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Part skills lesson, part confession, part peptalk: this is my brand new radio interview on Your Book is Your Hook radio program, hosted by Jennifer Wilkov.  You'll recognize her as an expert-in-resident here at Pitch U!
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Thursday
Jul282011

This Is Not a Science! (how a Bloomsbury Children’s Books publicist supports her authors)

Flawless-REV-hires-cata-663x1024By Kate Lied, Associate Publicist
Bloomsbury Children's Books | Walker Books for Young Readers

 

Please visit us on Facebook at:
www.facebook.com/BloomsburyKids
www.facebook.com/BloomsburyTeens

 

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This is 4th in a series on Pitching Lara Chapman’s debut YA novel,  Flawless:

Author Lara Chapman asked her in-house publicist, Kate Lied, “How did you know how to market Flawless, especially as it pertains to the YA Blog Reviewers?  How do you select the blogs to send books to?”

Publicist Kate Lied replies:

I first learned about Flawless in the first meeting we had about the Spring 2011 season waaaay back in early 2010.

PowerofPublicityWe have a meeting where the editorial group and the marketing/publicity group sit down together, and the editors tell us about all of the books on that season’s list. They tell us a little bit about the book and the author and why they’re excited about it.

At this point we also learn about the author’s sales track (if they have one) and if we have signed up a single book or multiple books with them and the editors also tell us about any comparable books out there as these things can all affect how we put together our marketing and publicity plans for a book.

Shortly after that meeting, the marketing/publicity groups all sit down together and brainstorm ideas for how to market each book on the season’s list. There are of course “bigger” books that receive more plans than others, but each book has a marketing/publicity plan of some kind.

As for how I knew how to market the book, I suppose the answer would be mostly experience and also the advice and input of those around me who are even more experienced. That being said, this is not a science!

What works for one book might not necessarily work for another book for reasons nobody can explain or understand. It can be very frustrating!

(A) These plans are edited/tweaked several times over the next few weeks/months as they are reviewed, (B) a more finished manuscript is available to be read, and )C) after the plans are shown to the editors for their thoughts and feedback, we then have a meeting where we present these plans to our Sales force.  Sometimes the plans are edited even further based on their feedback before they are finalized.

That being said, these plans are not set in stone and can change even post-publication based on an amazing National media pick-up that we want to capitalize on or that exposes the book to a wider audience and creates interest from previously uninterested parties.

Not only that, but sometimes a writer or an editor from a publication will contact me and say “hey, I’m putting together a story about a certain subject – do you have any books that would fit?”

Blogs have become an increasingly large part of our marketing over the past few years. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to do a blog tour for Flawless, especially because it was a debut. I have a very large list of bloggers who have contacted me. That list is broken down into several sub-lists – like bloggers I work with regularly who I know are good, bloggers I haven’t really worked with before so I’m sort of waiting to see what they’re all about, etc., etc.

Since Flawless was a debut, I decided to send out my blog tour pitch along with a pitch for another book by an established author who I knew people were excited about.

To further entice the bloggers, I offered interviews with Lara (which she generously agreed to!) and also the opportunity to host ARC giveaways (which are always a big draw).

Whenever I pitch a book, but especially for debuts, I always try to liken the book to something that is already out there and that a lot of people know, while also pointing out the ways in which this book is unique. I sent the pitch out to a big group of bloggers. For a debut especially, I feel as though it is important to get the book out into the “blogosphere” in a big way to pique interest from others.

When the people who have seen reviews of the book email me that they want a copy, I’m walking the fine line between stretching out the interest with a steady stream of reviews and wanting people to go out and buy it… because really, that is the ultimate goal of what I do!

Blog Tour – A Small Sampling of Reviews

Blogs by Teens

Blogs by YA Librarians and Educators and Adult Readers of YA

Blogs by Writers for Readers

Major Review Sites

In-Person Tour

Special Events

  • Weeklong Pitch University feature on “Pitching Flawless!”

From Diane, Founder of Pitch U:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this unique behind-the-scenes look at Industry pitching!  Please pick up a copy of Flawless right now, read it, and go back to see how the book and the pitches work together.

Then take a look at the reviews.  If the book was pitched well, it will have found readers who love it!  After all, that’s the goal of all pitching: to appeal to YOUR market, those who will love your book.

Wednesday
Jul272011

How Editors Pitch Books in 3 (easy?) Steps

    • Flawless-REV-hires-cata-663x1024Monday we saw Lara Chapman’s query letter to Literary Agent Holly Root at Waxman Literary Agency (who said, “YES!”)
    • Tuesday we saw Holly Root’s pitch to Editor Caroline Abbey at Bloomsbury.
    • Today, Caroline shares exactly how she pitched Lara’s book ‘In-house’ and convinced an entire team of Industry Professionals to say, “YES!”

Step #1: Falling in Love.

Caroline Abbey

by Caroline Abbey, Editor, Bloomsbury Children's Books

Our acquisitions process starts with editorial meeting. It’s a meeting where the editorial staff discusses submissions we’re reading, projects we’re working on, projects we want to develop, etc.

After reading and loving Flawless, I brought the novel to this meeting (giving a short verbal pitch for the book) and asked for a second read. After another editor had a chance to read the novel, we agreed that we should try to buy it.

Step #2: The Acquisitions Obstacle Course

Next, I had to pitch Flawless in our acquisitions meeting.

Acquisitions is a more formal meeting than editorial. The directors of all the departments are there (marketing, publicity, design, sales, etc.) to give feedback.

special-forces-obstacle-course

In order to pitch a project in acquisitions meeting, the editor has to write up an acquisition memo and distribute it to the group along with a reading sample. This usually happens about a week before the meeting. The acquisitions memo includes a summary, bullet points explaining why the editor thinks we should publish the book, questions for the group, information about the author, and a list of comparative titles.

Here are some of the details I provided for Flawless:

Summary: My summary was very similar to the original pitch from agent Holly Root. It had some really great lines in it including the ending “For someone so smart, what was she thinking?” That line made it all the way to the finished book!

Why publish the book?: I wrote up bullet points about what drew me to the book and why I thought it would be strong for the teen market.

I loved how in Lara’s depiction of the Cyrano story it was almost too easy to impersonate your best friend because of social media sites like Facebook and the popularity of texting. It felt modern and authentically teen.

The book had great underlying messages without being too didactic. And the romance in Flawless touched on themes I love (and I think teens love too): misguided match-making and that whole “best friend’s boyfriend” dilemma.

Questions/discussion points: In the case of Flawless, I asked a few questions about the concept of retelling Cyrano, like whether or not most teens would be familiar with the plot. I also raised the question of format because of the popularity of paperback original commercial teen fiction.

Ultimately, we decided to publish Flawless in hardcover and paperback simultaneously so that certain markets (like libraries) would have a hardcover edition for their shelves.

Comparative titles: Comparative titles aren’t exactly the same as the book you’re trying to buy (if they were, you probably wouldn’t buy the book!) but they share something with the project such that you could say readers who enjoyed these books might enjoy the one you want to buy.

I compared Flawless to books about girls with big noses (like My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters, by Sydney Satler), books where the romance plot involves deception (like Fake Boyfriend, by Kate Brian), and books with a best friend’s boyfriend theme (like The Unwritten Rule, by Elizabeth Scott).

Sample pages: Editors often provide the first twenty five pages of the novel to give the acquisitions board a taste of the author’s voice, but sometimes those first twenty five pages don’t give a good taste of the heart of the story so then you might choose to offer a section from the middle of the novel.

In the case of Flawless, I included the first three chapters. The third chapter ends in a way that keeps you wanting more so I thought it was the perfect way to entice the acquisitions team.

The acquisitions meeting doesn’t end in a definitive yes or no answer. Instead, editors walk away with feedback from every department that generally leans in one direction or the other.

Maybe marketing thinks there is great opportunity because of this reason or publicity thinks the book will get attention for that reason.

The thing I most remember about the Flawless meeting is that our team was intrigued by a new novel on the list that fell squarely in the contemporary realistic fiction category. We had many fantasy/paranormal titles coming up so it was refreshing to see realistic fiction.

Step #3:  Math

From here, the editor starts running numbers to try to figure out what we can afford to pay and gets approvals on the details (advance, royalties, subsidiary rights, etc.) before going back to the agent to make an offer.  (Which we did.)

Note: This is the acquisitions process at Bloomsbury. The process varies from house to house.

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A note from Diane, founder of Pitch U: 

I’m issuing a challenge!  Go buy Lara’s book, read it, and then try writing your own pitch/query letter.  Then compare yours to what you’ve seen this week.

It’s one thing to read a working example.  It’s another to play around with your own version and make the decisions about what to feature and how to feature it.

Seriously, you’ll learn a lot, and you can challenge your critique group to do it with you.

(And you’ll read a lovely story along the way.)

Then, drop Lara, Holly, and Caroline a tweet (or email)!  Let them know that you thought their posts here rocked.

@CarolineAbbey
@hroot
@LaraChapman

Congratulations, you’ve just made some wonderful contacts.

TOMORROW:  We’ll meet Kate Lied, Associate Publicist, Bloomsbury!

Tuesday
Jul262011

A Flawless Book Pitch: How Does Literary Agent Holly Root Sell a High-Concept Novel? Like this.

hollyroot_thumb[3] By Literary Agent, Holly Root of Waxman Literary Agency, @hroot.

Flawless-REV-hires-cata-663x1024This is the 2nd post in an exclusive look at how a single pitch for Lara Chapman’s debut novel, Flawless, changes as the book sells at each step - from writer to agent to editor to publicist… to reader.

Read the selling query letter Lara Chapman wrote to Holly Root HERE.

 

Holly Root’s Selling Query Letter

I contacted Bloomsbury Children's Books editor Caroline Abbey first via phone--left her a message saying I had this book I thought she would love, and I'd send along a bit more info by email to save us the phone tag.

(With people I've built a sturdy enough relationship with, I don't feel like I have to wait for a call-back to pitch verbally if I don't catch them initially. Caroline and I had known each other since our assistant days, so I was confident this one was in her strike zone.)

So I then sent along the pitch letter via email, mentioning that I'd just tried her by phone, and she wrote back and said she would love to see the manuscript, and I emailed it along!

Want to see the pitch letter I used (which, uh, probably has a lot of similarities to Lara’s original query, because I am sure I stole from BLATANTLY).

Dear Caroline,

I am thrilled to be sending you Lara Chapman’s debut YA novel, FLAWLESS, a contemporary retelling of Cyrano with a heart big enough to match the heroine’s plus-size probiscus.

Meet Sarah Burke. Salutatorian. Bibliophile. Future Pulitzer nominee, if all goes according to plan. Sarah’s mom would love for Sarah to inherit her broadcast news-at-eleven stilettos, but Sarah’s very well aware that, as the proud owner of a nose that inspires comparisons to Buicks and surfboards, she’s got a face for print journalism. Why bother fighting who she is?

Senior year starts exactly as expected, right up until the moment Rock Conway walks into journalism class and, well, rocks every girl in the room's world. Including Sarah’s. Sarah’s never been the dating type. But for Rock, she'd gladly leap overboard into the shark-infested dating waters at Northwest High (after all, maybe the sharks would mistake her beak for a dorsal fin). Who knew a love of literature could be so sexy on a guy?

Problem is, her best friend Kristen falls for him too. And Kristen is perfect. Perfect hair. Perfect teeth. Perfect nose. When Kristen and Rock stand next to each other it’s like the word “archetype” come to life. So when Kristen begs Sarah for help nabbing Rock, Sarah does the only thing a best friend can do: She agrees.

Now Sarah just has to teach Kristen about two thousand years of literature, give her a total culture transplant, and convince Rock that Kristen's as perfect for him as she looks. Even though Sarah knows in her heart of hearts he should be with her.

For someone so smart… what was she thinking?

I absolutely loved Lara’s voice and found her contemporary reboot of this timeless story incredibly fresh and appealing. I hope you’ll agree, and I look forward to hearing from you.

