logline, a hook, or a one-sentence pitch. (It is not a tagline, however.) What: About 25 words that capture your novel, memoir, or non-fiction book. Why: To get someone interested in reading your book. When to use it: The start of a query, book proposal, or anytime someone asks you, “What’s your book about?” What it does: A one-sentence summary takes your complex book with multiple characters and plotlines and boils it down into a simple statement that can be quickly conveyed and understood, and generates interest in the book. What it should include: → A character or two → Their choice, conflict, or goal → What’s at stake (may be implied) → Action that will get them to the goal → Setting (if...
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Secrets of a Great Pitch

http://www.rachellegardner.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Rockies-pitcher-150x150.jpg Next week I’m headed out to the ACFW conference (American Christian Fiction Writers) and I’m sure I’ll see some of you there! Rachel’s post yesterday on the Books & Such blog gave some great advice about talking to agents and editors at conferences: It’s Not All About the Pitch. But I know many of you will be pitching, so I wanted to go over some tips. I think the secret to making a great pitch is to start with a bit of context or background, then tell me about your book. It doesn’t have to be in-depth, considering your time restraints. But take a moment to introduce yourself and your project before pitching. Too often, people sit down and nervously launch into some kind of story and I find myself dizzy with confusion. I feel like a deer in the...
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Pitching Your Novel

Pitching Your Novel Last week we discussed pitching your project to agents and editors at a writers’ conference. Today I wanted to address that a little more. One thing I’ve noticed lately in fiction pitches – verbal pitches or queries – is that some writers want to tell all about the theme or the emotional journey of the story, but they have a hard time conveying the actual story. Every novel has a theme. There’s a character arc, in which a character grows and/or changes over the course of the story. There’s an emotional progression. But that is NOT the story. That is what is illustrated by the story. What’s a story? It’s a plot. It’s scenes with action and dialogue. It’s people going places and doing things and talking to other people. It’s...
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Query Paranoia

Query Paranoia Writers often get freaked out by all our blogs and twitter posts about “bad” queries and big mistakes people make that can make them look…less than professional. But here’s the thing. If you’re reading blogs and books and getting yourself educated about how to get published, then I’m sure you’re going to be fine. You can stop worrying so much, because YOU are not the one making those really egregious mistakes. And even if you’re not perfect? Don’t sweat it. Believe it or not, agents can see through cliches, poor wording and other mistakes to identify good writing and strong book ideas. When we post all those silly things people say in queries, and write all those posts about “here’s what NOT to do,” we’re just trying to...
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11 Questions for Crafting a Pitch

This weekend I taught at a writers’ conference and my topic was “Selling Your Stuff,” creating those all important sales materials for your book: The one-sentence summary.The query.The pitch paragraph.The elevator pitch.The proposal. I was talking to a room full of novelists, so I focused on fiction. I told them that the main elements of a pitch for a novel are: CharacterTheir choice, conflict, or goalWhat’s at stake (may be implied)ActionSetting But I know it’s still hard figuring out exactly the right way to pitch. You have to simplify your story and pitch a single plot thread and as few characters as possible. You have to be precise, and use specific (not vague) language. And you have to make it interesting, which means you need to find the most unique and...
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One-Sentence Summary Critiques & Tips

Today I’m offering some thoughts on a few of the one-sentence summaries that were entered in the contest. Sometimes it’s helpful to see what’s not quite working, in order to learn how to do it better. Maybe these examples will help you spot something you can improve with your own pitch. We’ll group them according to common problems. Issue: Not using specific language. Many pitches suffer from being a bit too vague to effectively build interest. When things are not what they seem, Kimberly must overcome many obstacles in her life, to find herself again…at any costs.>>Notice the general, not specific words. “things are not what they seem.” “overcome many obstacles.” “find herself.” They lack real meaning and don’t give us anything to...
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WINNERS: The One-Sentence Summary Contest

