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Monday
Jun062011

The First Step to A Killer Pitch or Query (part 3)

The Mojo of Accuracy

I’m working 1-on-1 with 6 Savvy Authors this week who won the opportunity to get their Pitch Mojo on. :)mojo-logo2This is the 3rd and final part of STEP #1 in creating a killer pitch or query: accuracy.  I’m acting as a sounding board and giving  our 6 Savvy Authors a sense of how their story is coming across.

In part 1 and part 2, I worked with Lani, Kat, and Michele.

In this post (part 3), I’ll be working with Victoria, Leslie, and Janie.  Each of these ladies will be reading my comments, then emailing me responding to my comments with their comments. 

Here’s how the rest of the week will unfold…

Perfect Your Pitch TUESDAY & WEDNESDAY Step #2 -
* Course Correction to Match Reality
* Translating a query into a pitch
THURSDAY & FRIDAY Step #3 – Create a Pitch.
SATURDAY & Sunday Step #4 – Six Pitch Videos -  See how it's done!

Query for Redesigning Trista by Victoria Torres

Hello, Victoria!  So lovely to meet you.  Let’s dive in.  You know the drill.  I’ll give you my expectations (and tell you where I’m confused), then you email me with your comments (in response to my comments).  Are my expectations right?

You sent two versions, one which you said had more of your voice.  I sense you’d prefer to go with that. :)

Widowed socialite Trista McCleod needs a change. 

This is very clear (good), but fairly generic.  Anyway, easy to understand is a plus.

Becoming Newport Barbie to please her husband had been an exciting game right up until she discovered Michael preferred the doll to the woman.

Okay, I have my own set of Laws when it comes to pitching, and your query hits  upon one of my favorite!

Diane's Law of Linguistic Spaghetti:
In an attempt to combine all your story's key details into a short pitch, at some point you'll end up with a single sentence. Unfortunately that single sentence (aka "spaghetti noodle") will go on forever, linked by conjunctions and modified with clauses and phrases and the occasional meatball.

Basically, most of your sentences, in an effort to be creative, are kind of tangled up.   I’m going to use this sentence to show you what I’m talking about, okay? 

Becoming Newport Barbie…

(Oh, it’s a new Barbie called Becoming Newport!)

…to please her husband…

(Wait, have to re-read, okay, so to please her husband, she became a Newport Barbie.)

…had become an exciting game…

(So “to please her husband” had become “an exciting game,” wait…. Re-read, okay, so becoming the Barbie was a game that she did for her husband who has now died.  Got it.)

…right up until she discovered Michael preferred the doll to the woman…

(Okay, is Michael the husband?  Because he’s dead, and he prefers the doll, wait is there a real doll?  No, no, he prefers the facade…. Okay, re-read…. A widow (with no name) became the woman she thought her husband wanted, a Newport Barbie, only to find out he preferred her Barbie persona to the real her!  Eureka.)

Is it too much to ask to find a lover who wants the real woman this time around? Although she loves her position on the McCleod Foundation board, she plans to quietly leave the cloying environment.  Unfortunately, her guilt over her craving for Michael’s longtime friend causes her to botch it the way only the truly desperate can.  Now with her escape route ruined and her desire revealed, she’s got to move quickly.

Expectation:  This is a story about a woman who pretends to be a Newport Barbie, and she’s busting out.  And for some reason, guilt has led her to ruin something to do with leaving a job she doesn’t want any more.  And this is an escape route?  Unless this is the mob and you can’t leave the family Foundation, I’m a bit lost on why she can’t say, “Hey, guys, it’s been nice, and I’m resigning.”  Am I close?

As maintenance supervisor of the McCleod grounds, Daniel Wilson is fiercely protective of his work and even more so of the McCleod family.  So how in the hell did he not notice Trista was twisting herself into the princess mold while running herself into the ground?  And when did he become part of the reason why Trista wants to leave her home?  Danny’s shock over Trista’s feelings doesn’t keep him from jumping into bed with her even though just two seconds ago he’d considered her a respected friend.  Perhaps he should have learned from his social-climbing ex-wife not to dive in so quickly.

Expectation: Daniel Wilson is the love interest and he’s fiercely protective of the water heaters and plumbing and all things maintenance-y.  He didn’t notice a whole lot about Trista, and now he does.  And she wants to leave, in part, because of him, but he jumps in bed with her which he now he regrets because she’s just like his social-climbing ex-wife and he should’ve learned better.  (Have to breathe after that!)

Is this right?  Maybe it’s a story about a woman wanting to leave and a guy just noticing her and wanting her to stay? 


The passion and desperation of their stolen moments together is everything Trista dreamt of and not exactly what Danny signed up for.  Her little quiet sneak away plan becomes a huge project drawing Danny deep into every aspect of her life, but apparently not deep enough for her to stop the cycle of secrets and hiding.  Her little plastic mask is cracking and Trista needs to find a way to smother Newport Barbie before she alienates her friends and the one man who can make her dream a reality.

Expectation: This is a story about two people sneaking around having an affair, with her keeping him secret.  And she’s having a hard time keeping up her Newport Barbie mask.  And apparently she’s doing something (being rude?) so that she’s alienating her friends and Daniel.  Am I close?

I am seeking representation for REDESIGNING TRISTA, a 100,000-word contemporary single title romance.  I am a member of Romance Writers of America, Savvy Authors, and Romance Divas.

Okay, send me your comments, Sweetie, and let me know where I’m off and where I’ve understood your story correctly!  We’ll get this.  So no worries, okay?

Query for Internet Millionaire’s Copilot by Leslie Dow

Hello to Leslie!  Welcome to the workshop. :)  I’m going to dig right in.  You know how it work!  Send me an email. :)   Here goes.

Dear {insert agent/editor name},

Pilot, Rebecca Jones, ex-heiress and ex-socialite spends her life avoiding responsibility ‘cause that’s what freedom’s all about. She’s sitting on her butt in the Mozambique airport adding ex-African Relief pilot to her resume when her uncle, sidelined by heart problems, needs help running his executive jet charter business.

Expectation:  This is a story about a woman who lives big and has a lot of “lives” in her past.  The heart problems kind of come out of nowhere.  I think there’s some missing information, such as, “sitting on her butt in the Mozambique airport waiting for a flight back to the US, when she gets an emergency call.  Her uncle has had a heart attack and needs her to stay and run his jet charter business.” 

Is that close?

I assume this is the opening scene.  Sounds great!

Rebecca’s got her hands full with the executive charter business. Her uncle crankily refuses to stay down and get well, her mother insists on a reconciliation and the jet charter’s biggest client, Nick Miller, is the kind of man who triggers every bad-girl impulse she has. For the first time in Rebecca’s life the bad boy claims to love her. She's not stupid, she knows this game, a mercenary doesn’t have to wear camo to fight, and Rebecca’s never won any of those battles. Besides, love and freedom just don’t mix.

Story expectation:  This is a story about how she runs the charter service and a whole bunch of stuff crowds her days, all equally important.  Nick is the love interest, and he turns her into a bad girl.  They’re bad together. ;)  The analogy to a mercenary, camo, and battle kinda loses me.  And basically she wants to be free.

Nick’s never met a woman like the edgy pilot with the soft chocolate eyes. Why did he have to meet her now? Nick’s business is failing but he’s got a plan. It’s executing well, right up to the point where he learns the target is actually controlled by his new love's mother. Nick learns Mom’s made a few mistakes, the kind the SEC might be intrigued by. When Rebecca reluctantly agrees to step up, accept her inheritance, and the responsibility for the family business she learns that her new love is her family’s biggest threat. He swears he never knew but Rebecca’s seen too much to believe in coincidences.

Expectation:  This is a story about a man who meets a great woman and wishes he hadn’t met her now because his business is failing.  He’s going to be poor, and she won’t like him.  Or maybe he’s just too busy and has no time for her.  His focus is on a new business plan.  It sounds like he does intel on Rebecca’s Mom and is doing some sort of blackmail to get what he wants, but he didn’t know Rebecca and Mom were related??? 

Then all of a sudden Rebecca has an inheritance.  Did the uncle die?  Oh, so maybe the story is really about how she’s tricked into falling in love?  He lies to her and says he never knew, but he did because he knew about the SEC.  Rebecca is on to him. 

Or maybe he’s in town to manipulate the Mom, meets Rebecca, then realizes the relationship….

How did I do?

Nick will to do anything to save his company except hurt Rebecca. He’ll hand over everything he has and walk away. Rebecca's finally met a man she might trust. Now, she must convince him that freedom doesn't always mean running away before she loses him forever.

Expectation:  Is this a paragraph about how the story ends?  If so, you really don’t need it in your query.  However, I think I didn’t get the story right.  I thought she wanted to be free, but apparently he was the one who wanted to be free, right?

Internet Millionaire’s Copilot is a 50,000 word category-length romance with a powerful but vulnerable hero, international jet-set elements, and a secret identity.

Expectation:  I didn’t get anything about international jet-set elements or a secret identity at all.  She’s a jet pilot, I think.   And he’s a business man.  Jet-set = “an international social group of wealthy people.” I didn’t see the social or the parties.  And someone has a secret identity?  That sounds like a different book than what I just read about.

Sorry to be so confused.  But you can easily close the gaps and tell me what’s really going on. :)

I am published in short fiction and write a regular industry column at SavvyAuthors.Com. I edit the Silicon Valley’s RWA chapter’s newsletter and am the webmistress for RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter.

If you’re published in short fiction, you should give the pub info!  It’s a great credit.

Best Regards,

Leslie A. Dow
http://www.leslieadow.com

Query for Halo Light by Janie Bill

Hello, Janie!  I gave you feedback in the comments on Sunday, not realizing you were actually one of the Savvy Author winners I was working with.  Doh!

This is the version you sent me in email, and it’s different than the one in the comments section, so I’ll give you some feedback here as well.

Halo Light is an 94,000 word young adult fantasy set in the Everglades of Florida with Native American themes and angelic sightings. A boating accident at sunset on Disappearing Island claims the life of Ivy Clearwater’s father. Because Ivy is distracted with feeding the manatees when her father relied on her maneuvering the catamaran according to his commands, she feels responsible for his disappearance. Ivy is determined her father remains alive but has amnesia and can’t find his way home.

Expectation:  This is the story that starts with Ivy who goes out to “Disappearing Island” (love that name!) with her father, and he dies.  She feels it’s her fault, and he’s not really dead.  (Is he just missing?  Did she see the body?  Is there actually hope, or is this just powerful denial?)

Determined to bring him back, Ivy follows the advice of a Fuentes mystic and enters the enchanted swamps of the Everglades in search of the everlasting waters. Relying upon nothing more than her special sight of Halo Light, Ivy must end a family curse by righting the wrongs of her ancestors.

Expectation: Ivy is desperate, seeks mystical advice, and is given a quest into the enchanted swamps in search of the Fountain of Youth!    Love her special gift of “halo light.”  Don’t know what it is, but I suspect it has to do with seeing halos of light to guide her down the right path.  Oh… wait there’s a family curse.  and Ancestors.  Okay, so it’s not a story about a search for her father?

Sparks fly when she meets her ideal guy, Joel. She fights the supernatural forces of the commune leader Tiger Tail, battles with deciding whether Joel is a devil dweller, and learns to appreciate her special heritage.

Expectations:  Well, suddenly she’s done grieving, and an “ideal guy” shows up in the swamp.  And a commune leader.  And Joel is a devil dweller?  What?  And she learns to appreciate her heritage.  I think maybe Dad doesn’t end up mattering?  And she forgets about the Fountain of Youth?

Okay, what I suspect is that this is a traditional hero’s quest novel, and all this stuff is actually part of the “perils and tests” section in the enchanted swamp (to prove that she’s worthy of finding the Fountain of Youth and getting her Dad back).   But you’ll have to tell me!  Let me know where I’m in-line with your story and where I’m off in the weeds.

--
Sincerely,
Janie Bill

Time for everyone else to get to work!

Do you have a query or pitch you want to work on.  Post it in the comments and help each other check it for accuracy!

Monday
Jun062011

The First Step to A Killer Pitch or Query (part 2)

In yesterday’s post, I shared how I analyze queries and pitches by first checking to see if the author has set accurate expectations by focusing on the correct story details. 