All best,

Holly

From Diane, Founder of Pitch U

What an incredibly strong query letter, yes?  Take some time to compare it to Lara’s original letter to Holly.  There are differences and similarities.  Which pieces do you personally like best?

You can learn a lot from understanding the changes and reasons for the changes.

Also, Holly mentions Lara’s beautiful voice.  We hear about needing a strong voice, but it’s often hard to describe exactly what a good/ strong/ beautiful/ exciting voice actually is.  Here’s an excerpt from Flawless for you to enjoy.

From FLAWLESS:

“Welcome to Northwest,” Sarah’s best friend purrs, her voice resonating with a hoarseness I’ve never heard. When’d she learn that? “I’m Kristen Gallagher, and this is my best friend Sarah Burke.”

He nods back at Kristen, a smitten smile spread across his face. “Rockford Conway. Everyone calls me Rock.”

I instantaneously think how much I’d love to be stuck between Rock and a hard place when he turns to acknowledge me. His gaze stops at the most obvious spot on my face.

Not my killer blue eyes.

Not my plump pouty lips.

Not even my precious little chin.

His eyes lock dead center on my face.

On my nose.

As he studies me silently, fire burns its way up my cheeks. There can be no doubt he’s taking in the beak-like quality I’ve learned to appreciate. Well, “appreciate” might be a stretch. You learn to appreciate fine art or classical music, and my nose is a long way from those things. I guess you could say I’ve learned to tolerate my nose.

Until now.

Monday
Jul252011

How to Pitch Your Book (The top secret journey from author to agent to editor to sales department & reader.)

Flawless-REV-hires-cata-663x1024 Flawless.

That’s what you have to be to (a) find an agent, (b) sell your debut novel to a publisher who launches it as a lead title, and (c) generate powerful sell-through.

Want to see how it’s done?

That’s what this week is all about.

You’ll hear from author, agent, editor, and publisher’s publicist.  This is an amazing opportunity to follow a pitch from start to finish.  Enjoy.

by Lara Chapman, author of Flawless

lara Chapman 
**See my selling query letter at the bottom.

Looking for an agent.  While I definitely spent plenty of time trolling the internet for information – especially Agent Query and Publisher’s Marketplace - I found the most useful research was identifying agents that repped authors I enjoyed reading and thought my writing resembled.

Once you see the list of authors an agent has signed and later sold, you get a feel of their interests and the type of voice that catches their attention.

I had very clear specifications about the kind of agent I needed. 

  • Communicative – I really wanted an agent who stayed in communication and was accessible. Because I teach full time, it was imperative that my agent be email friendly as most of my communication takes place after working hours.

    I knew from the communication I’d had with literary agent Holly Root (when I’d queried her with my first two YA novels) that she was that kind of communicator.
  • Credibility – We all want an agent that has credibility within the industry. I knew I wanted an agent who was actively selling books in my genre because that meant she had contacts in the YA publishing market. It also meant she knew what editors were looking for!

I actually queried pretty widely in the beginning. I made a list of the agents who repped my favorite YA authors and started with them. One of those agents was Jenny Bent (agent to tres extraordinaire YA authors, Tera Lynn Childs and Stephanie Hale).

Jenny liked my writing, but didn’t have time to give it the attention she thought it deserved, so she referred me to Holly Root, who had previously worked as Jenny’s assistant and had recently moved to the Waxman Agency as an agent.

Holly was my only offer of representation, and it was truly the only one I wanted. I just “knew” she was the one. Our personalities clicked, she was easy to talk to, and I trusted her advice implicitly.

The backstory on my relationship with Holly is long… as in 2 ½ years long. I would query her, she’d ask for the partial, then the full. Twice she rejected me, but you could tell it just pained her to pass, even though it was the right thing to do (much as I hate to admit it).

She’d offer some advice about how to make the next manuscript bigger and better. The term “high concept” was mentioned frequently, and we all know how elusive that term can be! During those 2 ½ years, I’d make pitch appointments with Holly when we were at the same conference and just talk about the industry. Keeping in touch was key to developing our relationship.

Holly emailed me on Monday afternoon (on the first day of school, which is crazy for teachers everywhere!) and asked if I’d be available to chat the following afternoon with the note that she was “so happy with the work” I’d done on the manuscript.

I quickly replied with a manic YES and spent the next 24 hours obsessing if this would be “the call” or if she was planning to let me down gently. When she called the following day, 20 fifth graders had just returned to my classroom from PE, sweaty, stinky, and well… generally just icky! I grabbed the phone off my desk, left the sweaty preteens to make wild guesses about who I was talking to, and took the call in the hallway.

There’s nothing quite like hearing an agent talk about your writing using phrases like “really hit it out of the ballpark” and “high concept” (I finally got it!) and “I’m really excited about this!”

When she finally asked, “So, what do you think? You want to do this deal?” I nearly screamed! Instead, I just gushed effusively and think I got a “yes” in there somewhere.

When she sent me the contract via email an hour later (See? Good communicator!), I read it at least a thousand times, making sure it was MY NAME on the paper. A copy of it is still sitting on my nightstand so I can look at it every single day! I’ve decided that August 25th is a new family holiday… aka Holly-Day… to be celebrated for many years to come!

I have some very serious advice for aspiring authors.  It sounds so trite and I’ve read the same words while stifling an eye roll more than once, but it’s so true… NEVER QUIT WRITING! You can’t sell what you don’t write and that’s just the plain and simple truth.

I had all but decided to toss in the towel on writing, deciding instead that maybe I should consider it a hobby, not a career. But just listen to this story… the manuscript Holly actually signed me on had been lost in her email for nearly a year!

When she never responded to my partial submission, I took her silence as a polite “don’t call me, I’ll call you” brush off. Regardless, I kept tweaking the story, loving it more and more with each revision, but never querying another agent. Fast forward a year… when Holly was cleaning out her email, she saw it, loved what she read, and asked for the full.

Six weeks later, she offered representation! You never know what’s just around the corner. Believe in yourself, in your story… and never, ever quit! Oh, and you might want to follow up when an agent doesn’t respond to your submission.

Lara’s Query Letter that Worked

Dear Holly, 

My manuscript, Flawless, a modern-day retelling of the classic story Cyrano de Bergerac, is a 60,000-word young adult novel. I invite you to review the manuscript for my novel and consider representing me.

 

Did you know there are 29 synonyms for the word nose?

I have spent my entire seventeen years being the center of attention. When you have a nose the size of a Greyhound bus, people notice. They point. They stare. I’ve tried to compensate for the massive flaw centered on my otherwise perfectly admirable face with a killer wardrobe, clever come-backs, and well-honed social skills.  Still, I have yet to experience my first kiss. (To be honest, there isn’t anyone in school worth kissing anyway, so I’m not exactly sitting by the phone at night.)  I’m happy hanging with my gorgeous best friend, Kristen, who, by the way, has absolutely no problem logging serious lip time despite the fact that she doesn’t know Pluto from a participle.

Everything changes when Rock Conway enters my Journalism class.  He’s taller than anyone in our classroom and twice as gorgeous.  Seriously, he’s stunning.  An honest-to-God drop-you-to-your-knees kind of spectacular.

Before I even get a chance to introduce myself, Kristen elects herself his own personal tour guide and leaves me – and every other girl in school – in the dust.  As if that isn’t bad enough, she begs me to help her win Rock over by writing him love letters and posting them on his MySpace page under her name.  What Kristen doesn’t realize is the words I write for Rock are true and come straight from my heart to his message board.

Because of my perfectly-written letters, he’s falling in love with Kristen and I’m falling in love with him. If I tell the truth, Kristen loses the guy she’s in love with and I’ve betrayed our friendship. Even if I declare myself the author, Rock is going to think I’m a deceitful hag with a honker the size of a Buick.

Is there any way out of this mess?

I am a member of Romance Writers of America and an active member in the West Houston RWA chapter. I have been writing for three years, during which I have completed various full-length novels and novellas.

I have previously served as the Editor of numerous professional journals and have taught Writing at the intermediate school level for the past five years.

I look forward to your response. I can be reached via email at **** or by phone at ****.

Sincerely,

Lara Chapman

A note from Diane Holmes, Founder of Pitch University:  Does it surprise you that she wrote a first-person pitch from the viewpoint of the protagonist?  It probably does!

I’ve said this over and over, and this query letter is the perfect example.  There are no rules. The only rule is to be effective.  When you pitch, do and say the most effective thing for your book.  Be appropriate to your genre.  Be professional.  Show that you have mastery over your story.  And allow “what you’re book is about” to speak for itself.

Tomorrow, we’ll hear from Literary Agent Holly Root.

Thursday
Jul212011

6 Classy Tips For Your Book’s Market Analysis

The Pitch Perfect Proposal, an on-going column by Erin Reel, The Lit Coach. Erin is an editorial and publishing consultant, writer’s coach, blogger, columnist and former Los Angeles based literary agent.

 

Keeping it Classy in your Competitive Analysis

Agents and publishing teams want to work with writers who, yes, are brilliant, creative and innovative, but who also have a firm grasp of their place within the book market and a healthy respect for those who’ve blazed the book trails before them.

Since most agents, editors and publishers have seen it all, they’re especially interested in learning why your book is unique and how it will complement other titles in the market. The Competitive Analysis section of your book proposal should accomplish three things:

  1. Show there is a market for your book
  2. Show which books compliment your book
  3. Show how your book stands apart from the pack

twinspiration When Cheryl Lage, author of Twinspiration: Real-Life Advice from Pregnancy Through the First Year, approached me with the proposal for her charming twins tome, I knew I wanted to work with her on developing the project further because as an expectant mother of twins, she read as many twin-centric titles as she could get her hands on - she knew the market from the trenches. She knew what info was useful, what wasn’t and what advice simply didn’t speak to women like her.

Through her personal experiences, she saw a hole in the market and felt compelled to fill it – which is usually the way most book concepts are conceived (no pun intended).

Let’s take a look at a few examples from the Twinspiration Competitive Analysis:

Two at a Time: Having Twins: The Journey through Pregnancy and Birth, by Jane Seymour, Pamela Patrick Novotny and Sheryl Ross (Pocket Books, 2001)

Two At a Time offers an entertaining celebrity perspective on twin pregnancy and birth. Unlike the average twin mom, her status affords her the flexibility of hiring twin management personnel. A fun read from a unique point of view…the People magazine of twin pregnancy books.

Short Take? While Two at a Time is entertaining, it’s celebrity driven and removed from the general readership’s reality.

During the time I shopped Cheryl’s proposal, celebrity twin pregnancies were hot in the media as was the twins and multiples baby-boom in the general public – which ultimately was a nice hook Cheryl used to place freelance work, further establishing her platform. Not to mention, there was a market for her work.

Celebrity driven “how-to” books are lots of fun but you have to consider why the book is selling when adding the title in your proposal – because of their name and status or because of the info/message? Usually, it’s the celebrity that is the hook, not necessarily the message. That said, the same rule applies when analyzing the work of celebrity authors as it does for the rest in the field, respect their book and analyze it as you would any other. Keep it classy.

Dr. Rachel’s Guide to Surviving Multiple Pregnancy by Dr. Rachel McClintock Franklin (St. Martin’s Press, 2004).

Despite her upbeat tone, the text includes more medical and less “hands on” advice. Although she is a twin mommy, most readers surmise doctors “know more,” and are subsequently better equipped to handle the challenges of twin parenting, however her text lacks thorough real-life advice and only covers pregnancy and the very first days.

Short Take? Despite all the helpful, much-needed info and medical perspective on pregnancy and the early days of twinfancy, the book lacks some much needed, every-mom accessible, day to day info about how to cope throughout that crucial first year.

Here, Cheryl pays respect to the Doc’s expertise but also highlights the need for the more hand-holding “every mom” advice new twin mothers so desperately need, which Cheryl learned through her experience as a mother of twins. Plus she popped in one of her unique twin-centric words, “twinfancy,” that she uses throughout her book and popular blog, giving the publisher a small flavor of her brand.

