Notice that addition on the menu bar above? The “For Writers” is pretty self-explanatory. Not all readers are writers, but all writers (I hope) are readers, so that page is kind of the center of the Venn diagram of people I know.
It’s a little sparse right now (if you read on an RSS feed, you might not have noticed that I’ve done some redecorating lately) but with writer’s conference season (aka, summer) coming up, in particular the DFW Writer’s Conference (where I’ll be teaching *several* classes), I wanted to make readily available my handy-dandy handout on assembling your query-slash-pitch for your book.
How well I remember those days when I didn’t even know enough to know what I didn’t l know. A “pitch” is closely akin to a “query letter,” which is the thing that you send an editor or agent to tell them why they should read your manuscript with a view to representing it (agent) or publishing it (editor).
This is a terrifying, brain-paralyzing prospect for a lot of writers. We know our book better than anyone, love it (most of the time), and yet we totally freak out when it comes time to tell someone about it. Why? Because we think too much.
A pitch is short. A lot of writers freak out at the thought of trying to squeeze all of their masterpiece into two sentences, let alone a 2-3 minute pitch. But the thing to remember is that you’re not trying to summarize your book.
Imagine trying to talk your friends into seeing a movie you’re really excited about–at an evening show, in IMAX. So, expensive. Obviously you don’t want to tell them everything that happens in the story (or else why go see it). You want to tell them what the story is about.
You’d probably start off something like:
It’s about this guy, and when this happens, he has to do this big, really difficult thing. But this really huge obstacle is in his way, or this incredible force is trying to stop him. If he doesn’t do the thing, then this horrible consequence will ensue.
And if you have some more time to build your case, you could add:
Complicating matters are The Guy’s internal struggle that he may or may not know he was dealing with until it interferes with his ability to do the thing. He’s going to have to resolve that struggle in order to avoid the horrible consequence.
When you break it into building blocks, it really is that simple: Character, goal, conflict or obstacles, and what is at stake. The hard part is finding the right words to make those elements come together and leave the pitchee with a picture of a story they need to read.
For more information on what makes a good face-to-face pitch and the basis of a query letter, click below—a pdf will open in a new window.
But most of all, don’t freak out. With a little preparation, and a few deep breaths, talking about your book is much easier than you think.