A Fresh Take on Teaching Query and Pitch Creation

I’ve actually never seen anyone teach this before, but I believe strongly that most queries and pitches mislead the reader, which is a pretty big deal.

If you mislead the reader you don’t know if the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ actually means anything at all, and you’ve used up your one chance with that specific agent or editors  Ug.

Yesterday I analyzed Kat and Michele’s queries.  Today, I’ll post my “expectations” for 4 additional (lucky!) authors from the SA Bootcamp class.

Follow along and post YOUR query or pitch in the comments of this or any of this week’s posts for peer feedback.  Your job is to help each other apply the lessons I’m teaching.  I’ll swing by as time allows.

This post is part of Savvy Author’s Pitch Practice week here at Pitch University.

Query for Rising Currents: Louisiana Moon

Dear Agent/Editor,

Rising Currents: Louisiana Moon is a 70,000 word completed manuscript Urban Fantasy set in Louisiana.

Hello, Lani!  So excited to have you aboard. :)  You know the drill.  I’ll let you know my expectations here, and you let me know in email where I’m on target and where there’s a gap.  (Feel free to copy this into MS Word and add your comments in a different color.)

And I have to say, for someone who’s only been writing for a year and a half, your query letter is quite good!  I know I point out a lot of places where I’m confused, but seriously, this is better than most queries out there.  So take heart. :)

Losing her parents to vampires, Kristina Knight, a werewolf bounty hunter, is ready to protect humans from the bloodsuckers. Saving, Darin James, a human, from the Truce Brotherhood adds risk to the vampire coven’s wrath. When Ryant, her ex-lover appears on pretext on protecting her, she isn’t ready to trust him again. Especially not after he’d made his choice clear years ago.

Often, in stories that build a unique world, it helps to give us a quick short-hand of that world to get us grounded.  For example, “In a world where werewolves protect humans against vampires….”  And yes, feel free to hear this in the fabulous Hollywood voice over of Don LaFontaine.)

Story Expectation:  Okay, kinda confused because so many details without explanation, and all the sentences beginning with phrases (instead of characters, which means you have to go into the middle of the sentences and dig the characters out with a garden trowel!) 

But don’t worry. Confusion is not a hard thing to correct.  The harder thing is to figure out if you’re communicating the story focus correctly.

…. After I’ve read it several times, I expect a story about a werewolf who hunts Vampires and protects  humans from something called Truce Brotherhood (insurance company?  Vampire cult? Humans for World Peace? Humans for Whirled Peas?  Always loved that t-shirt!) An ex-lover shows up and complicates her life.

Ryant Starga is driven by the need to protect Kris, not because she was his world in the past, but because with her blood, the Soulscapes would rule the Underworld. And that means no creature would ever be safe. His plan to convince her she needs his protection goes awry when he realizes that in spite of the years separating them, he’s unable to keep his hands or mind off her, and the human out of the picture.

Story Expectation:  Okay, more world details that aren’t explained (Soulscapes, Underworld), which makes it a bit hard to piece together. ;)  But, it seems that this is a story about a guy (human?) who wants to protect the werewolf vampire-hunter and keep her out of the hands of something called Soulscapes because her blood is special (for some reason).  And his plans are ruined because he’s all lusty and that other darn human is in the way. 

Did I get it?

With the Soul Demons hot for blood using hoodoo magic, a single drop means sure death. With the human stepping over boundaries, will Ryant gain respect from Kris, only to lose her again? Can he hope for a future? Can there be a love triangle, or will there be separations? Will they all live long enough to find out?

Story expectation: This is a story about Soul Demons?  And they are hot for “blood using hoodoo magic,” or they’re using some sort of magic involving blood, or they’re using magic to get blood… something like that.  And Ryant’s biggest concern is gaining respect, but losing her despite the respect. 

Oh, there’s a love triangle.  Is this erotica?  Okay, I think I misunderstood. This is erotic urban fantasy.

I plan to make this story a part of a series. I’ve been writing for over a year and half. I’ve taken several online workshops at Savvy Authors. I’m the group leader for The Preternaturals on Savvy. A member of RWA, OKRWA, FF&P and several online groups.

There are some downsides to telling an agent or editor what you plan to do but haven’t done, because most people in the world say they plan to write a book and don’t.  So you might want to omit that.  I think what you mean to say is that “the story has series potential,” yes?

Also, letting the agent or editor know how long you’ve been writing, especially when its such little time, has the potential to be received with a negative judgment.   Most writers take years to perfect their craft, so a year and half sounds like a beginning writer to some folks.  If you’ve been writing for a number of years, that can get translated into “and yet I haven’t sold because there’s something wrong with my writing.”  None of this helps the writer.  Years don’t matter.  Ability to write matters. :)

And as for taking classes, unless they’re classes taught by the editor or agent, it doesn’t make sense to mention them.  Of course you’ve taken classes.  :)

If you’re interested, I’ll gladly send you first three chapters or the whole manuscript. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

There’s nothing technically wrong with this, but you might want to let the editor or agent decide how much she or he wants to ask for (and not tell her/him how much he/she is allowed to have).  There are many editors or agents who ask for 30 pages or some number that makes sense to them.  Yet you’re not offering what they find useful.  Just something to think about.

Sincerely,
Lani Rhea

Pitch for Rising Currents: Louisiana Moon

Lani, you’re already doing something right, and that’s bringing in lots of details.  This is wonderful.  Yeah, there’s lots of confusion at this point, but bringing in details is actually a good thing. 

Next, clear up the confusion, which is why I try to let you know what I’m thinking and exactly where my mind generates all sorts of things that have nothing to do with your story, no doubt.

Kris Knight, will do anything to protect humans from the Truce Brotherhood vampire recruiting, even take on the rescued human as a lover.

Expectation: This is a book about a man who protects humans from a vampire recruiting cult by taking on the human as a lover.

A drop of her blood holds the power of reigniting the old hoodoo magic the Soul Demons need to make their leader victorious.

Expectation: This is a book about Soul Demons, who need “a drop of her blood” (whoever that is) and use hoodoo magic so their leader will be victorious at something.

When Ryant Starga, Kris's ex-lover and leader of vampires, appears in her life determined to protect her, she needs to learn to trust him or everything will be lost.

Expectation: This is a M/M romance.  Kris’s ex-lover is the leader of Vampires… wait there’s  a HER.  Okay, Kris must be a woman.  She needs to “learn to trust him or everything will be lost.”  Which could kinda mean anything!   A war?  Her soul? A Pillsbury bake-off?  (Oh, please say it’s blueberry muffins!  I do love those, and they go so well with hoodoo magic. ;)

Thanks for participating, Lani!  I look forward to your response in email!

Your Turn

Now, everyone… it’s your turn in the comments.  Post your pitch or query.  Help each other by looking at expectations.

--

This week’s schedule:

1) SUNDAY & MONDAY June 5th & 6th- Assignment 1

2) TUESDAY & WEDNESDAY June 7th - Assignment 2 - Course Correction to Match Reality ("talk it out," discuss the discrepancies in your pitch).
3) THURSDAY & FRIDAY June 9th - Assignment 3 - Create Revised Pitch and Query.
4) SATURDAY June 11th - Assignment 4 - Five Pitch Videos See how it's done!

Sunday
Jun052011

The First Step to A Killer Pitch or Query (part 1)

Savvy Author Lesson 1: How to Analyze Your Pitch & Query

In this post I analyze two queries letters, focusing exclusively on the story expectations set by the authors.  Post your query or pitch in the comments!

Welcome to Savvy Author Pitch Practice week here at Pitch University.

Savvy Authors

Savvy Authors is an amazing website providing the best tools, classes, and networking opportunities for authors in all stages of their writing careers, from aspiring novelists to multi-published authors.

I’ve teamed up with them to bring some Savvy Pitching to their Novel-Writing Bootcamp experience. (Both SA and PU writers benefit!  Win-win.)

During this week, I’ll be sharing a total of 4 Steps to a Killer Pitch or Query, and you won’t want to miss a single post.

To Do #1:  To start this week, read my interview on the SA site, where I talk pitch tricks, my take on using props and costumes (probably not what you expect), and the differences between pitching online vs. face-to-face.

To Do #2:   Read today’s post and learn how to analyze your pitch or query letter.

To Do #3: Homework! Apply today’s lesson to your own pitch or query letter in the comments of today’s lesson.  Provide feedback to other writers and help each other become awesome.

Savvy Author Winners!

Over the week, I’ll be working directly with 6 Savvy Author Bootcamp Students, to illustrate each Lesson.

Meet our Savvy Author Winners:

  • Janie  Bill – Young Adult
  • Leslie Dow - YA and Contemporary Romance
  • Katrina Latham - Contemporary Romance
  • Michele Barrow-Belisle – Young Adult Fantasy Romance
  • Lani Rhea - Urban Fantasy
  • Victoria Torres - Single Title Romance

The First Step to A Killer Pitch or Query

This is probably going to shock you…

…but we’re not going to start by taking the current version of a query or pitch and looking at how we can make it more exciting, more dynamic, or more appealing to an agent or editor.

I call that playing with words. 

And the problem with playing with words is that it assumes we’ve already identified the right focus.  It assumes we’re creating an expectation that is true.

Honestly, most of us aren’t.  We’re way, way off.  I know this, because in my work with writers, when I read the manuscript pages I almost always say, “Oh, this isn’t what I thought it would be at all.”

The problem is that we’re way too close to the 1,000 details that make up our stories.  So, featuring only key details in our queries and pitches is kinda like selecting your favorite tree in the forest.

So step one is to determine if we have the right focus and are setting the correct expectation in the reader’s mind.  (Then we work on words.)

Today, I’ll step you through the “Analysis of Expectation,” using Kat’s Michele’s Query letters. 

Query for No Fragile Heart by Kat Latham


Dear Agent/Editor,

[Something personal about why I want to work with them] I would love for you to represent/publish NO FRAGILE HEART, my 90,000-word contemporary romance with elements of suspense.

Hi, Savvy Kat!  It’s lovely to meet you.  We’re going to roll up our sleeves and get started. 

I’ll start by giving you the expectations  and thoughts I have of your story as I read your query.  Send me your response to each of my comments in email.  Am I dead on?  Or am I way off in a ditch?  This is the key information that will help us nail your query and pitch later this week.

And I want to start off by saying this is a really solid query.  Very well written.  I’m going to “test” it against my expectations, and no doubt you’ll want to correct what I’m expecting.  But I want you to know that this is actually well done.  We’re just trying to see if it’s the best it can be.

War correspondent Aidan Chilcott barely survived a suicide bomber’s blast in Iraq last year. Now back at work for his London-based newspaper, he’s dismayed to discover his editor has him covering feel-good stories until he proves he’s emotionally recovered. When an opportunity arises to visit a charity’s project for war-widows in Bosnia, he leaps at the chance. He may be expected to bring back puff pieces, but he’ll sniff out problems and show he’s ready to cover hard news again.

Expectation:  This is a story about a British battle-scarred reporter.  He probably has PTSD.  I get the sense of Lethal Weapon’s Sergeant Martin Riggs-- out of control, doesn’t know it, boss puts him on easy assignments, but he’s pissed that he can’t get back out there.

He gets an easy story in Bosnia, but he (by god) will find a hard-hitting story if it kills him.  He either already knows there are problems with this charity or he believes that all charities are corrupt. Or, he’ll ditch the assignment and go after other stuff in Bosnia without telling them.  He’ll show them!

As a press officer for International Disaster and Emergency Aid (IDEA)—a humanitarian charity that helps vulnerable women prepare for and recover from disasters—Emma Taylor has dealt with hundreds of difficult journalists. This is her first time accompanying one on a week-long overseas project visit, but she’s ready for the challenge of making sure Aidan shows the charity in a positive light.

Expectation: Okay, Emma is the love interest.  This is Riggs’ (I mean Chilcott!) story.  She’s on to him.  She believes in her mission and she won’t let a difficult reporter stop her from doing her good works.  She expects a fight.

From the start, though, the newshound proves nearly impossible to control. Not only does his easy flirtation make her desperate to shuck the professional image she’s adopted in her four years of sobriety, but when Aidan discovers teenage girls are being groomed and trafficked to western Europe by the charity’s wealthiest benefactor, he’s determined to expose the story—even if doing so costs Emma her job and costs him any chance of a future with her.