 

Twins!: Expert Advice from Two Practicing Physicians on Pregnancy, Birth and The First Year of Life, by Connie Agnew (HarperCollins, 1997)

I bought this book as a gift for a twins-expectant friend who prefers authority for her pregnancy prep. This is a good text for medical info and developmental progress, but not enough nitty-gritty/how –to-manage-with-twins advice. (Same friend called me regularly for tips on maneuvering once her twins were born.) I love this statement because it shows Cheryl respects the author and respects the wishes of those who would prefer a “medical” text to a chatty one. Ultimately, her friend found a need for Cheryl’s day-to-day twins know-how, which clearly illustrated the need for Cheryl’s advice in a very positive and compelling way.

So how is Twinspiration different?

The need exists for an encouraging, friendly book written by a non-doctor/every-mom that not only covers the pregnancy phase of twins but what to expect through the first year of their twins’ lives. Twin mommies need a text that reveals “what works” in that challenging first year. Hearing the owner’s approachable manual-esque tips, the “don’t try what I tried” mistakes, and the cheerleading “you can do its” from a woman just like them will reassure a tired twin mom as no doctor can.

Twinspiration will fill a present-day vacuum. Providing real-life glimpses of the happy and harrowing, joyful and juggling, this book will give the reassurance that “it can be done.” For a shell-shocked expectant mom, or a sleep-deprived new mom of twins, that is good news indeed.

Twinspiration sold and has become a must-have text on twins-mamas nightstands because it speaks directly to the every-mom experience.

In a sea of doctor and celebrity written books about twins, Cheryl saw the hole in the market and filled it. But what’s very important to note here is that Cheryl built her platform as that approachable “every twins mom” expert before this book proposal was offered to publishers. The rest of the proposal reflects this.

Keep It Classy

And finally, here are a few “keep it classy” tips to have on hand as you craft your Competitive Analysis.

1. Respect the authors with whom you compete – you wouldn’t want to offend their agent, editor or publisher. It’s a small world and you never know when collaborative opportunities may arise. Besides, how would you feel if someone dissed your book just to grab the spotlight?

2. Objectivity is your friend. When analyzing the other titles, highlight their strengths, weaknesses, how your book will complement those titles and fill the gaps others missed – remember your hook. It’s that easy!

3. Hyperbole is your enemy. Plus, it’s just not good writing. Stay away from words like never, always and all unless you are 100% certain your claims are accurate and you have the data to prove it.

4. Confidence is classy – if you’ve read most of the titles in your competitive analysis section, you’re showing an agent, editor and publisher that you have healthy confidence about your work - you’re not afraid to read the competition. You know you have a place in the market and you know you don’t have to attack another author’s work to earn your place on the shelf. Confidence is a writer’s best asset and publishing pros LOVE to work with writers who know their place in the market.

5. Be concise – four to six competitive titles will suffice. Objectively state the positive qualities of the competitive title, the qualities the title lacks and how your book differs.

6. It’s ok to use your “voice” here as long as it’s appropriate to the tone of your book. Cheryl’s tone was the chatty mama-next-door because that’s who she is and that’s the tone of the book. Just ensure that while you’re using your authentic voice, err on the side of professionalism. Professionalism is always classy.

This article is 5th in Erin’s series on writing awesome non-fiction book proposals (a written pitch for your book).

The detailed analyses and market planning are great tools for fiction writers, as well. To read more…

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Erin Reel, The Lit Coach, is a former literary agent and a current Los Angeles based publishing and editorial consultant, editor and writing coach. Her blog, The Lit Coach’s Guide to The Writer’s Life offers weekly tips, stories and encouragement for writers from her own experience in the publishing industry and through exclusive contributions from bestselling, award-winning and notable authors, agents and other publishing professionals.

You can find out more about Twinspiration: Real-Life Advice from Pregnancy through the First Year by Cheryl Lage at twinsights.com.

Tuesday
Jul192011

Joel Q. Aaron – Using His Critique Superpowers for Good (and not for evil!)

Member Spotlight Interview by Minion Heather Webb.

fly $$ (1) Joel Q. Aaron is a fantasy writer, freelance editor, and active contributor in the PitchU forum. Visit Joel at his BLOG.

If Joel’s not writing, he’s fly fishing.

Heather: Hi, Joel. Thanks for joining us on PitchU today. Tell us about your passion for writing.

Joel: I love to create, and writing seems to fit perfectly. I started out as an art major in college. That turned to journalism and a job as a reporter. From there I’ve worked as a newspaper editor and communications manager. But while writing for a job, I didn’t take time to write for me.

I started chapter one of my first novel four years ago this fall. Two friends that are authors, W.C. Jameson and Laurie Wagner Buyer, kept asking me what I was reading and what I was writing. Since I had left my job as an editor, I hadn’t done much of either. One day at the coffee shop Laurie gave me homework. A couple months later they both told me I needed to seriously look at writing. I started the novel.

There are three works in progress on my computer. The first was my very first book, a fantasy adventure, and like all first books, it needs a significant revision. My second novel, a paranormal western, is done. Finished. Proofed and reproofed. The query is just about tweaked. So it’s time to start contacting agents. I began a third fantasy.

My critique group is awesome. We keep each other accountable, motivated and encouraged. To be a part of our group, everyone must be actually writing, willing to critique, have a real goal of being published. Those requirements set our group apart from so many other writing groups where anyone can join. Sure, we all need a place to start. But we also need a place to grow.

You make GREAT suggestions in the FREE Query/Pitch forum here on PitchU. How did you become so good at critiquing?

Believe it or not, I think I’m a natural critiquer. I’ve completed several personality profiles over the years and almost all of them list words like refiner or reformer. When I see something—a building, a dinner plate, or writing—I can usually visualize a way to make it better.

For a long time, I thought I was just a critical person. But I feel I’ve been able to use that ability (for lack of a better word) for good. I spent three years as the editor of two community newspapers. Every day I had to look for errors and ways to make the newspaper better. The staff and I won numerous awards during that time.

I’ve also judged a few writing competitions. I continue to use the judging criteria as I critique other writers. Though these things have helped me in my writing, I wish it was as easy to critique myself as it is others.

Time spent on different forums and blogs have helped me define what I feel a query should be. That’s too much to discuss here. Though in short, the query must tell us enough for us to want to read more.

 

Do you have any advice for others trying to improve their query & pitch writing?

My advice is to listen to agents and other writers as you put the query (or pitch) together, even if it hurts. But in the end, the final decision is up to you. If you’re not comfortable with it, don’t send it.

What’s your favorite part of what we do at PitchU?

Offering help—that’s what so many of us need as we work to get published.

Tell us the truth…. How do you feel about pitching? What obstacles did you have to overcome? What’s the easiest part for you?

I’m not a salesman. And that’s what we have to do with our writing, even if it’s an unnatural fit. I get a little uncomfortable when it comes to talking about my writing. Most people I know don’t know I write. In pitch sessions at writing conferences I’ve been able to sell it, but to me that is easy, because the agents are ready and willing to listen. I’ll need to refine my pitching skills for next season’s conferences if I want to intrigue an agent outside of a pitch session.

Have you participated in a PitchFest at PitchU?

I have not, but I’m going to. I just need to find the right agent first.

We’d love to know who the “right” agents are and invite them to PitchU. Be sure to let us know!

So tell us, Joel, do you think pitching is a different skill than writing a query letter? Does it have advantages, or are they interchangeable?

Definitely different. Writing and speaking are totally different gifts. If you have the speaking skills, it has advantages. But the words, phrases, ideas are interchangeable. We have to get the agent to want to read our novel in only a few words, spoken or written. We can’t continue to hide behind a computer screen and speak through emails. Eventually we’ll need to communicate verbally with agents and publishers. The key is to be able to do both.

What’s your personal motto?

I heard a quote from William James that I refer to a lot.

“The best use of one’s life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”

I don’t expect my writing to be listed with the great authors of the past. But I do think about how I’m spending my life as a husband, father and friend. Those aspects of my life will leave a lasting impact on my family and community.

What’s the wisest thing you’ve ever said?

Besides asking my wife to marry me, I’d have to say something about not knowing everything and then asking how to do those things. Whether it’s in writing or a life skill, a wise person has to acknowledge their limits or deficiencies and then ask for training or help.

How many conferences or writer’s events will you attend this year?

I’m sorry to say I didn’t go to any conferences this year. Plans are already in the making for next year. I’ve attended the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference twice and both times it was great.

What skill is next on your list to learn?

I don’t know about any new skills. We can always continue to grow as people, artists, and writers. If we stopped growing, we’d stagnate, grow bored and that usually leads to trouble. By advancing our talents we naturally find ways to use it, to share it.

BONUS: If you had a personal pitching motto, what would it be?

Smile and nod.

---

by Heather Webb

Heather is a historical fiction writer, but dabbles occasionally in YA. When she’s not writing by the glow of her coffee pot light, she’s chasing her gremlins, ogling kitchen gadgets, sampling wine, or on an airplane to her next destination. Her “real” job is the Executive Director of New England Virtual High School, an online school for teens.

After discovering Pitch U, Heather became hooked to its invaluable columns and wonderfully supportive staff.  When asked to become part of the team, she was thrilled! This is THE PLACE to be. You can also find her on the web at her BLOG for writing tips, recipes, and pop culture rants or follow her on Twitter.

Monday
Jul182011

Need a Pitching Mantra? Candi Wall has one.

Pitch University Best Comment Award June 2011

TINA1 From the Desk of Pitch U Minion Tina Moss:

Wow! It’s been a busy month at Pitch University! From Savvy Author feedback to PitchFest week with seven awesome agents and all the rest, we’ve run a marathon of pitching goodness! It is no wonder that the comments for June were fantastic.

Each month we’ll be reading your comments to find the most useful, insightful, heartfelt or inspirational responses to Pitch University articles. The top poster will be featured here along with honorable mentions.

The June Best Comment Award goes to...

Best Comments Award

... Candi Wall for her response to The First Step to A Killer Pitch or Query (part 3).

The article featured the third part in a series to creating a “killer pitch or query” in which the amazing Pitch University founder, Diane Holmes, works with six Savvy Authors to perfect their pitches or queries. Candi gave a neat and tidy ideal summary for creating a pitch. Here is her award winning comment:

“It's so easy when we write our pitches, to forget that the simple wording and turn-o-phrase we use in our writing can be as beneficial in pitching/querying.

I've gained a new mantra since coming to PitchU. It's ‘Short and sweet and to the meat!’

- June 6, 2011

Thanks Candi for giving us a new mantra at Pitch University!

In connection with Savvy Authors Pitch Practice Week, Diane Holmes kindly offered her services in helping writers perfect their pitches or queries. The Pitch University writing community also stepped in to offer their feedback in the comments section. Start with the article “The First Step to A Killer Pitch or Query (part 1)” and check out all of the feedback HERE.

Additional wonderful comments for the month of June come from our Honorable Mentions:

· From HD Elliott in response to PitchFest Interview & Feedback - Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary Management

“I couldn't agree more about waiting until kids are older to throw the classics at them. I read Charles Dickens in fifth grade and consequently hated him until I got into grad school (the good news is I wasn't permanently turned off). And the process needs to be gentler - a lot of people have this assumption that because they know how to read, they should be able to understand anything (especially if it's fiction). So when they dive into something that has English from another era or uses complicated literary devices, and they find themselves frustrated, they either a) blame the book as a bad book (the old "Charles Dickens was paid by the word" excuse - which, by the way, is not true) or b) blame themselves for being stupid (which is even worse).”

- June 21, 2011

Touching upon Vickie Motter’s interview answers, HD Elliott discusses the value of sharing classics with older students.

· From Jenna Wallace in response to PitchFest Interview & Feedback - Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary Management

“Check out the blog ‘Adventures in Children's Publishing.’ Every month, they do a First Five workshop. They take the first five submissions of the first 1250 words of a manuscript and then workshop throughout the month (all participants are expected to critique other works). I was lucky enough to participate in the April workshop and it was the best experience I've had!”

- June 21, 2011

Thanks for the tip on the First Five workshop from Adventures in Children’s Publishing.