Wow! We had nearly 500 entries in last Wednesday’s contest. I’m thrilled, because this means 500 of you worked on creating a concise summary for your book, something most writers find difficult. But it can be done, right? I hope this served as a helpful exercise for you. Of course it was very difficult narrowing down the entries. Don’t feel bad if I didn’t choose yours. There were quite a few really effective ones in the mix, but I was only able to choose 1 out of every 100 entries, so the odds were high. Of course, choosing the winners was an exercise in subjectivity. But notice that the summaries I chose each present an interesting scenario and a clear conflict. Occasionally they break the “formula” but are still successful because of they way they...
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The One-Sentence Summary

*Contest is closed.*Today we’re going to talk about the one-sentence summary, also known as a logline, a hook, or a one-sentence pitch. (It is not a tagline, however.) What: About 25 words that capture your novel, memoir, or non-fiction book. Why: To get someone interested in reading your book. When to use it: The start of a query, or anytime someone asks you, “What’s your book about?” What it does: A one-sentence summary takes your complex book with multiple characters and plotlines and boils it down into a simple statement that can be quickly conveyed and understood, and generates interest in the book. What it should include:→ A character or two→ Their choice, conflict, or goal→ What’s at stake (may be implied)→ Action that will get them to the goal→ Setting (if...
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The Elevator Pitch, Third Floor

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/SX6UTKvV0QI/AAAAAAAACmw/yIi7A7Edgr0/s320/elevator+3.jpg I hope you’re learning something from this 3-day tutorial on elevator pitches. (I promise, agents and editors will appreciate your efforts!) Today let’s talk about the process of crafting the elevator pitch. I think your best chance for success is to take it seriously as a multi-step process (because I know you have nothing else to do) and put some time into it. The effort will allow you to overcome shyness, discomfort with verbal presentations, and even nervousness around publishing professionals. Preparation always boosts confidence, and if there’s one thing I see writers struggling with, it’s confidence. So how do you prepare? 8 Steps to the Perfect Pitch 1. Write it. Craft your pitch 10 or 20 different ways and different lengths. Don’t skimp on this...
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The Elevator Pitch, Second Floor

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/SX1KjUvK-NI/AAAAAAAACmo/5acB2hWNhK8/s320/elevator2.jpg So, how did you do on your self-critiquing? Some of you offered astute rewrites. Way to go! Today I’m going to give you a few more hints about elevator pitches. → Always be prepared. You never know when you’re going to come across someone who will ask, “So what’s your book about?” At conferences, there are mealtimes, hallway chatting times, elevator times, and countless other times when someone might ask you The Question. Or, you might not even be at a conference. You could be like my new friend Tara who was sitting next to me at our kids’ volleyball game. Unbeknownst to both of us, at that very moment I had a query from her in my inbox. She didn’t even know I was an agent. We chatted and finally put it together (“OMG! You’re an agent?...
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The Elevator Pitch, Part 1

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/SXyH9FWNEeI/AAAAAAAACmQ/yuYTSPflM9g/s200/elevator.jpg It has come to my attention that I’ve failed you. I asked you to send elevator pitches, without previously teaching you about elevator pitches. Mea culpa, mea culpa. I’ll try to make up for it over the next three days by giving you lots of tips about how to craft a successful pitch. (I won’t be able to critique everyone’s pitch, but you can still learn from the ones I do critique.) I’ll start with some basics. I had a specific reason for setting up Friday’s blog post with “close your eyes and imagine…” I wanted you to grasp the fact that you are going to be talking to someone. I didn’t want your standard written pitch. Which is what many of you offered. There’s a huge difference between the way people speak and the way they...
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Q4U: What’s Your Book About?

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/SXic2Pgys4I/AAAAAAAAClI/js3MRG3vk1I/s200/sticky+note+Q4U.bmp Okay guys, work with me here. Close your eyes (AFTER you read this post). Imagine you’re at a writer’s conference, waiting for the elevator up to your hotel room. The agent of your dreams walks up and stands beside you. He/she smiles and says “Hi.” You manage to return a coherent “Hello” in response. “Enjoying the conference?” the agent asks. “Yes, it’s great!” you respond. The elevator doors open and you both step in. The agent presses 15. You press 17 (even though your room is on the 5th floor). Agent looks you squarely in the eye and asks, “So what are you writing?” You now have 15 floors to make an impression. → What will you say? I’ll respond to these next week, so specify in the comments if you...
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