Expectation:  Chilcott crashes around kinda like a bull in a china shop because he’s pissed and looking for a story.  But he’ll also be flirting, which is kinda hard to put together.  Emma is 4 –years sober (very interesting hook, because it gives her some life experience and hardship similar, in a way, to Aiden’s). 

And suddenly we have white slave/child trafficking.  Okay…  And for some reason Aiden is going to expose this story (as opposed to go to police or UN authorities or some Federal agency where the charity is incorporated or any nation/agency who is actually against human trafficking… probably need to help us understand this better!). 

The main conflict for the book seems to be that he’s investigating this ugly, horrible crime… and she doesn’t want him to because it will cost her job???  Also, this is Aiden’s book primarily.

The story will unfold with scenes of him investigating and alternately flirting and trying to hide his investigation. They’ll probably have a lot of arguments.  She’ll be single-minded in helping the Bosnian women, and we’ll see her at work.

If I were going to read pages, I would expect the story to open in Aiden’s POV getting this assignment, then a scene in Emma’s POV, something to do with the charity and this specific trip, maybe?  Or, maybe they’re both in the first scene, meeting for the first time.  Am I close?

NO FRAGILE HEART is the first in a planned three-book series featuring women who work for a humanitarian charity. As the web editor for an international aid organization, I spend my days writing stories about real-life heroism and my evenings writing about heart-throbbing fictional heroes.

I LOVE your very fresh series.  Kudos to you.  And your insider’s view is a real plus.

I hope to share Aidan and Emma’s story with you.

Great closing line, especially for the Romance genre.

Kind regards,

Kat Latham

Query for Fire & Ice by Michele Barrow-Belisle


Dear Ms. Editor,

After a terrify encounter with a dark faerie when she young, 17 year old Lorelei Alundra can see when people are in pain, heal them with just one touch and sing with the voice of a diva. . . sometimes.

Hi, Michele!  You’ve been such a great participant here at Pitch U over the last few months.  Your query has already made HUGE progress, and we’ll see if we can improve it even more.  I know a bit about your book, and you have a very complicated story. But you’ve done a lovely job of summing it up.

Expectation:  This is a story about a girl (senior in high school?), who has “super powers” that can’t be counted on!

By the way, I think you meant "terrifying."

On the night of her vocal competition in front of a Julliard talent scout, Lorelei can only hope this is one of those times. But the competition is cut short when her mother succumbs to a fatal illness and neither doctors nor Lorelei can cure her.

Expectation: It’s Lorelei’s dream to get into Julliard, but her mother dies (succumbs to a fatal illness), but the doctors can’t cure… death?  (I know from previous discussions that this isn’t true.  She actually goes into a coma.  So there’s a gap here between query and manuscript.)

She turns to Adrius, the new guy from her art class. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. Despite being a little freaked out that he knows more about her than any stranger should, she accepts his offer to help find a rare medicinal herb that will save her mother’s life.

Expectation:  Lorelei is in high school, and it turns out there’s a guy in art class, who for some reason she turns to for medical advice.  No, wait, he makes an offer…..

She follows him from the forest behind their school . . . into another realm— where faeries, witches and elves carry on centuries of war. A war prophecy predicts she will end, in this world of her long absent father.

Expectation: We’ve left the ordinary world, similar to Wizard of Oz in a way.  Oh, didn’t know her father was absent.  Does her mother know?  ;)  I know from previous discussions that her father disappeared a long time ago, but that info is not in this query.

As Lorelei is drawn deeper into his world of secrets and shadows she must choose between Adrius the beautiful elven prince she loves, who is fighting a curse that could kill her.  And Zanthiel the compelling dark, winter faerie from her past. Among the insurmountable obstacles Lorelei must survive is Venus, his wicked witch ex-girlfriend— witch being completely literal. But she’s driven by more than love, by something even she doesn’t understand: her blood. Her own evil blood.

Expectation:  You need to check out Christie Craig’s new YA series under the name c. c. hunter. ( I wrote an article about how it was pitched to her, and what she then came up with, and other good craft stuff. ) But there is a similarity between your book and hers that will help you describe your book (and might even work as a comparison).  By the way, her book is already in its 4th printing and another is scheduled.

Your story has her torn between two boys, trying to figure out this world and her skills, and trying to fulfill a prophesy, although that may be secondary as the boys seem more important here.   It’s about her being lost in this world and unable to find her way out?  I note that the mother seems to be forgotten about.  Saving her doesn’t seem to be the goal any more. 

This last paragraph makes me think that the book’s focus turns, and the story is about her choosing between two boys, and the witch-of-an-ex of some guy named Venus causes problems. 

Also, much of this paragraph is full of general and vague concepts, such as “secrets and shadows, “a curse that could kill her,” “among the insurmountable obstacles” “driven by more than love, by something even she doesn’t understand."  You have killer details in your book.  But they’re not necessarily coming through.

There is a lot of good writing here, of course!  And this query is better than most.  So don’t you dare bang your head on your laptop keyboard, okay?  I’m on your side, 110%. 

In a world where trust brings pain and death, love becomes an act of unbelievable courage.

I usually don’t like summary lines like this, but I actually like this one a lot.  I think it’s the way it ends on courage, which implies ACTION. :)

Fire and Ice is a 110,000 word YA fantasy romance. The idea for this story came to me while working on my non-fiction book for Search Press Publishing on sculpting fairies in polymer clay. Thank you very much for your time, I look forward to your reply.

It sounds like this book sold, so give us the title!

Sincerely,
Michele Barrow-Belisle

YOUR TURN! Post Your Query or Pitch in the Comments

Help your peers with their query letters and pitches!  Post yours, help others.  Try to share their story vision, and let them know your expectations.

Ready.  Set.  Go.

And tomorrow, I’ll post Part 2.

--

This week’s schedule:

1) SUNDAY & MONDAY June 5th - Assignment 1 - Analyze Your Pitch and Query (original vs. expectations created).

2) TUESDAY & WEDNESDAY June 7th - Assignment 2 - Course Correction to Match Reality ("talk it out," discuss the discrepancies in your pitch).
3) THURSDAY & FRIDAY June 9th - Assignment 3 - Create Revised Pitch and Query.
4) SATURDAY June 11th - Assignment 4 - Five Pitch Videos See how it's done!

Friday
Jun032011

Pitch University’s Romance and YA (any genre) Pitchfest June 19th – June 25th

arrow_curved_2_right  WARNING!  This PitchFest works in a different way than previous PitchFests, so pay attention.  No dozing off here, okay?

Rom U logo Pitch University is partnering with Romance University  (so awesome!) to bring our YA (any sub-genre) and Romance writers a PitchFest, in time to practice for RWA’s National Conference.

(And if you’re not able to attend Nationals, this is your chance to get Agent attention.)

  • 100% Free
  • Romance University writers will have priority for submissions! This is your chance to check them out, see what they have to offer. :)
  • We’re accepting only 10 Pitch Videos (maximum 2 minutes). If you submit a video, you’ll receive feedback from every agent (unless agent notes a limit). This is a HUGE benefit!
  • You may also submit a query letter addressed to one agent only. Each agent will specify the number of queries (a query cap) and her personal focus.
  • Submissions accepted between June 12th – June 18th, 2011 midnight CST.

Meet the Literary Agents!

Lucy Carson with The Friedrich Agency

Lucy Carson FMI:

Writer’s Digest Interview

 

Saritza Hernandez with L.Perkins  Agency

Saritza FMI:

Read what Saritza is looking for!

Vickie Motter with Andrea Hurst & Associates

vickieFMI:

Brianne Mulligan with Movable Type Literary Group

brianne FMI:

Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency

Jenny FMI:

Kate Schafer Testerman of KT literary.

katephoto FMI:

 

More details to follow!

Thursday
Jun022011

Pitch The Media: Putting Your Best Book Forward with Radio and Podcast Interviews

bio_picBy Colleen Thompson, Novelist

Selling your book on the radio isn't so different than pitching it to an editor or agent, except in this case, you are trying to pique the interest of a radio host (or his/her producer) and the show's audience.

capturingcomm Recently, I was interviewed, along with author Paula Graves, by Rowena Cherry on her one-hour Internet Radio show "Crazy Tuesdays on Saturday" to promote my June romantic release, Capturing the Commando, from Harlequin Intrigue.

A few years back, I'd done quite a few local and syndicated radio show phone-in interviews, so I was no stranger to the live format, but I still took the time to brush up on the basics.

Media DO…

  • Have reasonable expectations and a viable hook.

    Rowena Cherry's show exists for the purpose of promoting romance authors. However, for whatever reason, radio interviews are most effective in selling nonfiction (especially if you've written the next great diet book!)

    Novels are tougher to get across to listeners and to pitch to hosts. You'll be much more successful if you can find a timely or topical angle to play up. For example, my historical romance, Against the Odds (Zebra, 2002) was written around a little-known, catastrophic explosion of the Civil War-era steamboat Sultana.

    Released on the anniversary of the disaster and referred to as "the Civil War's Titanic," Against the Odds made me a popular radio guest "expert" for a month or so and helped to get my pen name (Gwyneth Atlee) out there. (Diane:  This excellent book has just been re-released for e-readers and print!)
  • Have notes in front of you. No one can see your crib sheet, so avoid nervous "memory malfunctions" by keeping character names, a very brief plot summary (This is a place your book's original pitch can come in handy) and a bulleted list of top selling points handy. Practice reading these through, and edit any tongue twisters!
  • Shut yourself into a quiet, distraction-free room (no kids, cats, dogs, or noisy spouses rattling snack food bags) and use a corded phone on a landline.

    Cell phones, it turns out, sound terrible over the radio and may drop the call, and portable handset batteries might not last through your session. I keep an old corded phone around the house in case of power outages anyway, and I made sure to drag it out on the day of my recent interview.
  • Keep a glass of water handy, but skip the clinking ice.  Small background noises are easily picked up, but you may need to occasionally moisten your throat while the host or another guest is speaking.
  • Relax and have fun. During my last interview, I was acutely conscious of how nervous I was sounding, but soon, I relaxed into it by reminding myself of how I love to talk about writing and enjoying the conversation with two bright, articulate women about our favorite subject: books.
  • Articulate each word clearly and distinctly. During everyday conversation, we often mumble, slur, and blend words, but on the radio, listeners don't have nonverbal cues to clear things up.
  • Sit up and smile. You'll project better and sound friendlier.
  • Know the show. Thanks to the Internet, we can usually scope out the host's show ahead of time and get a good idea of his/her tone.

Media DON'T…

  • Expect perfection. You're probably going to stammer, botch a line, or think you sound like an idiot at least once or twice. Don't focus on the negatives. Instead, roll with the conversation, and most likely, no one's going to notice a few flubs.
  • Forget to appropriately bribe or threaten family members to avoid interruptions. Nothing's more disconcerting than having your kiddo pound on the door demanding to know where his favorite socks are while you're on a live call going out across the country.
  • Approach the host as an adversary. He/she wants interesting radio; you want your book and brand (author name) plugged. It's a symbiotic and time-honored relationship… unless you're careless, foolish, or gutsy enough to allow yourself to be talked into doing a show with one of those hosts whose idea of a swell time is ambushing some unsuspecting guest.

Listen to the actual interview with author Paula Graves and host-author Rowena Cherry!  It’s great fun, and we call it “Going  Commando!”  Wink.

 

To find out more about my books, please visit my website (complete with bullet holes). Or, stop by my blog at Boxing The Octopus and join in the conversation on the writing life.

---

From Pitch U Founder Diane:  I highly recommend Colleen’s books. WOW.  She’s an amazing suspense writer, great sense of place, characters with conflict coming at them from all directions, and tons of credible tension.  Her books are courses in How To Write.

CAPTURING THE COMMANDO, Harlequin Intrigue, Romantic Times TOP PICK! 6-07-11
PHANTOM OF THE FRENCH QUARTER, Harlequin Intrigue, 9-03-11

P.S.  Listen to the radio show.  There are a whole lot of interesting questions (some very different!), and a great way to prepare for your own interview.