· From Janie Bill in response to PitchFest Interview & Feedback - Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary Management

“Published friends of mine advised that agents expect to see the same writers submit queries more than once. They said agents anticipate someone who was rejected will later submit a fresh project because agents assumed writers improved their skills with each project.”

- June 21, 2011

Making a connection with an agent through the query process was a foreign concept to me. Thanks for the advice and for Diane’s follow-up comment about a writer success story!

· From Angelica R. Jackson in response to PitchFest Interview & Feedback – Lucy Carson with The Friedrich Agency

“A week or so ago, the participants in YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday blogfest had fun with elevator pitches for already-published books, and there are some great examples there of how we would tell friends about each book.

If you go to http://www.yahighway.com/2011/... and follow the links in the comments, you can see what everyone did with them. And, possibly more valuable, sent people in the wrong direction when they guessed the title.  I did Anna and the French Kiss.””

- June 23, 2011

Thanks for sharing another great resource. These sample elevator pitches are awesome.

· From Saytchyn in response to Jennifer S. Wilkov’s Who Is Your Audience, Really?.

“It's easy to get sick of telling everyone who asks what your book is about. And sometimes, when you find yourself sick of this, it may be because you don't know the heart of your story yet.”

- June 30, 2011

Saytchyn reminds us that frustration can sometimes stems from not knowing your story.

And don’t forget to check out all of the feedback from our PitchFest week! Each agent gave their tips and suggestions on submitted queries. You can find all the links below with comments.

Thursday
Jul142011

How Social Media Has Revolutionized Author PR

  **This article is part of The Next Bestseller Pitching Workshop series.**

Tom_MartinBy Tom Martin, Tom Martin Media, LLC

Tom-Martin-Media-LogoOver the years, Tom has collaborated on projects with Al Gore, Paul McCartney, philanthropist George Soros, peak performance expert Tony Robbins, jazz legends Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis, Paul Newman, and many other major figures.

As a news producer, Tom produced stories for journalists including Diane Sawyer, Charles Gibson, Charlie Rose and the late Charles Kuralt. After two decades of experience working closely with these top journalists, Tom has developed a keen sense of how to shape a story for its greatest newsworthy potential. His many personal relationships with producers on a wide range of broadcasts -- from Oprah to Good Morning America -- ensures that his clients' stories receive full consideration by the media gatekeepers who have the power to put stories on the air.

(Read more about Tom, below.)

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Public Relations is no longer a one-way street.

It’s no secret that the advent of social media has caused quite a stir in the world of Public Relations. Before Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the like, PR was a one-way street. You controlled the message and your story by carefully crafting Press Releases, preparing for television and radio interviews, and presenting valuable snippets to article writers.

Nowadays, PR has become a two-way street. You now need to manage not only the outgoing messages, but also the incoming feedback.

This is especially true for you as a writer. You have the chance to put yourself out there along with your book and interact with your readers.

Any publicity is good publicity… NOT.

“Any publicity is good publicity,” the old saying goes, but I contend that negative publicity through social media can be particularly damaging.

It’s not common to see articles in major publications citing instances of customers reporting negative experiences on Twitter or Facebook and receiving an immediate response from major corporations.

In the past, these customers would have had to spend hours on the phone with customer service representatives and then would only be able to share their poor experience with their friends and family.

Today, that same disgruntled customer can send out a 140 character rant on Twitter in an instant and share that same feedback with thousands. It’s no wonder that these companies have been kept on their toes since social media has become popular.

As a writer, you need to be prepared for this same sort of interaction with a disgruntled reader. You should turn a deaf ear to the negativity and resolve any issues that require attention.

What social networking has done is to support the rise of the individual. 

With social media, people have the freedom to share what’s really going on, and this goes well beyond the realm of customer service.

Social media has become the frontline of the news. As individuals watch history being made, they are able to participate in it in a real and substantial way.

The man who unknowingly tweeted about the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound became an overnight celebrity, albeit a reluctant one. In the Arab Spring protests against repressive regimes across the Middle East, social media played a huge role in mobilizing the people for revolution, particularly in Egypt.

This means it’s a great time for you to be a writer seeking publicity for your book! You have the chance to hear the voice of individual readers… and interact with them.  You have the chance to make “book history.”

The Right Tools.

There’s no question that social networking is valuable. The question today is, “What is the right way to use the tools that are available to me?”

When misused, social media can be particularly maddening. From relentless spammy tweets to the constant barrage of sale notices to requests from business associates on Farmville, there are myriad ways for your social networking efforts to backfire.

To be effective, it is essential to understand how to use social media as a continuation of the story you’re already telling.

The litmus test I always advise is to think about value.

  • What takeaway value does this tweet or Facebook post or YouTube video provide?
  • Is this something which people will be able to make use of in their lives, or will the value end once tomorrow’s sale is over?

It’s a common mistake to be too commercial. Remember the original spirit of social networking: to bring people together. Craft your messaging around that principle and you’ll be more likely to build lasting relationships through social media.

Here are some guidelines and tips for the major social media tools:

checkbox  LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great tool for connecting with professionals who you otherwise may not have met. I keep an open door policy on LinkedIn and allow anyone who requests to join my network.

When creating your LinkedIn profile, be detailed and think carefully about the keywords you employ. There are a lot of freelance writers on LinkedIn who will search for experts on certain topics to quote in their stories. Make it easy for them to find you, and consider pitching your story to them directly.

I once was able to place a tango dancing friend on David Letterman by contacting the show’s head booker through LinkedIn. Unlike email, when you contact someone through LinkedIn, it’s easy for them to check out who you are and see if you’re legitimate, so make sure your profile speaks to your credentials.

checkbox Facebook. Facebook has a reputation for being more on the social end of the social networking spectrum, but don’t dismiss this tool without some thought.

Great stories are all about human emotion, and Facebook is a great way to create emotional connections. If you have a captivating emotional story which only got press on local news, for example, by posting a link to this story on Facebook, you have the opportunity to share it with thousands of people.

Also remember that you never know who your Facebook friends and fans know – many of my friends on Facebook are journalists, and when I post a link to an article or video about an interview my client did, these people are reading it and possibly sharing it with others in their field. A few loyal Facebook fans could lead to much more publicity than the best written press release.

checkbox Twitter. Twitter is a great way to share information like links to articles, videos, books, etc. However, Twitter is one tool which it is very easy to overuse.

Don’t feel obligated to post something new every day. Unless you are a Hollywood celebrity, your followers probably don’t care what you had for breakfast, but they do want to know when you’ve been featured on TV or read an article that they would find useful. Remember the value principle and ask yourself what the takeaway value is before you tweet.

checkbox YouTube. YouTube is a tool for posting video clips.  Whether it’s content you created yourself or a recording of you on TV, always remember to post a link to your YouTube video on other social networks (Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn) if you want others to find it easily.

Expand your audience.

When it comes to PR, social media is often a double edged sword. It’s made the task of managing your public face more challenging, but it has also provided you with an opportunity to expand your audience like never before.

Just like traditional PR tools, if you always focus your social media messaging on adding value, you’ll be able to leverage these new tools to make lasting connections, impart your story, and get noticed

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This article is 7th in a 9-article series by the experts instructors at The Next Bestseller Pitching Workshop. (There’s no financial link between this and Pitch U, just a shared mission to become awesome at pitching.)

The Next Bestseller is a hands-on workshop devoted to high-level, expert training to pitch your book to the book publishing industry,Hollywood, the media and even readers. This is for writers who want to be “breakout” authors.

  • August 19 – 21, 2011 – New York City, NY
  • November 4th – 6th – Miami, FL
  1. Why Talking About Your Book… Is Your Hook by Jennifer S. Wilkov, Radio Show Host
  2. 9 Tips For The Perfect Pitch by Literary Agent Katharine Sands
  3. Why Pitches Fail by Lane Shefter Bishop CEO & Founder, Vast Entertainment
  4. YOU, the Author; YOU, the Image by Lauren Solomon, AICI, CIP, LS Image Associates
  5. Craft an Exceptional Elevator Pitch By Penny Sansevieri, Author Marketing Experts
  6. The Three Rules for Pitching & Presenting Your Project By Dan Fauci, Former Head of Paramount Pictures Comedy Division
  7. How Social Media Has Revolutionized Author PR by Tom Martin, Tom Martin Media, LLC
  8. Social Media’s Pitching Resources for Writers, by Jennifer S. Wilkov, Radio Show Host
  9. Pitching *IS* Word-of-Mouth by Diane Holmes, Founder Pitch University

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A leader in the field of New York public relations, Tom Martin has spent 20 years as a producer with a number of leading news organizations in New York City including CBS News, ABC News, and CNN.

The goal in establishing Tom Martin Media is to provide clients with highly-personalized service and solid journalistic experience.

Tom is especially pleased to work with many clients whose mission is to make a difference in the lives of others and to the planet.

Wednesday
Jul132011

The Three Rules for Pitching by the Former Head of Paramount Pictures Comedy Division

**This article is part of The Next Bestseller Pitching Workshop series.**

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DanFauci by Dan Fauci, Former Head of Paramount Pictures Comedy Division, Film Producer, Acting Coach, the Founder of The Actors Institute, and the Creator of The Mastery of Self-Expression Workshops.

Since it began in 1976, the MASTERY of Self Expression workshop has been conducted in over 25 cities worldwide for more than 15,000 people from all walks of life.  Other Mastery courses include Performers Mastery, Leadership Workshop, and The Abyss.

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As head of Comedy Development, I went to the network.  I pitched over 500 shows to all sorts of executives from the head of comedy to the president.

I managed over twenty writers who were under contract, and my job was to get them on the air.

Based on that, I developed three rules:

1. Write what you know. What you are passionate about, what you care about. Not what you think the network wants.

2. Be prepared. I made sure they worked hard on their presentations – from practicing them over and over again to putting them on camera. It did not matter how many shows they produced or what credits they achieved, they had to be prepared so their presentation came easily and naturally.

3. Finally, they needed to get their message across to the network executives. My motto became: “Over there (the network executives) is more important than over here (we, the studio executives).” It’s not enough to communicate your ideas. You need to watch them land and have the executives grasp them in order to sell and be on the air.

Example

From my own personal experience as a producer, I found a book, Walk Me To The Distance. It was an offbeat story about a Viet Nam veteran who was looking to find a home. I worked diligently with my partner on how we wanted to adapt it.

We broke it down into simple sections that could be easily grasped. Nothing like it was being done at the time. I was passionate about it and I had the opportunity to pitch it to someone who I knew would be receptive to it, the head of NBC, Brandon Tartikoff.

He bought it in the room. Out of our commitment and him getting it, I was able to write and produce it.

---

This article is 6th in a 9-article series by the experts instructors at  The Next Bestseller Pitching Workshop.   (There’s no financial link between this and Pitch U, just a shared mission to become awesome at pitching.)

The Next Bestseller is a hands-on workshop devoted to high-level, expert training to pitch your book to the book publishing industry,Hollywood, the media and even readers. This is for writers who want to be “breakout” authors.

  • August 19 – 21, 2011 – New York City, NY
  • November 4th – 6th – Miami, FL
  1. Why Talking About Your Book… Is Your Hook by Jennifer S. Wilkov, Radio Show Host
  2. 9 Tips For The Perfect Pitch by Literary Agent Katharine Sands
  3. Why Pitches Fail by Lane Shefter Bishop CEO & Founder, Vast Entertainment
  4. YOU, the Author; YOU, the Image by Lauren Solomon, AICI, CIP, LS Image Associates
  5. Craft an Exceptional Elevator Pitch By Penny Sansevieri, Author Marketing Experts
  6. The Three Rules for Pitching & Presenting Your Project By Dan Fauci, Former Head of Paramount Pictures Comedy Division
  7. How Social Media Has Revolutionized Author PR by Tom Martin, Tom Martin Media, LLC
  8. Social Media’s Pitching Resources for Writers, by Jennifer S. Wilkov, Radio Show Host
  9. Pitching *IS* Word-of-Mouth by Diane Holmes, Founder Pitch University

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Dan Fauci is the Creator of The Mastery of Self-Expression Program, the Former Head of Comedy Development at Paramount Pictures, a Film Producer & an Artist.

