**This Lesson is part of the January series “30 Pitch Lessons – 30 Days.” Pitch University Pitchfest weeks and Expert-In-Residence weeks kick off the 1st full week in February.**
Well, she's at it again. And this time, she shares a wonderful method for using your own book to identify the people (agents, editors, readers) most likely to buy (accept, sign you up) your book.
And here's the best part. You'll accidentally create the back cover copy for your book. Bonus!
So, once again, here is Catherine, helping you be awesome.
The Power of Extremely Specific Audiences
I have some terrible news for you: not everyone is going to be interested in buying your book.
In fact, the vast majority of people won't be interested in your book.
I know. It's a hard truth to absorb. I mean, why wouldn't people be interested in your story about the politics of a small- town fire station? It's AWESOME. And since you've spent the last two years writing this story, it's now the most important thing in the entire world.
But there's one overwhelmingly good reason to abandon the delightful daydreams of selling a copy of this book to every single resident of Minnesota. (Or Northern America. Or hey, the world.)
This is the reason:
If you know who your audience is, you can talk to them more intimately.
So instead of trying to talk to every single person in the world, you can exclude
the people who never ever buy books - Philistines! - and
the people who are really looking for something on baking bread at home, and
the people who only ever buy military histories, and talk only to the people who would actually buy your book without being held at gunpoint.
Okay, so why does that matter?
Take a moment and remember the last advertisement that really ticked you off.
For me it was a disposable nappy (diaper, for North Americans) ad in which the father is clueless and dumb, and the mother rescues him from the scary work of putting a bit of plastic on his son's butt. I was ticked off by the idea "Hur hur, men are so bad at raising kids". To me, it's a dreadfully overworked cliché and one that makes the world just a little bit worse every time it's repeated.
If you plotted the audience for this ad on a bell curve, I'm in the small group at one side who thinks that ad is infuriating and pretty damn sexist, too.
There will be a much larger group of people in the middle (the vast majority of them) to whom that ad is invisible, forgotten within ten seconds of being watched.
And then there's another small group to whom that ad is delightful. It reminds them of how their husband panicked the first time the baby threw up and how powerful and wise they felt as they made it all okay again. Those people will remember and buy that brand as a result.
The problem with mass media like those ads is they waste an awful lot of energy: they bore or infuriate 90% of people to reach the 10% that really care. Your pitching might do the same.
But we can be much much smarter...
... and only pitch to the 10% who care and would be interested in buying our books.
(Of course, it's not really 10%, it's probably more like 0.1%. But if your audience is 400 million people or so, that's still 400,000 people who would really love your book.)
It's much easier to find your 10% and get them madly excited about buying your book than it is to convince a big homogenous mass of people to get interested in your book. (And think of time you'll save.)
Publishers know this.
Agents know this.
And if you prove that you know this - and have some intelligent thoughts on who your ideal readers are and how they can be found - then you'll instantly get a thousand times more respect than the guy who's planning to sell a copy to every adult aged 22-45 in his hometown (but, of course, who won't, because 90% aren't interested).
So how do you get specific about your audience?
Your book has characteristics, which will appeal to different people. Here are three big ones...
#1 The Situation
Sometimes the topic makes it clear who would be most interested in your story.
Your tale of small-town fire station politics would be interesting to
- the workers, families and friends of small-town fire stations. (Of course.)
- the people who want to know more behind the scenes of those groups... the same people who watch TV specials about emergency wards, because they're fascinated by the actions of people in high-stress situations.
- the people who always wanted to BE a firefighter but couldn't, and still fantasizes about it.
Who would be interested in the situations of your book?
#2 The Theme
Let's look at theme. Here's an example, there's a theme that links a LOT of sci-fi and fantasy, and possibly justifies so many different stories being lumped together under one heading.
That theme is: what does it mean to be human?
Different writers explore that theme with stories of cybertronics (Are we still human if our minds are in computers?), fantasy utopias (Can humanity reach its potential without the need to strive?) and magic (What do humans do when given overwhelming power?).
And the same readers will enjoy all of these wildly divergent stories because they enjoy exploring the theme under them.
Who would be interested in the theme of your book?
#3 The Writing Style
I know a LOT of twenty-something men who read Bridget Jones' Diary. Because they enjoyed the writing style.
This is the basis of some of the accurate "If you liked Jane Austen, you'll love this..." recommendations.
Your book might be about a group of deep-sea fishermen chasing their own Moby Dick, but if it's written with a critical examination of human behaviour and a large dollop of amusement at their follies, then it might well appeal to the same people who like Jane Austen. Some of them, anyway.
Who would be interested in the writing style of your book?
Why only those three?
There are many more I could talk about, but those three are always elements of the back cover explanation of a book. (I've read some that gave no hint to the theme, but they were really bad blurbs.)
Therefore, they are as much information as most people have when they pick up a book and decide whether it's for them. If you nail those three, your pitch will be magnificent.
So how do I nail it then?
You say something like...
"This story will appeal to people who are fascinated by human behaviour in times of stress, especially workers and families of emergency services. It is a look into what firefighters are like when no-one's looking, and how heroism can co-exist with pettiness and grabbing for power. It will really appeal to people who like documentary-style narration, where it all feels far too real to be fiction."
Does that sound a lot like a blurb already? It does. It always helps to make it easier for the person you're pitching to, to already imagine the book in print. (And easier for the agents and editors to realize it matches what they're looking for!)