Thursday
May262011

Pitching at Midnight: The Layers of Your Pitch

By Diane Holmes,
Founder and Chief Alchemist of Pitch University

It Began When an Author Got a Pitch From an Editor

This is a story about pitching. But it doesn’t begin with an author pitching to an editor. This story begins with an editor pitching to an author.

It’s a story about how an author set out to learn a genre she knew nothing about and discovered a very unique way of looking at story-development in layers. And how this technique can be used to create a kick-butt pitch for your own book.

Genre Jumping – Pitch From an Editor

IMG_3620-c-bestBestselling author Christie Craig (Yes the same ultra-funny, rom-com author who sold four books in one day) is now also a bestselling Young Adult author. The first in her new Shadow Falls series, Born at Midnight, written as C. C. Hunter, was just released on March 29, 2011.

Why did Christie suddenly decide to write paranormal YA? Because her editor at St. Martin’s, Rose Hilliard, called her with a three word idea.

Yes, a three word pitch.

What are the three words that so captivated the editor she wanted one of her best writers to take it on? “Paranormal summer camp.” (Those of you who don’t think you can pitch short are looking at how it’s done.)

As Christie says, “That's all she gave me.  I took it and wrote a synopsis.”  The synopsis was her written “pitch” back to St. Martin’s. It was her chance to sell them on a multi-book deal. And if you know Christie, you know she did just that. In fact, she and her agent ended up with a three-book deal, plus foreign rights sales, plus film potential.

But, in order to write the synopsis, Christie Craig, who has a thriving career in adult fiction and who’d never considered jumping genres, had to figure out exactly what Young Adult was all about.

Genre Layers

Christie shared what she learned about switching genres a couple months ago at a workshop she gave to the Northwest Houston RWA chapter. Put a challenge in front of that girl, and she will take names, rope it, and make it her mascot. That’s just Christie. So, she read and read YA books, asking herself, “What are the story constructs that make a YA paranormal romance different from an adult paranormal romance?”

She made what she calls her “big wonderful leap” when she realized that each YA book dealt with five layers:

1. Romance

2. Paranormal

3. Teen Angst

4. Parents/Family Relationships

5. Friends/Peers Relationships

And, while each book might stress a different amount of each layer, each layer was not only present, it also had built-in, inherent conflict.

So, simple. It’s like you’ve always known this, right? That’s what genius looks like. ;)

In fact, no matter what genre you’re writing, you can explore it in this way. This isn’t about sub-plots or multiple-plots, which have their own “life” within the story. This is about the complexity of your story and the facets of character experience and characterization, itself.

This became her understanding of YA fiction, specifically paranormal romance. And she embraced this as she developed her own story series and the resulting synopsis.

Build Layers into Your Pitch

As I was listening to Christie talk with such enthusiasm about her craft and her newfound passion for writing YA, I was struck by the application in what she’d learned about layers for creating a pitch. Yes, a layered pitch!

One of the things a pitch does best is set a story expectation. And one of the biggest challenges in a pitch (and query letter) is including additional details in a way that sounds related to the expectation.

It’s just true that, when pitching, the more you say, the more confusion you can create as one piece of information leads to another bit of explanation, that then jumps over to a whole other tangent.

Born at MidnightBut pitching in layers? That had the potential to keep things unified, simply because you could start by focusing on a single character layer/conflict, then add the next. And everything you added would go to reinforce the story’s genre as well. You’d be surprised how often pitches and query letters convey the story in a way that sounds like “it’s every genre, all thrown together like a food fight.”

I emailed Christie and told her my thoughts (“Christie, you’re a genius!”). She sent me the pitch she’d written to sell Born At Midnight, and gosh darn-it if I wasn’t right. It has all 5 layers. Take a look:

Kylie Galen has had a lot of crap tossed in her lap lately. Her parents are getting a divorce for who the heck knows why. Her boyfriend broke up with her because she wouldn’t put out.  And her grandmother died because . . . well, older people do that. 

But now, Kylie’s acquired a stalker, and she hasn’t a clue what he wants or how to get rid of him . . . and she really wants to get rid of him because apparently she’s the only one who sees him. 

Thinking she may be losing it, her parents send her off to see a psychologist who gets Kylie sent to Shadow Falls Camp.  Kylie and her parents think it’s a camp for troubled teens.
They thought wrong.

Kylie’s surrounded by vampires, werewolves, fairies, witches, and shapeshifters.  And if she believes what they say, she’s one of them.  They’re just not sure exactly how she fits in.

As Kylie struggles to cope with the realization that these creatures even exist and the fact that she might not be human, she‘s got two hot guys, a werewolf and a half-fairy, vying for her attention. And they can just keep vying.  Kylie’s determined that before she lets her heart loose on love again, she needs to unearth the truth. 

What does the ghost want?  Who can and can’t she trust?  And most of all . . . What is she?

Born At Midnight . . . It’s not your average identity crisis.

* * *

Let’s review her five layers:

1. Romance (two hot guys want her and she doesn’t want her heart broken again)

2. Paranormal (visions of stalker, paranormal summer camp)

3. Teen Angst (not human, boyfriend broke up with her, needs truth)

4. Parents/Family Relationships (parent’s divorce, granny dead, family will never be the same)

5. Friends/Peers Relationships (whole new set of friends, needs to fit in, they’re not human)

Unifying Character: Kylie

Unifying Theme for all Layers: Identify Crisis (a.k.a. “Everything I used to count on being true about me and my life is over!”)

Conflict in all 5 layers: Check

Everything sounds like it belongs in a YA Paranormal Romance: Check

Kick-Butt Pitch of complex situation that makes sense: Check

Series: Sold!

How to Apply This to Your Story

1. What are the key layers in your genre/sub-genre?

2. How do you transform each genre layer into your main character’s life?

3. What is the conflict found in each layer?

4. Is there a unifying theme that binds these layers?

5. Write a sentence or two about each layer and conflict, as it links to the main situation or as it imposes a hurdle in your story.

6. Try moving these sentences around until you find a way they fit together. In Christie’s pitch, she used a problem/goal structure.

7. Come to Pitch University and try it out! That’s what we’re here for, helping you create a pitch that works, and then practicing that pitch. You can do it.

----

Diane Holmes is the founder and Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, the first online, no-cost resource where writers who "suck at pitching" can learn to pitch their books from the agents and editors who make their living doing it.

Diane brings her background in marketing, writing, and community building to Pitch University.

She’s founded writers’ groups, co-owned a small press, had plays produced, written novels and scripts, run writer's contests, held offices in writing organizations, taught writing… and just like you, she sucks at pitching her own books.  Okay, wait.  She used to suck.  Now she rocks.  This is the journey you can make at Pitch University.

Wednesday
May252011

E-booking Can Be a Minefield

Pitch University Best Comment Award, April 2011

TINA1
From the Desk of Pitch U Minion Tina Moss:

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.

Onward ho! The April Best Comment Award goes to...

 

Best Comments Award... Elizabeth Aston emphasized the hard work involved in all areas of publishing. Here is an abbreviated version of her award winning comment:

“But ebooking yourself is hard work. It isn't, as I think most people now realize, a question of writing a book, getting a cover, sending the Word doc to Kindle and waiting for the loot to roll into your bank account. Any book worth reading has a heap of work in it - and that's after it's finished. That work needs to be professional: Editing, proofing, formatting, converting, cover design. And then you have to start promoting - although you'll have to do that these days however you're published.

Ebooking with a traditional publisher or a new digital house - contracts are a minefield. As I know to my cost, and I've had years in the business, as a writer and a publisher. You need expert advice.”

- Elizabeth Aston, April 26, 2011

Thanks Elizabeth for giving your take on both e-publishing and self-publishing in a digital format!

Pitch University supporters offered GREAT advice in their comments for April. It was difficult to pick a winner. So, please give a BIG hand to these Honorable Mentions:

· From Taylor Lunsford in response to To e-Publish or Not to e-Publish: An Agent’s Perspective. Thank you for pointing out the difference between e-publishing and self-publishing electronically.

“You touch on it briefly, but I think it is important for people to remember there is a difference between ‘e-publishing’ and ‘self-publishing an e-book.’ Like you said, there are a lot of e-presses that have popped up. The one I work with has a great team of experienced editors who are willing to work with authors that are talented, but might not necessarily be writing books main stream presses would scream for.”

Taylor Lunsford, April 24, 2011

· From Steve C in response to Can a Killer Book Proposal Lead to a Killer Pitch? (Plus Contest With Prizes. Steve reminds us that finding your niche is essential for developing a solid career, especially as a debut author.

“The thing that this made me think about is the fact that a first book is indeed that: a first book. A debut author will obviously have more trouble gaining traction in an ever-shrinking world of publishers and even readers, but if that author can find the niche that he/she needs, a whole career can be built on that.”

Steve C, April 11, 2011

· From Jennifer Downey in response Literary Agent Molly Jaffa – Evaluation Lab “Before and After”. A first draft is all about getting the words on paper and a practice pitch forms your ideas. Jennifer reminds us that first drafts and practices pitch are not about being perfect. Thanks Jennifer!

“I noticed as I set out to do the second video that, when I was telling myself that the delivery had to be ‘perfect’ with no ‘mistakes’, I stiffened right up. When I gave myself permission to bobble words, or pause in weird places, and just keep going, I relaxed more. The lesson for myself was: It’s more important to be real, and maybe stumble over a word or two, then try to turn in ‘perfect performance’.”

Jennifer Downey, April 9, 2011

Tuesday
May242011

Finding Luck in Unforeseen Pitches (and Dogs)

Natalie and Oscar  By Natalie C. Markey 

Thomas Jefferson said, “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.”

Rarely does luck fall into our laps; it’s up to you to make things happen. You obviously believe this or you wouldn’t be here at Pitch University working to perfect your pitch.

I have always believed in going for what I want, and that means being memorable. Anytime I take a writing course I read up on the instructor. OK and to be clear, this does not count as stalking. How can you take from what any instructor gives you, if you do not know where they are coming from?

Last November I attended one of NY Times best-selling author, Bob Mayer’s Warrior Writer workshops. Bob is also owner and publisher of Who Dares Wins Publishing.

First of all, this was one of the best workshops that I’ve taken. If you haven’t attended one of his workshops or bought his book, “Warrior Writer” you really should. I read up on Bob’s blog and followed him on Twitter. It didn’t take long to see that we did have something in common—dogs.

Second and to be clear, I didn’t go into a workshop with a publisher planning to pitch a non-fiction book on dogs. My plan was to learn how to improve my young adult fantasy and to get in one conversation with Bob about my dog so that way he would remember me when I sent a follow up email to his critiques of my YA query letter.

Instead, when I mentioned my dog, I met unexpected excitement and learned about the pet books that his publishing company, Who Dares Wins, was publishing.

In that moment I saw an opportunity. My dog, Oscar, has epilepsy. I love my dog, and I’m proud I’ve been able to care for him and give him the life he deserves. All special needs dogs need love and care. I’ve always wanted to do something to help special needs dogs, and this was my chance.

I pitched Bob a book on caring for your special needs dog, and he said, “Yes!”

I took a chance in the monent, got a yet, and made plans to publish a book on special needs dogs with Who Dares Wins Publishing. I had to slow down some on my young adult fantasy, but I was doing something that I really believed in.

I asked Bob Mayer about his thoughts on pitching and luck.

Bob Mayer:

“I think the key is to take a chance. 

90% of those who get asked by an agent to send in their material after pitching never even do so.  That's an astounding number of people who reject themselves because they're afraid of having someone else reject them. 

All someone can do is say no.  You never really know what someone is looking for. You never know what opportunities are out there.  A lot of Who Dares Wins Publishing came out of informal discussions and random encounters.

People think it's luck, but luck goes to those who try.”

I’m sure some people do experience luck. However, if you look at what they’ve done, I’m surethey worked hard, tried, and put themselves in the right position to succeed.

I went to a writers workshop and came out with plans for a book.

This past Wednesday my book, “Caring for Your Special Needs Dog” became available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble by Who Dares Wins Publishing.

A percentage of the profits from “Caring for Your Special Needs Dog” will go to The Texas A&M Foundation to the benefit of the Neurology Section, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinarian Medicine.

Sometimes you can find yourself pitching a book or an idea without even knowing. Pitching isn’t scary. Many times it can be a simple, casual conversation. Take chances. Look for opportunities. Don’t reject yourself from success.