Over twelve years he pitched more than 500 shows to television executives including the heads of the networks with the writers under contract at Paramount. He oversaw the development of over 100 comedy pilots, half of which went to series. The most successful was Frasier, winning five Emmys for Best Comedy.

Other shows he developed include Becker, Clueless, Girlfriends, Lateline, Sister, Sister and many others. He just finished filming a web series called Whole Day Down which he executive produced and acted in.

Tuesday
Jul122011

Craft an Exceptional Elevator Pitch

**This article is part of The Next Bestseller Pitching Workshop series.**

Penny

Red Hot Internet Publicity: An Insider's Guide to Promoting Your Book on the Internet!By Penny Sansevieri, founder of Author Marketing Experts

Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU. She is the author of five books, including Red Hot Internet Publicity which has been called the “leading guide to everything Internet”

The Core of Your Book

What is an elevator pitch and why do you need one?

An elevator pitch is a short one- to two-sentence description about the book. It's the briefest of the briefest descriptions you can develop.

The reason elevator pitches are important is that we have an ever- shrinking attention span, so you need to capture someone's attention in a very short, succinct pitch.

How do you begin crafting an elevator pitch?

The first step is to look at the core of your book. What is your book about, really? Looking at the core of your book will help you determine the primary message.

The next step is to look at the real benefits to the reader. Not what you think the reader wants to know but what they actually need: What's in it for the reader?

When I worked with people on elevator pitches, I found that they often kept the best sentence for last. This comes from being an author and saving the crescendo of the story until the final chapter. You don't want to do that in an elevator pitch. You want to lead with the tease that will pull the reader in.

When would you use an elevator pitch?

You might use it to promote yourself to the media, to book a speaking event, or to pitch a blogger. Elevator pitches can be used for a number of reasons and in a variety of ways. Once you create a great elevator pitch, you may find yourself using it over and over again. That's a good thing!

Components of a great elevator pitch

All elevator pitches have particular relevance to them, but for the most part, every elevator pitch must:

• Have emotional appeal

• Be helpful

• Be insightful

• Be timely

• Matter to your reader!

Essential Elements of a Powerful Elevator Pitch

  1. Concise: Your pitch needs to be short, sweet, and to the point.
  2. Clear: Save your five dollar words for another time. For your elevator pitch to be effective, you must use simple language any layperson can understand. If you make someone think about a word, you'll lose them and the effectiveness of your elevator pitch will go right out the window as well.
  3. Passion: If you're not passionate about your topic, how can you expect anyone else to be?
  4. Visual: Use words that bring visual elements to your reader’s mind. It helps to make your message more memorable and brings the reader into your story.
  5. Stories: People love stories. It’s the biggest element of the elevator pitch: tell the story. I also find that when the pitch is woven into the story, it often helps to create a smoother presentation.

How to Craft Your Killer Elevator Pitch

  • Write it down: Start by writing a very short story so you can tell the story of your book in two paragraphs. This will get the juices flowing. As you start to edit your story down from 200,000 words to two paragraphs, you'll start to see why it's important to pull only the most essential elements from your story to craft your elevator pitch.
  • Make a list: Write down 10 to 20 things that your book does for the reader. These can be action statements, benefits, or book objectives.
  • Record yourself: Next, record yourself and see how you sound. I can almost guarantee you that you will not like the first few drafts you try. That actually is a really good thing. If you like the first thing that you write, it probably won't be that effective. Recording yourself will help you listen to what you're saying and figure out how to fine-tune it.
  • Rest: I highly recommend that you give yourself enough time to do your elevator pitch. Ideally you want to let it rest overnight, if not longer. Remember the elevator pitch is perhaps the most important thing that you created in your marketing package. You want to make sure it's right.

Having a prepared “pitch” for your book will help you enormously, whether you are pitching the media, an agent, a publisher, or even a bookstore. Having a short, concise pitch will get and keep someone’s attention and also, increase your chances for a positive desired outcome.

Keep in mind that if your elevator pitch is tied to current events, it might change as events change. A good elevator pitch can be fluid, but it should always be an attention grabber. In a world cluttered with information and filled with noise, the shorter and more focused you can be, the more exposure you will get for your message!

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This article is 5th in a 9-article series by the experts instructors at  The Next Bestseller Pitching Workshop.   (There’s no financial link between this and Pitch U, just a shared mission to become awesome at pitching.)

The Next Bestseller is a hands-on workshop devoted to high-level, expert training to pitch your book to the book publishing industry,Hollywood, the media and even readers. This is for writers who want to be “breakout” authors.

  • August 19 – 21, 2011 – New York City, NY
  • November 4th – 6th – Miami, FL
  1. Why Talking About Your Book… Is Your Hook by Jennifer S. Wilkov, Radio Show Host
  2. 9 Tips For The Perfect Pitch by Literary Agent Katharine Sands
  3. Why Pitches Fail by Lane Shefter Bishop CEO & Founder, Vast Entertainment
  4. YOU, the Author; YOU, the Image by Lauren Solomon, AICI, CIP, LS Image Associates
  5. Craft an Exceptional Elevator Pitch By Penny Sansevieri, Author Marketing Experts
  6. The Three Rules for Pitching & Presenting Your Project By Dan Fauci, Former Head of Paramount Pictures Comedy Division
  7. How Social Media Has Revolutionized Author PR by Tom Martin, Tom Martin Media, LLC
  8. Social Media’s Pitching Resources for Writers, by Jennifer S. Wilkov, Radio Show Host
  9. Pitching *IS* Word-of-Mouth by Diane Holmes, Founder Pitch University

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Penny Sansevieri, founder of Author Marketing Experts, is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the innovative Social Media/Internet book marketing campaigns.

AME is the first marketing and publicity firm to use Internet promotion to its full impact through The Virtual Author Tour™, which strategically works with social networking sites, Twitter, blogs, book videos, and relevant sites to push an authors message into the virtual community and connect with sites related to the book’s topic, positioning the author in his or her market.

AME has had ten recent books top the bestseller lists including New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal. To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at http://www.amarketingexpert.com.

Monday
Jul112011

YOU – The Author. YOU – The Expert Image.

**This article is part of The Next Bestseller Pitching Workshop series.**

Lauren_Solomon_pic

By Lauren Solomon, AICI, CIP, founder of LS Image Associates

Lauren is a BONUS trainer at The Next Bestseller  Workshop.

She’s the trusted image advisor to CEOs, millionaires and business start-ups alike. President of LS Image Associates in New York City and author of Image Matters! First Steps on the Journey to Your Best Self, she is…

  • the former Vice President of Professional Image Development at Chase Manhattan Bank;
  • creator and lead instructor of the professional skills workshop, The Brand Called Me, at the New York University Stern School of Business;
  • the creator of the American Management Association’s seminar, The Power of your Professional Image;
  • a faculty member of the Image Consulting Certification Program at the Fashion Institute of Technology; and
  • President Emeritus of the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI).

Authors are powerful.

What is an author, really?

Cat_Lion_Mirror Initially, an author is one who puts thoughts into writing for others to read, accept, challenge, or ponder.  Ultimately, an author is viewed as an expert, an authority, one who influences, specializes, teaches, permits, mandates or sanctions. An author has power in society where the average individual does not.

What is an image? An image is a picture, a visual representation, a reflection, an impression, or the way one is seen.

An image has power to communicate that which the individual may not.

Authors will spend hours, days, and months agonizing over the “look” of their book, the image — the cover, the interior layout and design. Each piece of their creation must align to support the message being created by the words on the page.

Finally, when the “big day” arrives, the book is on the shelves and you, the author, are sitting in the studio of the local TV station waiting to hear the host introduce you, speak your name, YOU, author of this book, the expert, the specialist and authority…and, there you are, for all the world to see…what do they see?

Does the world “see” the expert, specialist and authority? Or, do they see John, the local hardware guy, or Sarah, the lady who runs the garden shop around the corner. If your book is your hook, can you show up and reel them in?

More and more authors are discovering the importance of “showing up” to promote their books and ultimately, themselves. Your book is only your hook.

What the world really wants is YOU.

We want to see you, hear you, touch you and connect with you. Whether you're pitching an agent or publisher or just talking with someone casually about your book, we want you to be one of us, be yourself, and yet be one step beyond. Engage me, intrigue me, interest me and I will buy your book.

If I connect with you, I will make extra effort to connect with your book.

Your public presence is critical for your success.

That presence may be reflected in a live appearance, a photo in print or electronic media, or by your voice alone. Your book will be your hook. It will introduce you.

So, when someone asks you “What’s your book about?” it’s your opportunity to show up as the expert you truly are.

Your image will introduce you. It will tell the world how you see yourself and how to receive you. Let your image work for you. You will experience, without a doubt, the power of the timeless partnership between the verbal and the visual – the author and the image.

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This article is 4th in a 9-article series by the experts instructors at  The Next Bestseller Pitching Workshop.   (There’s no financial link between this and Pitch U, just a shared mission to become awesome at pitching.)

The Next Bestseller is a hands-on workshop devoted to high-level, expert training to pitch your book to the book publishing industry, Hollywood, the media and even readers. This is for writers who want to be “breakout” authors.

  • August 19 – 21, 2011 – New York City, NY
  • November 4th – 6th – Miami, FL
  1. Why Talking About Your Book… Is Your Hook by Jennifer S. Wilkov, Radio Show Host
  2. 9 Tips For The Perfect Pitch by Literary Agent Katharine Sands
  3. Why Pitches Fail by Lane Shefter Bishop CEO & Founder, Vast Entertainment
  4. YOU, the Author; YOU, the Image by Lauren Solomon, AICI, CIP, LS Image Associates
  5. Craft an Exceptional Elevator Pitch By Penny Sansevieri, Author Marketing Experts
  6. The Three Rules for Pitching & Presenting Your Project By Dan Fauci, Former Head of Paramount Pictures Comedy Division
  7. How Social Media Has Revolutionized Author PR by Tom Martin, Tom Martin Media, LLC
  8. Social Media’s Pitching Resources for Writers, by Jennifer S. Wilkov, Radio Show Host
  9. Pitching *IS* Word-of-Mouth by Diane Holmes, Founder Pitch University

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Lauren Solomon is the Career TV image expert and an image industry spokesperson. She has been featured on Lifetime Television, MSNBC, CNN-fn, WOR and Voice America Women radio. She has also appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health Magazine and other publications.

Solomon is the recipient of the AICI's 2005 IMMIE Award (the highest professional honor) for Leadership and Professionalism and the1996 Award for Outstanding Achievement. She holds a Master in Business Administration from New York University and is certified as an image consultant in Global Image, International Protocol, Advanced Corporate Training, Interpersonal Communications, Professional Etiquette, Color Assessment.

Friday
Jul082011

Why Pitches Fail

**This article is part of The Next Bestseller Pitching Workshop series.**

Lane-Shefter-Bishop-pic By Lane Shefter Bishop, CEO & Founder, Vast Entertainment

Lane is a multi-award-winning producer and director - including an EMMY, three Tellys, a Videographer Award, a Sherril C. Corwin Award, two Aurora Awards, a New York Festivals Award, and the DGA Fellowship Award for Episodic Television.

Vast_Entertainment_Logo_picCurrently, Ms. Bishop is the Founder/CEO of Vast Entertainment, a book- to-screen company specializing in the adaptation of literary material for film and television. As such, she has had the pleasure of working with many notable authors including Sandra Brown, Robert K. Tannenbaum, Rachel Vincent, Lee Nichols, Robyn Carr, Mark Terry, Anne Perry and many others. (Read more about Lane below.)

In my experience, pitches typically fail for 3 main reasons…

#1  First of all, pitches fail because the writers don’t do their homework.  By that, I mean they haven’t checked that the company or agency they are pitching to is in fact the right home for their material. 

f I deal with this issue all the time because I get daily queries from writers asking if I’ll read their screenplay.  If they had only done their homework, they would have found out that I have a book-to-screen adaptation company that only takes in novel submission, not screenplays. 