---

Natalie C. Markey is a graduate from Baylor University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism/PR and Speech Communications. She has worked with organizations such as Rubenstein Public Relations in New York City and CBS Television.

Markey is a nine-year seasoned freelance journalist. She writes for several local and National publications including a regular column on Examiner.com, Special Needs Dog Care Examiner. After a professional career in PR and Communications she now writes non-fiction and fiction full time from a forest in Arkansas. She lives with her supportive husband, daughter, and, of course, Oscar.

Follow her at Pen to Publish and on Twitter @NatalieCMarkey.

Monday
May232011

Pitching’s Nuclear Chain Reaction

Jennifer Wilkov  By 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

No One Can Pitch Your Book Until You Do

Pitching happens a lot in publishing. Many roles in the process require pitching prowess and the reverse role of receiving pitches.

chain-reaction (1)

  • Agents receive pitches from writers and then turn around and pitch the project to editors.
  • Editors receive pitches from agents and then pitch the idea to the “pub board” for publishing consideration.
  • In-house representatives at the publishing house receive pitches from their colleagues about the project and then pitch booksellers on stocking and selling the book.

The confounding thing about pitching is that this chain of constant pitching and receiving begins with you.

Now you can hire others to write your book with you, edit your work, publicize and pitch you to the media and press, market your book and even develop sponsorship campaigns and strategic alliances.

The fact is: you can’t hire someone else to pitch your book until you pitch it.

No project can move ahead in the publishing process and no one will work with you on your book until you pitch them the project, idea and concept.

You. It all starts with you.

You must have the courage, confidence, clarity and comfort to passionately profess why your book should be taken on, represented, championed, published, marketed and sold.

You hold the keys to the publishing kingdom. They’re all housed in your pitch.

Dismissing this fact in your career as a writer is like burying your head in the sand like an ostrich.

When you stop resisting and you acknowledge that the skill set for pitching is as essential as writing a great book, which is the heart and soul of any great pitch, you will find that your natural enthusiasm for the project will fuel the foundation for your phenomenal pitch.

Your excitement becomes contagious which makes it easier for others to step up and say YES to the project – because you did first.

Then you can pitch and hire a publicist or public relations representative to go out and pitch you for interviews with the media and for event appearances. You can also pitch and hire a speakers’ bureau to go out and pitch you for appearances at corporate events, conferences, retreats and other occasions.

In publishing, we’re all connected. It takes a group of great collaborators to get your book published. It takes a great pitch to attract them to your project and team.

While there may be no “I” in “team,” the fact remains that to build one you’re going to have to look in the mirror and understand that it all starts with “me,” which is the core component for every great team and an effective pitch.

You can do it!

See you next month!

---

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.

 

Wednesday
May182011

Your Book Proposal: Give Them What They Want and Make Them Beg For More!

Pitch Perfect Proposal by Erin Reel, The Lit Coach

To agents and editors, The Overview section of your nonfiction book proposal is like a first date. After these decision makers check out your title and concept, The Overview is what really makes a lasting impression.

If you’ve successfully and succinctly given them the heart of your book in The Overview, they’ll read on, they’ll want more, they may want commitment. If you don’t, they may still read on, it depends on their level of patience and availability, but honestly with so many other attractive fish in the lit sea, their eye may wander to a more attractive prospect.

And who can blame them, really?

Two Approaches: Short & Sweet –or— Long & Romantic

book-proposal Some Overviews are short and sweet (a page or two) but give the reader a very clear sense of what to expect from the full blown book while others take their time to unfold (more than a few pages but less than 10), romancing the reader with intriguing statistics and compelling anecdotes making the reader yearn for more.

In both proposal scenarios, short and sweet or long and romantic, the authors get the job done – they’ve attracted the keen interest of an agent or editor by giving them what they want.

What do agents and editors want? Answer These 4 Questions

In The Overview you must answer the following four questions to keep the interest of an agent or editor: (Even if you plan to self-publish, I encourage you to follow-through with this exercise so YOU’RE clear on why someone would buy your book.)

· What is your book about?

· Why should your book be on the shelf?

· Why are you the ideal person to write it?

· How will you plan to write it?

#1 What’s it all about…

Ok, writers, no pressure here, but this is your big opportunity to really dazzle your reader.

You got your foot in the door with a great concept and title, now it’s time to wow that agent or editor by answering their first question, What is your book about? with a powerful synopsis.

Your goal with your synopsis is to adequately and succinctly inform your reader of what a book is about. Plain and simple. 

#2 You will find my book between…

Why should an agent take a chance on your book? Because it needs to be written, because you see a perfect hole on the shelf your book could fill.

Another important goal of The Overview is establishing a need for your book. Including attention-grabbing statistics and/or compelling anecdotes will not only bring your concept to life but they’ll underscore that need.

Agents not only love that supplementary data, they need it to make their case that your book should be published with an editor who will then have to turn around and make the case of why your book needs to be published to an entire publishing team (and they’ve heard it all).

But choose only the most relevant statistics and anecdotes for your Overview. That said, not all Overviews have statistics or anecdotes and that’s fine…sometimes they’re not appropriate…it depends on the book.

#3 In my years of…

I’ll preface this by saying the ideal person to write a nonfiction book, the kind of person the publishing industry is looking for, is someone with a few miles of road beneath them, experience, and a platform to tell the world about it.

  • Why are you the ideal person to write this book?
  • What do you bring to the table as an expert of your subject matter, your concept?
  • Is all your experience a solid enough foundation for this book to be built upon?
  • Are you recognized as an expert/advocate/voice of your subject matter?
  • Why do we as readers want to enter into this relationship with you?

This is your opportunity to make the agent/editor feel assured that you are just the right person to write this book. Your associations with your subject matter need to be rock solid and if you’re writing anything along these genre lines, you MUST have the professional/academic background to support your efforts (i.e. letters behind your name):

· Reference

· Technology

· Health/Medical/Psychology

· Science

If you’re writing within other genres, like cooking, parenting, business, lifestyle, anything prescriptive “how-to”, you need to be able to show a track record of success in these areas – like a successful blog, you-tube videos, a meaty social media following, a successful newsletter, freelance articles, contributed pieces, professional associations, degrees are helpful, too.

This becomes your platform and all this eventually translates into who will buy your book…which we’ll cover more in the Marketing section down the road.

#4 Who is that man/woman behind the curtain…

Agents and editors want a good feel of how your book is going to be written so don’t save your “writing voice” for your sample chapters – don’t play coy; give them what they want now!

Proposals are professional documents, absolutely, but your reader would love to hear your authentic voice while being sold on your concept. If nothing else, remember this: your tone should match the material you’re writing about.

Is your book funny? By all means, give that prospective agent/editor a taste of your sense of humor (within means). Are you writing a more serious, analytical book? Then keep your tone on the more straight and narrow side. It’s totally possible to present yourself and your material professionally and authentically – really, that’s the only way to present yourself.

Finally, don’t allow the idea of capturing the entirety of your book onto a few pages intimidate you; this is the reality of a professional author. If you get stuck, just break down these elements and work on them piece by piece.

And if you find you need more information or experience to make your case, then it’s back to work you go and that is OK. There are no shortcuts in writing or publishing.

But I hope you ARE ready and have all the elements of a great Overview ready to go. I’m rooting for you. Here’s to successful Overview crafting!

--

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

Tuesday
May172011

Carrie Spencer – Author of Smart Ass Romance

This Member Spotlight by Minion Heather (cue evil laugh)

Heather: Tell us about being a writing smart ass.

CARRIE SPENCER: I’ve been writing about two years now. I decided on my 47th birthday I wanted to be published by the time I was 50. =) Boy, was I stupid….I mean naïve.

As you can probably tell by my blog name, Smart Ass Romance, I write romantic comedies.

Carrie Smart Ass Romance

I also write MG, with of course, a goofball edge. I don’t have it in me to write a historical, although I loooove reading them. Kathleen Woodiwiss was my idol back in the day. I belong to RWA, FFnP, SCBWI and Yosemite Romance Writers.

I’m also a faculty member for Romance University which keeps me in touch with other writers and the writing industry. We did an AWESOME three day workshop with Diane a few weeks ago.

I live in Iowa on a small farm with six cats and an English husband. In my non-writing time I manage a restaurant, design websites and jewelry, and practice using a flat-iron to no avail.

Heather: How did you discover Pitch University?

Carrie: I discovered Pitch U through a twitter post. It’s all about social media folks! My favorite part? Getting immediate feedback. Whether it’s Diane, a commenter, or an agent, you know whether your pitch has issues with it or not – Johnny on the spot! My favorite post? Oh gosh, can I just say every single one? Or does that sound like I’m sucking up? =)

Heather: Tell us the truth…. How do you feel about pitching?

Carrie:  I adore pitching. No wait, I adore Diane; I hate pitching. ‘That’s right, now I’ve got it.

I tried pitching a story to one of my staff (mind you, a PAID employee) who insisted if we put it on YouTube, it would go viral. (The security of her job is still in question.)

I need to work on overcoming the gut impulse of cracking a wise-ass remark while pitching. I have no control. The easiest part of a pitch? The smile after Diane says YAY – you’ve got it!!!

Heather: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned by participating in Pitch U’s PitchFests?

Carrie: The biggest thing I’ve learned is just because *I* know the story and what I’m writing about, doesn’t mean the reader does. When Diane pops out with her Expectations - I stand there with my mouth hanging open like a bluegill. And then I realize that I wrote a pitch that’s wonderful only AFTER a person has read the book.

Lightbulb moment.

Real world results? I did get a request for my MG from Molly Jaffa a few weeks ago. =) We sang, we danced, we drank vodka. (We being the royal we of me and my cats)

Heather: Do you think pitching is a different skill from writing a query letter?

Carrie: Pitching and querying are a wee bit different! You can use your pitch in your query, sure, but you also have to give them a bit more detail in the query. Not much – shorter is better! SHORTER IS BETTER! ohmmmmm

Heather: Have you made a pitch video?

Carrie: I have not made a video, although I did do an audio. Since my biggest fear in a video is my double chin wiggling, I’m not sure you can help with that. And no, please don’t take my chocolate away. Please?

Heather: What’s your personal theme music?

Carrie: The Oscar Mayer Wiener Song. Everybody! – “I wish I was an Oscar Mayer Wiener……”

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

Carrie: “Why yes, Ms. Jennifer Enderlin, I’d love to send you the full.” Oh wait, maybe I just dreamt that part…..

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

Carrie: I had hoped to go to RWA this spring - until I broke a tooth. Have you priced a crown lately?

Heather: What skill is next on your list to learn?

Carrie: I’ve kind of given up on the flat iron, so I think the next skill set would be learning how to run my new Blu-Ray player. After that, possibly plotting. It’s a curse to me.

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

Carrie: CARPE DIEM!

---

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.

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 @msheatherwebb.

Sunday
May152011

What Is it Like to Consult with a Literary Agent?

small me 4 Hi! My name is C.K. Volnek and I won the Literary Agent contest on Pitch University. What a wonderful surprise! A 30-minute phone consult with Literary Agent Michael Larsen. Plus a copy of How to Write a Book Proposal – 4th edition.

I had never in my wildest imagination thought I would win this coveted contest. Why? Well, to be honest and frank…(blush)…because I hadn’t even heard of Pitch University ‘til the week of the contest.

Answer = Pitch U Can Only Be Seen During a Full Moon

How I never found Pitch University is a mystery to me. (It’s a wonderfully great site and I’m definitely going to be a regular from now on!)

Lucky for me, I’d been working on building my platform on twitter and received a tweet about the contest. Intrigued, I clicked on the link. Intrigued even more after reading that post, I devoured the rest of the week’s posts and commented.

Hint: Approach Wild Agents Slowly, Speak in Calm Voice, Offer Approved Refreshment “Pellets”

I was thrilled to receive the consultation with Mike Larsen. Also, a bit nervous. I’d never talked directly to an agent. I knew I didn’t have anything to pitch to Mike since he deals with adult nonfiction and I write MG and YA fiction. But he did have information I desperately wanted…marketing information.

(I am blessed to have two novels under contract and my first MG novel comes out in September from MIU Publishing. So I was extremely interested in Mike’s experience with marketing.)