Homework of this nature is easy to do (my focus is listed right on my website) but it’s also critical, because without it a writer’s pitch can end up being a big waste of everyone’s time. 

#2  Pitches fail because writers don’t take the time to make a solid 1-line logline.

Target I personally spend about 2 hours to create the perfect logline before I pitch a project.  Trust me when I say that this is time well spent because the effort it took to craft that premise in just the right way can be the difference between a sale and a pass. 

“Can you sell it in a sentence” is still truly the most important element in having a successful pitch. 

If the crux of your story is not clear in that first premise sentence, you’ve lost the excitement you could have generated from your audience about hearing the rest of your pitch.  You’ve also told them that they should prepare themselves for an unclear and possibly meandering story. 

#3 Pitches fail because they lack structure. 

different directions When being pitched, most executives or agents at companies want to hear the piece told in a concise, clear fashion that emphasizes the uniqueness of the characters as well as the arc of the story. 

It is therefore imperative that each section of the pitch help drive that main action and also build the suspense of what’s coming next.   The conclusion should be tight and fulfilling, tying up all loose ends in a creative way. 

When pitches become long, rambling, unfocussed or confusing, that writer is done.  And there are no second chances with a pitch. 

Writers must put your best pitch forward the first time, or lose the opportunity they could have had all together.

 

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This article is 3rd in a 9-article series by the experts instructors at The Next Bestseller Pitching Workshop. (There’s no financial link between this and Pitch U, just a shared mission to become awesome at pitching.)

The Next Bestseller is a hands-on workshop devoted to high-level, expert training to pitch your book to the book publishing industry, Hollywood, the media and even readers. This is for writers who want to be “breakout” authors.

  • August 19 – 21, 2011 – New York City, NY
  • November 4th – 6th – Miami, FL
  1. Why Talking About Your Book… Is Your Hook by Jennifer S. Wilkov, Radio Show Host
  2. 9 Tips For The Perfect Pitch by Literary Agent Katharine Sands
  3. Why Pitches Fail by Lane Shefter Bishop CEO & Founder, Vast Entertainment
  4. YOU, the Author; YOU, the Image by Lauren Solomon, AICI, CIP, LS Image Associates
  5. Craft an Exceptional Elevator Pitch By Penny Sansevieri, Author Marketing Experts
  6. The Three Rules for Pitching & Presenting Your Project By Dan Fauci, Former Head of Paramount Pictures Comedy Division
  7. How Social Media Has Revolutionized Author PR by Tom Martin, Tom Martin Media, LLC
  8. Social Media’s Pitching Resources for Writers, by Jennifer S. Wilkov, Radio Show Host
  9. Pitching *IS* Word-of-Mouth by Diane Holmes, Founder Pitch University

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Lane Shefter Bishop began her career producing and directing projects for networks including ABC, Showtime, HBO, and MTV, then transitioned to feature-length motion pictures, including the much-acclaimed film The Day Laborers.

Under the Vast Entertainment banner, Ms. Bishop has secured multiple high profile projects including: TV movies The Girl's Guide to Witchcraft, Operation Married by Christmas, and Dating the Devil (all at ABC Family), and Fringe Girl (Disney Channel); television series including The Savannah Reid Mysteries(Lifetime) and Hizzoner Buzzy Young (Cineflix); and the feature films The Duff (McG/Wonderland), Ghost Keepers (Sid Ganis/ Out of the Blue Entertainment), Stray (Evolution Entertainment), and Hemlock (Akiva Goldsman/Weed Road).

Every one of these projects is based on a book.

Thursday
Jul072011

9 Tips For The Perfect Pitch

**This article is part of The Next Bestseller Pitching Workshop series.**

Katharine Sands

A literary agent with the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, Katharine Sands is a judge and panelist at The Next Bestseller, a 3-day workshop with top industry experts from book publishing, Hollywood, and the media.

Dates: New York City on August 19th-21st, 2011; Miami on November 4th – 6th, 2011.

She’s also the agent provocateur of Making the Perfect Pitch: How to Catch a Literary Agent's Eye, a collection of pitching wisdom from leading literary agents.

Practicing PitchCraft®

Writing about your writing and speaking about your writing is every bit as important as the writing itself. You have to put as much attention, as much passion, and as much crafting into your pitch as you do your project.

Today media folk are proactively looking for projects. This is as true for random meets as it is for conference speed-dates.

Random meets can be a wonderful way for writers to find opportunities and for agents to source new clients. As a writer you are always going to be asked to introduce your work, to share your enthusiasm for your writing, and to get others excited about what is exciting to you.

Face-to-face meetings are an important part of conference culture. This kind of opportunity – to introduce yourself to a literary agent at a conference or in-person meeting - does afford you an opportunity to impress an agent in ways you might not expect or anticipate.  My dowser rod starts to hum when I come across an author-to-be.

When I listen to pitches…

Agents cannot digest the entire scope of your work in one go. Initially, we read or listen in to identify elements and look for sparks, for alchemy, to have a response, to have a reaction.

For me to undertake a new client I have to know that I want to have 110 conversations about their project.

What is Your Book About or Tell Me About Your Work means: 15 minutes is yours to shine in. Use the time any way you feel gives you the best insight into what you would like to accomplish by sharing your writing with readers. If your goal is publication, The Next Bestseller™ Workshop is designed to give you the chance to practice Pitchcraft®, to hear feedback, to explore the possibilities....

Here are 9tips to help you rivet your reader:

1) Remember: Your reader - or listener - has not yet read the book.

While yours may be an intriguing premise, you need to use this as an opportunity to really bring the story to life, fictive or for your own personal journey, and to deliver on your promise on your mission statement.  For example, if you speak of humor and satire, but I don’t find any humor or satire in the pitch, I will rule you out as a good wordsmith.…and I might be wrong.

2) Live by the golden rule of pitching: Show, Don’t Tell.

You want to use the pitch to deliver enough of the flavor of the book to whet the reader’s appetite for more…

It may be cleverly outlined and structured as a book, but the pitch must hook the reader (me) to want to read it.

3) Practice the Pitchcraft™ formula:

        Place, Person, Pivot

  • Where do you take me (what is the story universe?)
  • Who do I meet (and why do I care about their story?)
  • How do I enter the story at a lively, dramatic, interesting place?

4) Don't open with the nadir (because you know your character will be doing something great by Chapter 4.)

Make sure you don't introduce a dull version because you assume we will be wowed by the shift in later chapters; we may never get there. The main protagonist should not be first seen with a mind-numbing job or having hit rock bottom.

5)  Give a visual snapshot -- fast

When you introduce any kind of information in a pitch (for example, the character’s personal life), you must define it.  Remember, you have watched the movie at the keyboard; your readers haven’t.

I don’t’ know if your hero is thirty or sixty, gay or straight…human or alien…or a poodle…if I don’t get a visual, your character’s story isn’t as engaging as it might be.

6) Ask yourself: have you taken me in, introduced a character and shown me why I want to spend time in this world?

Your pitch will succeed if I can remember the three elements: Place Person Pivot so that I might repeat them back to you.

7) Don't begin with theme before we know the story

Leading with theme as a key concept is a mistake.  To begin on the note of theme is a shift away from the story, and it is the story thast must hook us.

Pitch point: a pitch (or  query letter) must cohere – it has a job to do - you are building a case for reader interest.

It costs you to shift to the theme of, say, self-transformation or redemption or the power of dreams before your reader has had the chance to become involved with your character's journey and why we want to take it with him/her.  Story is what sells me.  The story is the character's journey.  Theme rarely illuminates a pitch, because theme words, such as redemption are vague and overused.

8) Identify the Ideal Audience

When it comes to pitching prescriptive non-fiction, you want to pose a problem and a solution, with the book –this book – being shown to be the solution.

Many writers make the mistake of hammering home points about the problem without marrying it to the book as the solution for its ideal, intended audience. This ideal audience (for example: the sandwich generation of women) should be your lead point, defining a specific market that you introduce in the context of what your book offers.

Make sure to have statistics serving you here as much as statistics can when wielded to demonstrate the specific need for the book. When I look at numbers, I think:

a) Can we really measure your problem/solution?

b) How do we measure the reader need?

c) Where do these figures come from and what do they really illustrate in terms of what a book-buyer needs?

Infotainment and edutainment are very popular buzzwords, but you must immediately show why this is an infotaining book. 

  • How does it show a warm, accessible, wise, insightful voice that readers would relate to?
  • What can we learn from you about how to handle this life problem?
  • What do I do differently after I read your book? 
  • What could I not figure out without you?

Show how much texture, how much scope there is to the subject: What are three quick tips or hints of the ‘practical, no-nonsense’ advice to come?

Your pitch will succeed if there are immediate tips, if the ‘take away’ is information that resonates.

9) Put Your Own Backstory Aside

New, questing-for-agent writers would do well to put all of their backstory aside and not share any of it with prospective agents. Why?   Because it does not work. It will not impress. It will not get a good result. 

Ill-tempered agents want to be seduced, charmed, engaged and won over, not bored with real-life concerns. I tell writers to be on one long first-date with a potential agent and later with their editor, to speak as if they are on a radio show at all times.

Of course, when you work with people, especially in a boutique firm like Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, there is a lot of personal contact. As your agent, I am going to know if your parent or pet is dying, if your marriage is on the rocks, or if the IRS is going to levy your ex as this affects our work.

But - I confess - most commission-based agents have little patience or sympathy for the time involved and the difficulty of trying to create with the kids tugging and the demands of day jobs.  Yes, it is difficult to juggle, but there are obstacle courses in every career. As a writer you have to make a decision to surmount these, to overcome everything to pursue your dreams.

Writing commercially has probably been a bane to writers since Pliny the Elder plied the trade. But the truth is that today, writers can have the magical imagination of J. K. Rowling, the wit and wisdom of Frank McCourt, the perfect economy of Ernest Hemingway, and the inspired brilliance of (whoever really wrote) Shakespeare. Yet they still need to pitch, query, and propose before they can get published. 

The Next Bestseller™ Workshop focuses on what writers need most when they enter the literary arena: a hands-on guide to how they can navigate the "how to get published" landscape. It's all about finding the right words and getting the right people to read them.

Come and learn our best ideas so you can make the perfect pitch for yours.

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This article is 2nd in a 9-article series by the experts instructors at The Next Bestseller Pitching Workshop. (There’s no financial link between this and Pitch U, just a shared mission to become awesome at pitching.)

The Next Bestseller is a hands-on workshop devoted to high-level, expert training to pitch your book to the book publishing industry, Hollywood, the media and even readers. This is for writers who want to be “breakout” authors.

  • August 19 – 21, 2011 – New York City, NY
  • November 4th – 6th – Miami, FL
  1. Why Talking About Your Book… Is Your Hook by Jennifer S. Wilkov, Radio Show Host
  2. 9 Tips For The Perfect Pitch by Literary Agent Katharine Sands
  3. Why Pitches Fail by Lane Shefter Bishop CEO & Founder, Vast Entertainment
  4. YOU, the Author; YOU, the Image by Lauren Solomon, AICI, CIP, LS Image Associates
  5. Craft an Exceptional Elevator Pitch By Penny Sansevieri, Author Marketing Experts
  6. The Three Rules for Pitching & Presenting Your Project By Dan Fauci, Former Head of Paramount Pictures Comedy Division
  7. How Social Media Has Revolutionized Author PR by Tom Martin, Tom Martin Media, LLC
  8. Social Media’s Pitching Resources for Writers, by Jennifer S. Wilkov, Radio Show Host
  9. Pitching *IS* Word-of-Mouth by Diane Holmes, Founder Pitch University
Wednesday
Jul062011

Why Talking About Your Book… Is Your Hook

First, a word from Diane Holmes, Founder of Pitch U

I’m so pleased to bring you this 9-part series from the creative force behind The Next Bestseller™ workshop, Jennifer Wilkov. This 3-day workshop is like Pitch University for the Big Leagues. 

It’s the workshop *I’d* like to attend.