After receiving Diane’s instructions, I called Mike on Monday to arrange a phone-meeting. I dialed the number expecting an assistant to answer. No, Mike answered. Needless to say, I felt a little tongue-tied. But, I introduced myself and we fell right into conversation.

I was so pleasantly surprised how easy he was to talk to. After a few minutes, we decided there was no need to make an appointment; there was no time like the present to talk.

Treasure Chest of Goals

Mike’s easy candor opened up a treasure chest of knowledge and expertise. He said a writer needs to have two goals:

  1. First, a writer needs to have a goal as to what kind of book he/she wants to write and what kind of emotions he/she wants from his/her reader.
  2. Second, a writer needs to have publishing goals.

Most writers would love to only write, but Mike shared that the publishing goal is a most important part of the equation. Mike quoted Jack Canfield in saying, “the success of a book is 90 percent promotion.”

All writers today need to do self-promotion. Mike said, “promotion won’t sell a bad book, but promotion will make a good book a success.”

Mike said promotion is all about building relationships, to get people to know, trust and like you, to have something of value to offer them. And the best promotion is ‘word of mouth.’

Mike then proceeded to quiz me on my own marketing platform. What was I doing to present myself and my upcoming books? Me? Well, I have a web page, a blog, facebook, fan page, twitter, groups, etc.

I was pleased when Mike complimented me on doing many things right…thanks to my writer and publisher friends nudging me along…but Mike presented many more avenues still available to tackle…

Pieces of Promotion Success (Look at all that treasure!)

Here is a list of Author must-haves Mike shared with me.

  • Web Page. First and foremost, an author needs a web page. Mike confirmed the fact that an author needs that presence way before their book is sold. (And I’ve discovered there are many inexpensive ways to create your web page, even free web site hosts.)
  • Facebook. An excellent social media contact for family, friends and followers. I actually created two pages, one for more personal friends and family and one strictly for my author site, complete with a Fan page. (Though I’m still learning how to make my fan page more noticeable. Suggestions would be appreciated!)
  • Twitter. This social media is fast and frenzied. It’s a wonderful tool to send short quips and bursts to as many people want to follow you as possible. (And it’s a great source of information, such as contests like those on Pitch University. ;-)
  • Groups. Groups are as important as best friends. They are your NEW best friends. A writer should know who his or her reader is and go after the groups that would find their story valuable. This can be daunting as it’s virtually endless.

    I belong to countless groups such as my Publishing group, SCBWI, Verla Kay, Faith Writers, critique groups, and many other Children’s writers groups. (Needless to say, I never have to worry about having an empty in-box when I open my e-mail. *Grin*)
  • Blog. A blog is a great way to get your name out, to offer something to your readers and followers. But the writer must make sure to offer something of value in return for their visit. Know your reader and give them something to keep coming back for.
  • Promotional sites. I admit I’m still working on this one since my first book doesn’t come out until September. But I’m working on it. Just a few of the many I am working on are Amazon, Good Reads, Jacket Flap, Borders and Barnes and Noble.
  • Reviews. Okay, this is one area I need to grow in. I do read…a lot, and I post many of my favorites on Good Reads, but I’m lacking in reviews. Why? I really don’t have a reason. But it’s a bad reason, whatever it might be. By writing reviews, one is building recognition, trust, and relationships.
  • Trailers/Podcasts. Trailers are a super way to create a memorable image for your book. I seen a great trailer for a picture book today. Made me want to go right out and buy it. And pod-casts…another great way to ‘tell’ your story on the internet…literally!
  • Following blogs and websites. Mike couldn’t express this enough. This is how you make friends. Follow the people you admire most and make sure you comment on their posts.

Mike challenged me to be ‘entrepreneurial’ with my writing. With the internet, there is a wealth of opportunities available to us today and that is how I am going to sell my books.

As an author, I am a business, and I have to promote ‘me.’ But as I pondered this last thought, I realized there is something even more important than just ‘promoting me’…it is that I build these relationships. One can never have enough friends. And I write because I want to offer my ‘friends’ a story…a tale of entertainment, emotion, history, growth, a part of ‘me.’

So…right now I’m a small fish in a very big pond, but with my ‘friends’, I’m growing bigger each and every day. If you see me on-line, I’d love to get the opportunity to say ‘hello’ and ask you ‘to please be my friend.’

---

C.K. Volnek, aka Charlie or Charlotte, lives in Nebraska with her husband and four fur-kid Papillion pups. A mother of three grown children, C.K. has a passion for writing and focuses most of her stories toward middle grade and tweens. Having a son that ‘hated’ to read spurred her to create stories to entertain, encourage and inspire young readers. When she is not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, long hikes, gardening, and movies.

Contact charlie at ckvolnek@yahoo.com
blog: www.ckvolnek.com/blog.html
MG Ghost Story: Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island, Sept, 2011
MG Horse Story: A Horse Called Trouble, Dec, 2011

Friday
May062011

2 New (free) Ways Pitch U Helps You Nail Your Pitch

We’re adding 2 new features to the long list of awesome resources here at Pitch University.

And (pssst), these features can change the way agents, editors, and readers see your writing (and thus your career).

11-01 Excitement

Before I share the details, I’m going to ask something in return.  Please take a moment to LIKE, FRIEND, email, and tell your friends about Pitch University.  That’s all we ask.  If you like us, if you think the expert articles and PitchFests rock your world, tell your critique partners and writing groups .  Spread the word.

It’s darn hard work getting a new website off the ground, and I’m just a writer like you.  I don’t have a team of website developers or a marketing department down the hall.

Just me, the Minions, and the Henchmen.  All volunteers.

#1 New Pitch U Forums - Workshop Your Pitches & Query Letters

The totally amazing Taylor Lunsford and Heather Webb are our Workshop moderators, and I can’t thank them enough for making this possible.

Just find the FORUMS tab in the main navigation of our site and click.

Meet_Some_New_Faces

I’ve posted rules (the same easy rules we use in our comments here at Pitch U), with the goal that you show up, learn in an environment that makes you feel glad you’re a writer, and you improve.  That’s it.

I’ll swing through occasionally.  You’ll never know when….  but our workshop this last week was wildly productive, and I don’t want anyone to have to wait for a designated time in order to start the journey to Awesome.

So go check them out.  They’re brand new and the paint is still drying.  Go turn on the lights and get your Pitch on.

#2 One-on-One Pitch U Step-by-Step Case Studies

This has been a long time in coming and is true project of the heart.

Success Baby After 20 years of hating the process of writing and delivering pitches (and queries), I’ve turned into someone who adores the whole amazing art form of--as Literary Agent Katharine Sands calls it--“PitchCraft.”

Each Case Study showcases my work with just one writer from their initial attempts through all the work of transformation. 

This isn’t a 1-page report about showing you the final product and explaining why it’s so good.  This is 17 – 22 pages showcasing the journey from problem pitches (the ones that kinda look like they work but don’t) to what works.  You’ll see the entire dialogue back and forth, all the versions we try, and the final results.

These cases are what I wish I’d had, so I’m giving them to you.

And they’re free.

Click on the new Case Studies tab in the navigation.

The first two studies are up.  You’ll recognize Taylor, our new forum moderator), and you’ll get to meet Natalie.

I’m starting to get requests from writers about how they can work with me on their pitches.  And I have to confess that my time is really limited.  I’ve been working 80/hour weeks here at Pitch U for going on five months.  And obviously I can’t work with everyone, even though I’d love to.  And there is that little issue of paying the Pitch U expenses….

So I’m working on several ways you can get some personal feedback from me, ranging from really low cost to “you’ll probably choke.” ;)

But these case studies are free.  This entire site and all the articles are free. The forums are free.  And the PitchFests are free.

Use these resources.  They’ve been created just for you.

(And thank you so much for helping to spread the work.  I truly appreciate it.)

Hugs,

Diane Holmes
Founder and Chief Alchemist of Pitch University

Wednesday
May042011

First you write your book’s pitch, then you memorize it, right? Uh, no.

This post is part of the Pitch Workshop now underway here.

by Diane Holmes, Pitch U Founder, Chief Exhausted Alchemist, and Cheerleader to Writers on the Pitching Journey

---

Most writers I meet think you memorize your pitch.  So you write it in beautiful writerly fashion, then you memorize it, then you blurt it out to the agent or editor during a pitch session. 

memorizing-pi

Comic from Spiked Math.

Hey, actors can memorize lines and deliver them effectively, therefore writers can too.

Okay, no. 

Actors are actually delivering lines meant to be spoken.  Plus they are aces at memorization.  Writers, not so much.

The next step for us writers is to change what we’ve written into something that is effective when spoken.  Something the listener can follow.

say_what

Important:  Humans don’t listen the way they read.  When you read, you have peripheral vision that pulls information together (what came before and what comes ahead).  So you read in small “chunks.”

But when you listen, you’re limited to the order that the talker presents the information.  You cannot see the next prepositional phrase. 

Transformation of Pitch – Written to Verbal

During, our current pitch workshop, I worked with Jordan to find the words of her pitch.  She’ll be pitching this to an agent on Friday.  It’s a good pitch, but if she memorizes and blurts, here’s what the agent might be thinking:

Jordan: During WWII

Agent Thoughts: Historical!  Maybe on D-Day….

Jordan: Peace Talks In Paris,

Agent: We’re at the Peace Talk in a big room, talking peace.

Jordan: Loyal Soviet diplomat

Agent: The Russians are there.

Jordan: Katya Mikhailova almost dies in a bomb blast.

Agent: Oh, there’s a woman… the main character is a woman… the peace talks are bombed. 

Jordan:  Meant for her ambassador father.

Agent:  Is he there too?  How did they mistake a woman for a man?

Jordan: Frank Walters, an American Spy

Agent: Is at the peace talks too?

Jordan: holds the key in uncovering Nazi insurgents

Agent:  Is this a second plot?

Jordan:  responsible.

Agent:  Oh, the Nazi’s bombed the peace talks.

Jordan: Together, they form an uneasy alliance to prevent the Nazis from killing the delegates.

Agent: Wait, so they’re still at the peace talks?

Jordan:  and uncovering the conspiracy that forces her to choose between being a good daughter or a good Soviet.

Agent: Okay, wait, let me mush all this together in my head.

Instead, let’s create a version that is meant to be spoken and understood by a listener.

First Jordan introduces herself, says her title, genre (WWII spy thriller), word count.  

And here’s what she says about her book, which gives the information in a way that leads logically to the next piece of information, and so on.

Jordan:

My story is about Katya Mikhailova, a Soviet diplomat who is in Paris for Peace Talks with her father, and he’s the Russian ambassador. She’s almost killed in a bomb blast that’s meant for him, and that’s when she’s approached by an American Spy named Frank Walters. He’s tracking the Nazi insurgents behind the bombing.  Katya and Frank form an uneasy alliance to stop the Nazis from killing the Peace delegates, but she quickly finds out that the Nazi’s are tied to her Father.

Don’t forget to breathe.

Here’s how you you pace this so that you can breathe and enjoy having a conversation with an agent:

Jordan: My story is about Katya Mikhailova, (breathe and smile) a Soviet diplomat who is in Paris for Peace Talks with her father, and (breathe and look excited about this great story) he’s the Russian ambassador. (breathe and make this sound juicy)

She’s almost killed in a bomb blast that’s meant for him, (breathe) and that’s when she’s approached by an American Spy named Frank Walters. (breathe)

He’s tracking the Nazi insurgents behind the bombing. (breathe and convey your excitement over Frank by actually looking excited.)

Katya and Frank form an uneasy alliance to stop the Nazis from killing the Peace delegates, (breathe) but she quickly finds out that the Nazi’s (breathe and pause for effect) are tied to her Father. (breathe and smile)

 

Are you disappointed these are ordinary words and not very stylish?  Verbal pitching is not about beautiful prose.  It’s about having a conversation that communicates excitement.

And sure!  You can tinker on this verbal version and make it more dynamic.  But now that we’ve done all the work over the last few days to help Jordan focus her pitch on what her book is actually about, there’s a good chance the story will sell itself, because it’s a strong story.

Remember, you pitch a story.  You don’t pitch the pretty words of the pitch. ;)

Jordan, Good luck, and let us know how you do!

Monday
May022011

Working on YOUR Book's Pitch: Genre, Story Hook, and Setting Expectations

To make things extra easy...

I've added Tuesday's mini-lesson THIS post.  That means, if you want to participate in the Pitch Workshop, you'll add your pitch in the comments on this post.  Make sure to follow the rules and let's get to work! 

  • Tuesday's Mini-Pitch Lesson Posted:  See below: How is a book pitch different from a query letter and a 1-page synopsis?

Diane Holmes Crop 1

 

By Diane Holmes, Founder of Pitch University

 ---

Have you been following our hands-on Pitch Creation Workshop? Amazing improvements, just amazing.

For the last three days, I've been helping writers with their pitches. If you haven't been following along, you'll learn an amazing amount by reading the work we're doing in the comments of yesterday's post.

Good News!

Psst

I'm extending this workshop for two additional days. Due to the demands of running Pitch U, I won't be able to offer this again for a very long time (even though I love doing it).

And I really want to reward our loyal newsletter subscribers. You're my Pitch Peeps, and you've been so good about supporting Pitch U. I want to thank you, so here's how it's going to work…

Monday (May 2)

I'll be wrapping up a few of yesterday's pitches, and then I’ll be working "behind the curtain" on pitching Case Studies, plus preparing our brand new Forum and contest.

Tuesday – Thursday (May 2 – 5)

I'll post a mini-pitch lesson, plus a link to my debut Case Study.

I'm so excited to bring you these Case Studies. I'll be publishing six or seven over the next couple of months. You’ve never seen anything like this, trust me. The first one is almost 20 pages, and you'll follow along as I work one-on-one with a writer to correct both her pitch and her query letter.

You'll see every step we make, including the dead ends and the real story vs. what the original pitch/query leads you to believe. It all finishes with feedback from an agent. 

Special Offer for our newsletter subscribers ONLY:

You're invited to submit your pitch. Here’s how: 

  • First, send me an email to PitchUSubmission@gmail.com with the subject line - WORKSHOP. Include the email address you use to subscribe to the newsletter, your name, the title of your book, and feel free to say hi.
  • Next, go to my Pitch University posts on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (May 3 - 5) and comment with your pitch. I’ll respond to you there with brief feedback on three specific areas that will help you judge the effectiveness of your pitch:
  1. Genre or book type.
  2. Story focus/hook.
  3. Story trajectory/expectation.

(For my own sanity, I'm going to set a cap of 40. Seriously, too many 19-hour days! I know you understand.)

While most classes and workshops focus on writing "exciting words" in your pitch or coming up with some combination of goal, conflict, and motivation, I've found it's far more effective to figure out if your pitch even matches your story.

Most of the time, it doesn't.

And at that point, it doesn't matter if you get a 'yes' or a 'no.' The response simply has nothing to do with the manuscript you've worked so hard on.

The first step in writing a great pitch is matching pitch to story. This is your chance to get it right!

We’ll culminate the week by opening our brand-new Pitch U Forums and announcing a contest where you can win a more detailed look at your pitch/query.

Yes, you may pass this offer along to your friends. They just need to sign up for the newsletter to participate.

I'm looking forward to reading about your stories. Let's get to work!

Saturday
Apr302011

How Do You Write A Pitch For Your Book? (For the next 4 days, we work on YOUR pitch.)

AKA – Help!  My pitch & query letter is broken and can’t get up!

Starting today, we’re having a gi-normous workshop for YOU, your pitches, and your query letters.  (Yes, it’s all about you… finally!)

Book pages turn into birds

  • Need to fix your pitch?  Bring it on.
  • Don’t have a pitch but want one? We’ll send out the search party.
  • Not sure if your pitch or query letter works? I have laser vision and a couple of superpowers that will come in handy.

How does it work?

Post what you have in the comments (questions welcome, too), and we’ll roll up our sleeves and create Official Pitching Mojo together.

Bonus #1 : Throughout today/Saturday, Sunday, Monday & Tuesday, I’ll be posting Case Studies like you’ve never read before.  (You can actually follow along as pitches are analyzed, corrected, and re-written).

Bonus #2: Special Offers and NEW Pitch-U Features announced. 

Seize This Workshop Opportunity While You Can

This is the only free workshop scheduled for the next few months.

As you can imagine, what with….

Gears

  • hand-turning all of Pitch U’s gears,
  • training my Minions and Henchmen to master the Evil Laugh, and
  • causing trouble across the Wonderfully Wicked Web,

…my time is terribly limited, so I don’t know when I’ll be able to offer this type of FREE workshop again.  (Seriously, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t work more than 80 hours a week.  I obviously need to invent another ME down in my secret lair.)

Yes, yes, I hear ya!  At your request, I’m crafting some offers so you can sign up for my help when you need it most.  Yes, I know you’re on a budget.  Yes, I’ll include the evil laugh for free. ;)

Today’s workshop 

I sincerely do understand why writing book pitches and query letters is so darn hard. And I’ve developed techniques that help get writers out of the muck and find the kick-booty pitch/query hidden inside their books.

Arrows pointing out stuffSo, bring it on.   And by all means, tell your friends and use our FB, Twitter, and SHARE buttons. Or even email this post to your critique partners. (There are little buttons and underlined links below.  Technical, eh?)

See you in the comments!

NOTE: Our comments system is brand new and now allows nested/threaded comments (where you can reply to a specific comment).  If you have any problems using our comments, please let me know.

Wednesday
Apr202011

3 Guidelines for Creating a Title with Shelf Appeal

Erin Reel logo-ishby Erin Reel, The Lit Coach

Think back to the last time you cruised your bookseller’s shelves in the grand search for something just right.

Maybe you’re there to pick up a specific book you’ve been meaning to get, but instead you find your book then are lured to the one sitting next to it...and the one next to that.

Maybe it’s the cover that captures your attention first – then you take a look at the title – and right in that split second you decide  whether or not the book speaks to you, whether or not the author’s message is clear, whether or not you should buy it.

Publishing houses have entire sales and marketing teams in place to help create those titles that speak to you, to make you consider if the book is right for you, persuading you to buy.

Despite the picture I just shared with you, picking the right title doesn’t begin at the publishing house. It’s not an agent’s job to craft an attention grabbing title, either, although the two entities certainly have their say in the matter.

Before the agent can attract the attention of an editor and that editor capture the attention of their entire publishing team, that agent (or publisher if you choose to go sans agent) must be presented with a title that piques their interest and begs them to consider the proposal.

The perfect title begins with you.

What came first, the concept or the title?

Some writers think of the concept first and the title after they’ve had an opportunity to give flesh to the work. Others have the title firmly planted in mind and have gone so far as buying the domain names and printing it on business cards before they even begin to put pen to page, ahem, so to speak.

I personally don’t feel you MUST have a title on the onset of your proposal crafting, but you MUST eventually craft one that creatively and originally captures the spirit of your book – one that will compel your target market to buy your book - before you approach those you hope will consider your book for representation.

Here are three guidelines for choosing the right title for your book

#1 Be Specific!

Agents don’t have time to guess what your title means or how it’s relevant to the message of your book.

Despite the popularity of books with frustratingly vague titles like Seth Godin’s Poke The Box or the very popular book, What Color is Your Parachute? it’s important to remember these authors come to their publisher’s table with highly developed and elevated platforms and very sophisticated branding and marketing strategies informing how they communicate.

They have already been selling this message to their large audience for some time – and their audience is familiar with their quirky catch phrases. These titles are the exception to the rule.

Let’s take a look at some examples where the author’s message and goal are clear in the title:

100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know: Engagement Chicken and 99 Other Fabulous Dishes to Get You Everything You Want in Life100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know: Engagement Chicken and 99 Other Fabulous Dishes to Get You Everything You Want in Life by Cindi Leive (Hyperion, April 2011)

It’s pretty clear to me what the author is trying to communicate – there are 100 delish dishes every woman should know how to make and in doing so, life will become that much easier. I’m hooked! I love to cook and I love that someone has compiled 100 accessible recipes (not a doorstop) for me to try out in my kitchen. Of course, I can’t wait to see how they bring me everything I want!

Product DetailsThe Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, by Adam Bryant (Times Books, April 2011)

The “corner office” has earned its place in America’s collective corporate intelligence since the near middle of the 2oth century when sky scrapers were erected faster than superman raced locomotives. It’s a status symbol indicating success – every executive wants that coveted corner office with the view.

We know right away this book is all about that valuable and hard won office space – hooked – and in reading the subtitle the author promises to share important lessons that will lead us to that glorious success, too. I’m in! Clear title? Crystal.

#2 Be Concise!

Agents and editors dislike long titles – and frankly, you lose your audience with a lengthy explanation.

Think about it – do you waste your time reading every word in a title if they trail on and on? Not when there are thousands of other books screaming for attention.

In choosing the right title for your book, think like a poet and use the words that convey exactly what you mean. In general no title should be longer than 5-7 words. If you feel you need to keep explaining, you always have the option to attach a catchy subtitle, which I’m seeing a lot more of these days.

Here are some excellent examples:

Product DetailsWhat to Expect When You’re Expecting, by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel (4th Edition, Workman Publishing, 2008)

I’m willing to bet my morning cup of French roast, most women who have given birth to children in the last 15 years have read this book and given it as a gift to other expecting mothers – the title succinctly promises in just 6 words a wealth of need to know info new moms and now dads (included in their later editions) will eagerly read and heed in preparation for their 9 month journey. Sold! Three times!

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey (revised edition, Free Press, November 2004)

In seven words Covey hooks me with his promise that his 7 habits proven successful by effective people will help me become more effective in my life. Sure, I’d love to read more.

Notice how both these titles didn’t need subtitles? Every word served a clear purpose.

 

#3 Be Visual!

In an effort to lure your agent, editor and readers, if you have an opportunity to help them visualize your story – do so. We see authors doing this more in Memoir and it’s working.

Some vivid examples:

The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers, and a Woman's Search for the Meaning of WifeThe Motion of The Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers and a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife, by Janna Cawrse Esarey (Touchstone, June 2009)

Ah, the deep blue sea! It never sounded so…crowded, normal and yet, well, enlightening? This title gives me a mental image of what I might expect on board this small vessel in the middle of the ocean. I can immediately see it as a movie…which gets this former agent thinking…film cross-over potential? Hook, line and sinker!

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant ChefBlood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, by Gabrielle Hamilton (Random House, 2011)

I recently read about this book in the last issue of Bon Appetit and I was instantly compelled to put it on my list of “Must Read NOW!” books. This title draws me into a hot, bustling kitchen where all my five senses are fully utilized. I can practically see the chef masterfully crafting her dish while composing her kitchen symphony with gusto. She had me at butter.

When Publishers Change Your Title

Sometimes your best attempts to carefully craft the perfect title will get you an agent and get you the book deal, but there’s just something about it that’s not quite right.

The editor will work on the manuscript and when the time comes to submit the book to print, the editor or the marketing team may decide the title needs a little reshaping. If this happens, don’t take it personally.

Just as your editing team will make sure your book is perfect, they want to make sure your readers will clearly understand what your book is about – and you want that because when people know what your book is about that means they are more apt to buy it and book sales are good and you want to keep writing books! Remember, when you sign a contract with a traditional publisher, your material is now their material; you’re business partners.

However, you should always feel free to discuss any concerns you have about the title your publisher suggests with your agent before you consider discussing it with your editor.

I wish you success in crafting a title that will attract an agent, hook an editor and convince me to put it down on my “must read NOW!” list.

Happy crafting!

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Erin Reel, The Lit Coach, is a former Los Angeles based literary agent turned publishing and editorial consultant, writer’s life coach and host of the blog, The Lit Coach’s Guide to The Writer’s Life.

 

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Wednesday
Apr202011

Death of a Salesman: Author, Entrepreneur, or Both?

Good news everyone Pitch U Announcement From Diane:
We have a fabulous new way to help you find content on Pitch U, including this column

Look for the LEARN tap on the top menu.  If you don’t see it, reload your browser (circle with arrow, near the url/address field the the top).  Let us know what you think!

Jennifer WilkovYour Book Is Your Hook

By Jennifer S. Wilkov
Radio Show Host | Book Consultant | Literary Agent Matchmaker™ | Bestselling Author
Twitter: @urbookisurhook
Twitter2: @litmatchmaker

Writer’s Skill Set for the New Era

The question that has come to the forefront lately in the publishing industry is: does a writer have to sell themselves and their work?