Why?  Because the trainers at The Next Bestseller are an amazing group of folks at the top of their profession, from a Former Executive at Paramount Pictures to the Past President of the Association of Image Consultants International.

Jennifer has pulled together a “dream team” to help those writers (who want to breakout on a national and international scale) learn how to pitch their book to the Media, Industry Pros, Readers, Corporate Buyers… literally anyone!

  • New York City – August 19 – 21, 2011
  • Miami – November 4 – 6, 2011

And for those not able to attend, this series is a small taste of “being there.”  (By the way, I’m not financially involved in this workshop in any way.  It’s just awesome, and I want to share that with you.)

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Writing is what we do, but pitching it?  Priceless.

Jennifer WilkovBy Jennifer S. Wilkov, “Your Book Is Your Hook!”

Most of us are comfortable with writing our books, articles, social media posts and other freelance projects. Many are uncomfortable when we have to then talk about them with others.

Thoughts abound such as:

  • “What do I say?”
  • “How can I win them over?”
  • “Why can’t I say it just as easily as I can write it?”

Talking about your book may be an even more significant step than writing it – or a super close second. You may be thinking: how could you say that?!

Think about this: if I meet you at a networking meeting, a writers conference, a wedding, a bookstore, on line at the grocery store, on a plane, or in a writers group, I’m inevitably going to ask you, “What’s your book about?”

That is a signal that for the next minute, you have my attention and the opportunity to “hook” me. You can’t do it in writing. You’re going to have to talk directly to me… and talk me “into” your book.

If you’re not compelling and competent with talking about it, I’m going to get bored or distracted by other thoughts or ultimately excuse myself politely from the conversation.

Question-marksWhat I want to know is, really…

  • What’s your book about?
  • Why did you write it?
  • Is it your first book?
  • When is it going to be published?
  • Or when did it come out?
  • Recently? Or a few years ago?
  • Is it a series?
  • And why are YOU writing it? and on and on and on.

I have 1 million questions; you have 1 minute to hook me with what you’ve got.

In order to be a bestseller, you’ve got to do more than just write a great book. You’ve got to be able to find the language to share what you’ve written with someone else, whether they are an industry professional or not.

If you can’t talk to me about it, how confident am I going to be in:

  • Your ability to promote it?
  • Introducing you to professionals I may know like agents or editors or publishers?
  • Inviting you to speak about it at my next meeting, event, bookstore or library program, or conference?
  • Asking you to send me more information about it like a query letter or sample pages?
  • Your capacity to provide a great guest blog post about it for my site?

The English language is a challenge for us all – whether we have to speak it or write it. As a writer, you have signed up to meet this challenge – and master it.

Don’t stop short by just writing a great book.

Learn how to talk about it effectively so you can truly hook me with your book. You can do it!

** Enjoy hearing from my training colleagues from The Next Bestseller™ Workshop this week on Pitch University. The Next Bestseller™ is a safe place where you can learn how to talk more concisely and effectively about your book with anyone in any situation by doing it with the guidance and individual feedback from industry professionals. **

Jennifer S. Wilkov: Jennifer S. Wilkov is a best-selling, award-winning author, an award-winning freelance writer, a speaker and trainer, and a Literary Agent Matchmaker™ who focuses on supporting writers with the essentials to become a bestseller: a great project, a strong platform and a well-polished pitch, presentation and hook for their book. 

She is also a recognized media spokesperson for Project Night Night, a non-profit organization that delivers Night Night packages to homeless children in shelters across the nation which include a children's book, a stuffed animal and a blanket, and proudly supports Heifer International's Read to Feed Program which helps children in schools to understand that they can make a difference for others by reading. 

Your Book Is Your Hook! is her full service consulting practice that serves authors, writers and wannabes as well as the entire book publishing industry with its endeavors. Best known for its popular weekly radio show, robust resource blog, trainings including The Next Bestseller™ Workshop and advice including the new uniquely positioned service as a Literary Agent Matchmaker™. 

Through the popular radio show named after her practice, "Your Book Is Your Hook!", which can be heard every Tuesday morning at 9:00am on WomensRadio.com and the accompanying show blog at YourBookIsYourHook.com/blog, Jennifer S. Wilkov brings her experience and knowledge of the book business and the people in it as well as her understanding of the author’s experience from conceiving the idea to getting it published to her loyal listeners each week.

She also leads a weekly book marketing and promotion chat for the popular SheWrites.com (http://www.shewrites.com) community for women writers and she is a faculty member for Pitch University (http://www.pitch-university.com) where she teaches writers to pitch and sell their books to agents, editors, publishers, publicists, booksellers, speakers bureaus and, most of all, readers.

Twitter: @urbookisurhook
Twitter2: @litmatchmaker

Monday
Jul042011

5 Keys to an Indie Author’s Pitch

Suzan 3 MM by Indie Author, Suzan “Purple M&M” Harden, author of Zombie Love, the story of Samantha Ridgeway--reporter, mad scientists’ unwilling guinea pig, newly undead.  Zombie Love She’s got super-strength, super-speed, and an appetite that won’t quit. (Oh, yeah, and it’s a romance, too.)

===

Here at Pitch University, experts teach you how to hawk your book to agents and editors. But you’ve decided to self-publish your Great American Novel, so you think you don’t need to know how to pitch. Right?

Wrong.

You Need a Spiel.

Any time you put a product up for sale, you’re going to need a spiel.

It sounds crass, I know, but publishing is a business. Like it or not, if you want to sell your book (or preferably books), you still need a pitch. But in the case of self-publishing, your direct target is readers, so there’re five differences in your audience that you need to address.

5 Key Differences When You Pitch to Readers

1) Readers want to buy a book.

Unlike agents and editors who are looking for a reason to reject you due to their enormous slush piles, your potential reader is actively looking for your product.

This means you need to place the book where they can find it, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post. So let’s assume you’ve got the e-book or print copy in an appropriate retail environment, and you’re posting the news on your social networks.

2) Know your genre/subgenre.

While agents and editors do focus on particular areas, they also have to keep an eye on the industry as a whole to decide what they can sell.

But, your potential readers have probably decided on a particular type of book when they peruse the shelves of a brick-and-mortar store or when surfing the internet store. They don’t care if westerns are out and sparkly vampires are in. If they want WWII time-traveling alien G.I., then dammit, that’s what they want to read. And hey, that’s exactly what you’ve just published!

However, you’ll need to focus on a dominant aspect of your book in order to place it in the appropriate sales area. There’s a reason Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series is considered romance and Kim Harrison’s The Hollows is placed in fantasy in the brink-and-mortars.

In an online environment, you’ll need appropriate tags for your reader to find you.

3) The title and cover are 40% of your pitch to your reader.

As a writer seeking traditional publishing, you don’t send a cover to the agent or editor. (Yes, I know children’s picture books are an exception, but for now, let’s focus on written manuscripts.) And often, if you sell the book to a traditional publisher, their marketing department will usually change the title.

Study the covers of successful books in your genre/subgenre. What do they say to you?

The cover of the shirtless guy in a kilt says something totally different to a reader than the woman in leather with a tramp stamp peaking out from under her tight shirt. Paying someone with a clue on how to use Photoshop is money well spent.

Study titles as well. They need to help you stand out without confusing the reader. They also need to be relatively short. If you have a paranormal young adult, you don’t want to call it Twilight Teens (Twilight will always belong to Stephenie Meyer’s fans). And definitely not The Year the Weird New Kid with the Really Pale Face Asked Me to Prom.

Googling a potential title can help you eliminate some problems.

4) The blurb/description is another 40% of your pitch.

This is the next thing your potential reader looks at. It’s also an area where similarity strikes between your query letter to agents or editors and your blurb to your reader.

You still want to stay in the 250-word range. You still want to show and not tell. But with readers, you can be a little vaguer (they don’t want their experience ruined by you revealing who the killer is), but not much.

Study the back covers or online blurbs on the books you’ve bought. What made you want to open the cover and check out that first page?

5) Have a sample available for the reader.

By now, you should have your fishy potential reader nibbling on the worm very curious about your work.

Again, this is a time where the agent/editor/reader pieces mesh. Just like when you send the first three chapters with your query letter, you’ll need sample chapters available for your potential reader if your story is an e-book or your reader can order your print book online. @0-30% is generally recommended.

Hopefully at this point, your pitch—genre, sub-genre, title, cover, back cover blub, and sample--is successful, and you’ve snagged your reader. Now, they can’t wait to purchase and read the rest of your book!

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Suzan confesses she grew up on a working farm in Ohio Amish country, though she’s not Amish.

Mucking out pig stalls gives a girl lots of time to make up stories, but with a practical family, writing wasn't considered a practical employment option. However, according to her Career Line on her palm, she’ll have three primary careers in her life. Writing is the last one.

She currently lives in southeastern Texas with a husband who believes writing is a practical career option, a kid who thinks she’s too enamored with zombies, and a beagle who wants his belly scratched.

Thursday
Jun302011

Who Is Your Audience, Really?

Jennifer WilkovBy Jennifer S. Wilkov, “Your Book Is Your Hook!”
Radio Show Host | Book Consultant | Literary Agent Matchmaker™ | Bestselling Author
www.yourbookisyourhook.com
Twitter: @urbookisurhook
Twitter2: @litmatchmaker

When you write and rewrite and craft your book, you are writing for the audience who you believe will read your book.

When you craft the pitch for your book, consider who your audience is now….

The truth is: your audience is going to vary depending on whom you are talking to.

When you talk to those you meet, whether they are professionals in the industry or not, you may notice that they all have the same question, “So, what’s your book about?”

As you talk with more people…

  • from the person on the bus or plane sitting next to you
  • to the other writers in your writing group
  • to the nice people you meet at a table at a wedding reception
  • to the literary agent you have an appointment with at a writers conference

…your job is to sell, sell, sell your book.

It Is What It Is…

though it may feel as though EVERYONE is your audience, be clear about who your book is really targeted for and what genre it’s in.

Don’t attempt to make it all things to all people. It is what it is – and people who ask you about it just want to know what it is.

If it’s not for them, remember, they are walking around with a whole address book and social network online that is full of people who may be in your target market or who may be a professional who can help you take the next step.

Think ABC

As salespeople will tell you, the general rule is “A-B-C,” which stands for “Always Be Closing.”

What you don’t want to do is be overselling and talking, talking, talking, talking about your book.

Our attention spans are so short these days that the best way you can talk about your book with anyone is in small, short, concise bites…like sound bites for the media.

To do this, you need to practice your pitch and craft it so it sounds conversational, not breathy and nervous. The more you say it, the more it becomes part of you.

After all, practice makes perfect!

You can do it!

See you next month!

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Jennifer S. Wilkov: Jennifer S. Wilkov is a best-selling, award-winning author, an award-winning freelance writer, a speaker and trainer, and a Literary Agent Matchmaker™ who focuses on supporting writers with the essentials to become a bestseller: a great project, a strong platform and a well-polished pitch, presentation and hook for their book.

She is also a recognized media spokesperson for Project Night Night, a non-profit organization that delivers Night Night packages to homeless children in shelters across the nation which include a children's book, a stuffed animal and a blanket, and proudly supports Heifer International's Read to Feed Program which helps children in schools to understand that they can make a difference for others by reading.

Your Book Is Your Hook! is her full service consulting practice that serves authors, writers and wannabes as well as the entire book publishing industry with its endeavors. Best known for its popular weekly radio show, robust resource blog, trainings including The Next Bestseller™ Workshop and advice including the new uniquely positioned service as a Literary Agent Matchmaker™.

Through the popular radio show named after her practice, "Your Book Is Your Hook!", which can be heard every Tuesday morning at 9:00am on WomensRadio.com and the accompanying show blog at YourBookIsYourHook.com/blog, Jennifer S. Wilkov brings her experience and knowledge of the book business and the people in it as well as her understanding of the author’s experience from conceiving the idea to getting it published to her loyal listeners each week.

She also leads a weekly book marketing and promotion chat for the popular SheWrites.com community for women writers and she is a faculty member for Pitch University, where she teaches writers to pitch and sell their books to agents, editors, publishers, publicists, booksellers, speakers bureaus and, most of all, readers.