The easy and obvious answer is: yes.

skillsLet’s break this down a bit and take a look at the new skill set a successful writer must have in addition to being a great writer. 

In your quest to be a great writer, you learn to hone your craft by doing it. You spend many hours and invest money in going to classes, conferences and writers’ workshops and read book in your genre and about writing techniques. You join a writers’ group, get feedback and improve over time. The more you write, the better you get.

Practice and repetition yield success.

It’s not any different in sales except that nowhere in the writer’s journey is there a clear cut straightforward message about how to learn to sell your work.

In sales, word selection, presentation, and approach are essential. Sounds like writing, doesn’t it?

Sales are about visibility. The more people find out about your book, the more visible it and you become. As a result, the more people will buy it because they know about it.

A simple equation perhaps, but not as simple an effort.

In her updated post last month entitled “What I Can Say Right Now”, Amanda Hocking wrote, “I have no problem with marketing or editing. I will continue to do both things. I think both of those tasks fall under the umbrella of being a writer.”

Selling is about pitching and most writers have enough of a challenge selling themselves and their books to an agent. The truth is the sales process doesn’t end there.

The Sales After Selling Your Book

Whether you are self-published or traditionally published, you will still pursue avenues that lead to greater visibility – and these will require you to pitch and practice your sales prowess.

In addition to agents, you need to keep in mind that you will approach the following professionals if you want greater exposure:

  • Bloggers
  • Reviewers
  • Publicists
  • Booksellers
  • Strategic Alliance Partners
  • Speakers Bureaus
  • Conference Organizers
  • Magazines & Websites for features, excerpts or columns
  • And many others…

If you are an introvert and cleave to the writing as a comfortable respite, then you may be an amazing writer that no one gets to hear about in today’s world.

(Ed. Note:  We’re running an article on Pitching For Introverts in our next The Monthly Pitch newsletter.  Go sign up right now!)

As Laura Miller at Salon.com wrote in her great article at the end of last month entitled “Author, Sell Thyself,”

“Today's conventional wisdom, in both traditional and indie publishing, decrees that someone like (Harper) Lee might as well not bother; however good her book is, it won't find an audience unless she's willing and able to make hawking it at least a part-time job.”

Our digital age requires you to be seen in order to be read. Whether it’s through your website, blog, Twitter/Facebook or YouTube accounts, a digital ezine, an article, a press release or another location, sooner or later (and most likely sooner) you’re going to find yourself facing your moment to pitch yourself and your work.

A Passion For Sales

In order to not go down in flames, I encourage you to acknowledge that pitching is a part of your required skill set as a writer. If you resist it, you may find your success to be limited by your own unwillingness to sell your work passionately to others.

Salon.com’s Laura Miller mentions those labeled as reclusive writers in her article such as Thomas Pynchon, Emily Dickinson, J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee and perhaps today’s David Foster Wallace, Denis Johnson and Cormac McCarthy.

Writers like these, “…have been press-shy or have found public appearances excruciating and have made them only grudgingly, as a concession to their publishers. I suspect that writers like Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett would likely have felt the same. Many authors have resigned themselves to the task of relentless networking ("social" and the old-fashioned kind) but still hate it and therefore aren't much good at it.”

This, my fellow writers, is the demise and death of a salesman – and in some cases, the limitation placed on your writing success by you.

If you’re willing to put your writing out there, be prepared to put yourself out there with it. No one, yes – no one, can sell your work as passionately as you can.

The question is: will you?

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 , 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.

Tuesday
Apr192011

An Effortless Way to Meet Agents & Editors

Pitch University Best Comment Award, March 2011

TINA1 
From the Desk of Pitch U Minion Tina Moss:

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.

Without further adieu, the March Best Comment Award goes to...

 

Best Comments Award ... Stacey Purcell for her response to EXPERT PITCH CLASS with JENNIFER WILKOV: Day 4 It's All Timing: When to Pitch & When Not To by the LOVELY Jennifer Wilkov.

The article featured advice by radio show host, book consultant, literary agent matchmaker, and bestselling author, Jennifer Wilkov, on mastering the timing of your pitch. She discussed where it is and isn’t appropriate to pitch to agents and editors, and how to pitch outside of scheduled pitch sessions. Stacey’s comment added another unique suggestion for getting to know agents and editors as well as having another opportunity to pitch. Here is her award winning comment:

“All of your suggestions are terrific for writers. I do have one more thing to add to the list of rare opportunities to mingle with industry professionals. One of the most natural ways to meet these folks is to volunteer within your writing organization.

I volunteer for my chapter at RWA and have had so many opportunities to make contact with the biggest names in agencies and publishing houses. I also volunteer for our national conference when I can go. Again, it's an effortless way to meet them and it instantly gives you a common ground for spring boarding conversations which invariable end up with' ‘So, tell me what you write about.’ Hope this helps!”

- March 9, 2011 | Stacey Purcell

Thanks Stacey for reminding us to volunteer and mingle with the writing community!

Pitch University supporters offered GREAT advice in their comments for March. It was difficult to pick a winner. So, please give a BIG hand to these Honorable Mentions:

· From Vicky Dreiling in response to EXPERT PITCH CLASS with JENNIFER WILKOV: Day 3 Writing (about your writing) Muscles – 5 Ways to Work Them Out. Thank you for reminding writers that they are the biggest promoters of their work!

“Great post! Knowing your target market and where your book will fit on the shelves is critical. Marketing after the sale can be exhausting. Authors need to have a clear objective when promoting their books. I spent a dozen years in marketing, so I knew my goal was to create awareness, which is the first step in the purchase process. In other words, if readers aren't aware of you, your book won't be part of their consideration process. I'm lucky to have a publisher that thinks "outside the box."

Diane, you've done an outstanding job with Pitch University!”

– March 8, 2011 | Vicky Dreiling

· From Stacey Purcell in response to EXPERT PITCH CLASS with JENNIFER WILKOV: Day 5 - Preparing to Pitch (It’s More Than Just What You Say). Another one from Stacey that I couldn’t turn down! She discusses the importance of body language when pitching.

“I know you and my mother must have gone to the same school somewhere in an alternate universe! It didn't matter what came out of my mouth, she knew when I was upset with the situation. ‘Uncross your arms when you talk to me young lady!’ Body language ratted me out more than once with her. I always said she should have been CEO of the universe...and she would have been great at it!

In the same way it worked against me growing up, I now have to make it work for me as an adult. (At least an adult chronologically) We are masters of picking up and sending physical cues in communication, but do most of it subconsciously. I've practiced giving my pitch in front of a mirror and notice I drop my eyes quite often. This can be picked up on as having little confidence or that I really like the floor. Ha! I've worked on maintaining my eye focus on the person I'm pitching to and it has made all the difference.”

– March 10, 2011 | Stacey Purcell

· Angelica R. Jackson, featured in yesterday’s Member Spotlight, in response Literary Agent Adam Friedstein: “Before and After” Pitch Evaluation Lab. Not only did she offer to record Christina’s pitch; but she also set an open invitation to help other writers in the area. For that kindness, she deserves a reward.

“For the next Pitchfest, Christina Mercer is going to come over and use my equipment to film her pitches (I'm putting it in writing here so she can't back out), and we'd love to see other people's pitches up there along with ours in April! And if anyone is in the Sacto area, we might be able to fit you in for a film session.”

– March 26, 2011 | Angelica R. Jackson

Monday
Apr182011

Angelica R. Jackson: Fearless Pitching Warrior!

Angelica R Jackson picFounder Diane: If you’ve been around Pitch U much, you’ve not only seen Angelica’s name in the comments, you’ve watched her videos during our PitchFests.  She is fearless! 

How amazing is Angelica?  She received a request on her first take!  We had to find out more.

Q. Tell us a little bit about you and your writing passion.

Angelica: I've been writing since I was about 11 years old, when a friend and I collaborated on a serial for our school newspaper. She started with a very gritty story of a Vietnam vet coming to terms with life back in the States—and I introduced a werewolf and a secret shapeshifter society. Not exactly compatible genres for a junior high school publication.

As an adult, I write everything from picture books to YA for kids, including middle grade and poetry, and short stories for both adults and children. Most of my published writing credits are for non-fiction articles on such topics as cooking for allergies, gardening, family travel, green living, local history and natural history. I've learned not to say, "I will never write . . ." because my subconscious takes that as a challenge.

I'm also a photographer and use my photos with my articles. My photos are at www.AngelicaRJackson.com, and my writing e-home is my blog, Angelic Muse. I also highly recommend the Absolute Write forum and the WOW! Women on Writing website as essential resources for any writer, and blogs like YA Highway for a YA focus.

When I joined SCBWI, I hooked up with some wonderful critique partners, and we all feel we've pushed each other to a higher level of craft. All those sections that were "good enough" in our own minds are now blindingly polished. We volunteered for a regional SCBWI conference recently and it was great to experience that as a group, as well as making new friends and contacts.

Q. How did you discover Pitch University?

Angelica: One of my critique partners, Christina Mercer, attended a Donald Maas Writing the Breakout Novel Weekend Intensive Workshop in Oregon with Diane. Once Diane started up the site, Christina forwarded the group the announcement.

My favorite part is how everyone starts out so tentative, convinced that they will never get the hang of this hook thing and pitching thing, but after a number of lessons they progress to some truly impressive pitches.

For myself, it was not a single post that made everything click and fall into place; it was the accumulated information that made me feel like I'd gotten a grasp of pitching.

Q. Tell us the truth…. How do you feel about pitching?

Angelica: Pitching is a love/hate situation for me: when I come up with something I love, I say, "This was so worth it!" But when I'm really struggling with condensing down my book, really honing in on the hook and essential points, I wonder why I put myself through this kind of work.

The easiest part for me is the actual delivery, in person or on video (please stop hissing at me, for those of you that particularly hate that aspect). I memorize my pitches, after carefully crafting them on paper first. When I was a professional storyteller, I often delivered several 45-minute programs in a row at a school, so these pitches feel like they're over in a flash in comparison.

Q. What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned by participating in Pitch U’s PitchFests?

Angelica: The biggest thing I've learned is that you need to let go of all those details that you are convinced are so essential for the agent or editor to know in your pitch—they're genuinely not necessary at this stage. You need to hit them with a hook, and then get out of the way—don't obscure things with backstory and subplots.

I have sent out a few more queries based on my pitch, and I've been getting full requests, so that means it was successful in hooking the agents.

Q. Do you think pitching is a different skill from writing a query letter?

Angelica: I do think they are different but related skills. You can certainly borrow techniques from each format and use them effectively, and I have done so.

Q. What’s your advice for those writers who haven’t tried making a pitch video?

Angelica: Allow yourself plenty of time to get used to the camera, and how you look and sound on it. Make some practice versions that only you will see, and that might take some of the pressure off of you thinking that it has to be perfect in one take.

You can also use these practice takes to experiment with emphasizing different words, or changing the rhythm slightly, so that when you play them back you can get a sense of what works.

I've mentioned it before on Pitch U, but it was also helpful to do a version in an exaggerated, melodramatic voice (like a movie trailer or news anchor) and then borrow some of that flavor and excitement for the final version.

Q. What’s your personal theme music?

Angelica: My husband would say "Brick House," but then that's the kind of thing an experienced husband of seventeen years learns will earn him some spousal points.

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

Angelica: "I need help." That was a tough one to learn for me.

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

Angelica: I've been to one conference already, and there's another that I would like to apply for a grant to attend. I'll definitely volunteer at a SCBWI conference again, but not sign up for the early morning activities—I was up at 4:30 a.m. and got home after 9 p.m. And I stopped absorbing and processing information at about 4:00 p.m., so that rather defeats the purpose of a conference.

Q. What skill is next on your list to learn?

Angelica: Learning to balance my everyday demands and my writing time. And social media time. And laundry time. And time with my husband. I'll let you know if any of those happen.

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

Angelica: Take pitching as what it is meant to be: a way to show your passion about your book, and a way to make a connection with an agent or editor. This is not life or death—it's not even career life or death.

Diane: Thanks, Angelica for fearlessly leading the way for all Pitch U writers. We love having you here!

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