Thursday
Jun302011

New Virtual PitchFest, PitchFest Street Cred, Behind the Scenes, Plus Free Offer

Looking into the Future of PitchFests at Pitch U.

We have some outstanding news!

video conferencing For our September PitchFest, we are going to start including live, “virtual” conferencing, where you can see the agent or editor in real time, and you can give your pitch directly to her or him!

Finally, we’ll have something that truly mimics what a Pitch is: a conversation between two people.

Here’s what you’ll need in order to participate:

  • a computer.
  • a built-in or external working webcam.
  • a built-in or external working microphone.
  • or a friend who has these.

The software to run this type of conferencing is not free, so to fund this, we’ll offer some bonus classes at a low price.  We hope you’ll be so excited about the topics that it’s a no-brainer to purchase them (and help us defray expenses).

But the PitchFests, the articles on PitchU, the Case Studies, and the Forums will always be free.

How Brave Are You?

Street CredIf you submitted a video pitch or query to last week’s massive Pitch Fest, you’re off the chain. That’s what we’re saying.

You’ve just earned yourself some street cred.

Getting feedback from 6 or 7 agents sounds like a dream opportunity (and it is), but it can also feel like a firing squad.  It takes strength to hear feedback and to learn.

guns musclesYou got strength, baby.  You got it.

Use this badge on your website, FB page, or get it tattooed on your “guns.”

Behind the Curtain at a Pitch U PitchFest.

We work hard to give as many writers a chance at receiving expert feedback as possible, as explained in our Rules under the “Yes, You May…” subheader.

We had a tremendous submission rate to our June PitchFest, and we want to give you some idea of how we chose submissions

Here are the questions we asked ourselves:

  • Did we hit the agent/editor cap for type of entry? If not, you got in. Five agents did not reach their cap in the June PitchFest.  Authors had a 100% chance of getting feedback.
  • Is it complete?  If yes, did you have Romance U priority? After those were accepted, we selected entries that were complete, based on timestamp until the cap was reached.
  • Is it “in progress”?  Did you have Romance U priority?  After those, then non-priority by timestamp.
  • Finally, we looked to see who had submitted multiple entries (for different projects, of course), regardless of complete status. 

    If an author (with multiple submissions) had multiple entries chosen, we looked to see if any of those entries were for an agent who had reached her cap.  If so, we removed the entry from that agent

    Since the author was already getting feedback from an agent (or 2 or 3) who didn’t reach her cap, we opened this slot to allow more writers to access agent feedback. 

Free Feedback Offer

Free oh yess If you submitted a pitch video that wasn’t chosen for feedback during out last PitchFest, and if you’d like some free feedback, write me (see Contact page), and I’ll do a quick eval.

I know it’s a huge effort to put together a video.  I’ll let you know what you’re doing well, and what your next steps are.

Wednesday
Jun292011

The Market – Know Your Audience to Hook Your Agent

Pitch Perfect Proposal by Erin Reel, The Lit Coach

Quick! Who is going to buy your book?

How many of you quickly listed at least 5 target markets for your book? Great start. And how many of you could confidently list 10 or more? Fantastic!

Knowing a book’s market, also known as target audience, is what distinguishes a writer with a great concept from a writer with a saleable concept. Guess which concept the publishers want to put a book jacket on?

target-audience_illustratio

While nonfiction publishers cover a lot of ground, subject matter wise, they are not necessarily experts in your field. That’s YOUR job. And agents have even less expertise with your subject matter unless you happen to find an agent who also survived culinary school by the skin of their knuckles, has spent years studying the migration pattern of the California Blue Whale or has learned the ins and outs of fashion at the knee of Anna Wintour herself.

Agents sell books. Ok, they do a lot more than that, but their job is to sell your book to an editor who really has seen it all. And provided the editor likes your concept and sees the book’s hook, said editor will have to turn around and convince an entire publishing team that your book will SELL to as many viable audiences as possible.

Show Off Your Target Audiences

So now it’s time to “show, don’t tell” as the classic writing craft adage goes. Here’s how:

  • Use bullet points to clearly highlight the most ideal markets for your book.
  • Be specific about your markets. If you’re writing a book about how to achieve success as an entrepreneur, target industries where entrepreneurs thrive: small business owners; social media consultants; business consultants; branding consultants; technical industry; restaurateurs; etc. These are the people likely to buy your book.
  • Research what you don’t know. It’s impossible to know everything, so find compelling statistics to back up the power and size of your markets.
  • Use visuals. If a chart or graph will clearly illustrate important information about your markets, include it.
  • List only the facts. Never assume anything about your markets and of course, never fudge stats or present totally fabricated support material.
  • Name names. What professional organizations or societies support your markets?
  • Suggest secondary markets by listing key facts in support of the main market(s)

Resist the urge to discuss how you’re going to sell to these markets. Save all that juicy info for the Promotion section.

And finally, for those of you working without an agent because you’re writing for a specialty market and are sending your work to a team who already are well versed on the research and trends in your field, include the market information anyway. It’s never safe to assume an editor knows what you know. You’re the expert.

Bottom line: to hook an agent, the size of your audience needs to be clearly presented in black and white and most importantly, they need to be a book buying audience.

This article is part of Erin’s series on writing non-fiction book proposals (something that’s of great value to fiction writers as well!).  To read more…

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Erin Reel is an editorial and publishing consultant, writer’s coach, blogger, columnist and former Los Angeles based literary agent. Visit her website at thelitcoach.com.

Tuesday
Jun282011

Squee! I’m Going to StoryMasters!

StoryMasters: Christopher Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Donald Mass in Houston, November 3 - 6, 2011.

Okay, while I recover from last week’s PitchFest (wasn’t it fabulous!), I wanted to share this awesome 4-day workshop I’m going to in November called StoryMasters

(Most of my peeps are in New York City at the RWA National Conference this week or will be heading to NYC for the ITWs ThrillerFest VI the week after.  I’m tempted to dramatically throw myself across the chaise and bemoan my lack of writerly fun and education.  But being rather pragmatic, I will just chant, “StoryMasters! StoryMasters! StoryMasters!” and gleefully give the Donald Maass, “Mwahahaha.”)

So, here’s the scoop:

Whew, I feel better already.  This is going to be a fan-freaking-tabulous experience.  PLEASE JOIN ME!

If you want to meet up with me in November, I’ll host a special Pitch U Peeps party so we can hang out and have a chance to chat face-to-face.

I’ve really love to meet you guys in person.  It’s been a wild six months, and it feels like I’ve known you forever. :)

Thursday: Christopher Vogler - THE WISDOM OF THE BODY

How the Hero's Journey Triggers the Emotions of the Audience

Christopher Vogler, author of THE WRITER'S JOURNEY: Mythic Structure for Writers and co-author of MEMO FROM THE STORY DEPARTMENT, has helped major filmmakers and studios find the mythic dimension in their work, and he can do the same for your screenplay or novel manuscript.

Friday: Literary Agent, Donald Maass - 21st CENTURY STORY

How is fiction evolving in the 21st Century? How can novelists write with high impact in an age of low attention spans?

Author and workshop leader for The Breakout Novelist, Don’s hands-on, immersive workshop demonstrates advanced methods for creating strong story events, plot layers, parallels, reversals, symbols and gripping themes. Coupled with those are techniques for constructing depth of character and sweeping character arcs.

In addition, this workshop shows how to break free from genre boundaries, go beyond "brand," shed outdated techniques and elevate what is both unique and universal in one's stories. The best of 21st Century fiction technique is available now. This workshop hands you the tools.

Saturday: James Scott Bell – BEYOND NUTS AND BOLTS

In this workshop you'll learn…

  • The LOCK System for your novel
  • What makes for a compelling lead character
  • How to get reader emotions involved
  • The one essential secret to a high stakes Objective
  • How to create the strongest Confrontation possible
  • What it means to knock Out the reader at the end
  • A deeper understanding of structure
  • The Disturbance
  • The Doorways of No Return
  • No dull parts
  • Scene structure
  • One key concept that will supercharge any scene
  • Finishing touches
  • A system for revision so you don't miss a trick
  • The final polish

Jim is the author of these key craft-of-writing texts: Plot & Structure, Revision & Self-Editing, The Art of War for Writers, and Writing Fiction For All You’re  Worth.

Sunday: Panel discussion with all three Story Masters

Special analysis of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, plus Q&A!

Optional

One-on-one sessions with industry experts:

Available to a limited number of students—meetings with story experts/long-time independent editors Lorin Oberweger, Brenda Windberg, Jason Sitzes, and others.

These industry experts will review your novel’s first fifteen pages, along with a two-page (single-spaced) synopsis, and meet for a thirty-minute discussion of your novel’s strengths, weaknesses, and overall marketability.

FMI: go to Lorin’s website, Free-Expressions.

Monday
Jun272011

Haley Whitehall – Every Word of the Pitch Matters

This Member Spotlight Interview- by Minion Heather Webb.

Hi Haley. We’re so happy to have you here on PitchU today! Tell us about your passion for writing.

Haley Author Pic I’ve been writing seriously since 2005. I primarily write historical fiction for all ages; however I’ve begun branching out into fantasy and sci-fi. I belong to three critique groups—one locally and two online.

I am always looking for beta readers because you can never get enough feedback! I am also involved in the Writers Unboxed and YA Sisterhood Facebook groups. I have a blog Soldiering through the Writing World where I post current thoughts and tips generated from my writing journey.

What’s your favorite part of Pitch University?

I discovered Pitch University through Twitter and my favorite part of the site is your forums. Writing is often a lonely craft and it is wonderful to get help from and give help to fellow writers. My favorite posts are the case studies. They are so educational!

Pitch-University’s FREE forum- Get query & pitch feedback from other writers and our experts

Case Studies- Read the amazing progress happening here at PitchU

Tell us the truth…. How do you feel about pitching? What’s the easiest part for you?

I’m nervous about pitching. First time I did it was at a conference last year. The biggest obstacle I had to overcome was crafting a pitch from my query, but the easiest part turned out to be the delivery. I captured the agent’s interest because she said that I clearly had passion and knew my stuff.

It’s always comforting to receive positive feedback from an agent. Go Haley! So how have the PitchFests here at PitchU helped you?

The biggest thing I’ve learned by participating in Pitch U’s PitchFest is that every word of your pitch matters. Make sure each word conveys your intended meaning and packs a punch.

Is pitching a different skill from writing a query letter?

Pitching is different than writing a query because it is more concise. Pitching in person requires public speaking skills. It has the advantage of showing your passion more than words on a page.

Have you made a pitch video?

I haven’t made a pitch video because I have yet to figure out how to operate a web cam.

I’m sure one of us can help you in the name of getting your pitch out there. J What’s your biggest fear in doing a video pitch?

My biggest fear would be to make a fool of myself for the whole world to see. I do hope to submit a pitch video in the future because I know it will help me improve my pitches.

Let’s interrupt the seriousness of this conversation for a little fun personal information. What’s your personal theme music?

The River by Garth Brooks. It describes my writing journey and mindset perfectly.

How many conferences or writer’s events will you attend this year?

At least 4.

What skill is next on your list to learn?

How to better write body language and how to use a web cam ;)

If you had a personal pitching motto, what would it be?

You gave life to this story. Don’t over think the pitch. Just let it come from the heart!

Thank you, Haley. Good luck with your writing and at your conferences this year. We’ll see you in the forums.

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by Heather Webb

Heather is a historical fiction writer, but dabbles occasionally in YA. When she’s not writing by the glow of her coffee pot light, she’s chasing her gremlins, ogling kitchen gadgets, sampling wine, or on an airplane to her next destination. Her “real” job is the Executive Director of New England Virtual High School, an online school for teens.

After discovering Pitch U, Heather became hooked to its invaluable columns and wonderfully supportive staff.  When asked to become part of the team, she was thrilled! This is THE PLACE to be. You can also find her on the web at her BLOG for writing tips, recipes, and pop culture rants or follow her on Twitter.