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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Creating a pitch

I use Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake method, and I realized that the 5-sentence summary in step 2 is an easy, painless way of creating a 30-second verbal pitch. The 5-sentence summary consists of story setup, three plot disasters and lastly the ending/resolution.

It made me break the storyline down into basic components, made sure I have those crucial three disasters, and also helped me to look at the pacing of those disasters. I'm pretty stoked.

When I took Jan Coleman's pitch workshop at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, she also mentioned a few important things to include, which I believe can be incorporated in the 5-sentence summary once that groundwork is laid:

1) The book genre—Chicklit, cozy mystery, Regency romance, etc. This can be mentioned in the first sentence.

"In my Chicklit novel, Ashley is a bored urbanite seeking purpose, and she decides to bring her version of civilization to South African natives." (Genre and setup, sentence 1)

2) Tone and Pace—make sure the language and word choice of your pitch reflects the book tone, whether somber or sassy.

3) Benefits—spiritual takeaway, moral lesson. This should be mentioned in the last sentence, the ending/resolution.

"...In the end, Ashley realizes that all God needs in a servant is a humble heart, willing to do whatever He asks." (spiritual takeaway, sentence 5)

4) Angle—what makes the book stand out from others? You can also apply a Hollywood High Concept—mention a known movie/book with a specific twist. For example, "Bridget Jones" in the Amazon jungle. You can sneak this in as a sentence at the end or mention it in the beginning, but I don't think it's absolutely necessary to include in the pitch. Also, I've heard that you need to be careful with comparisons. If you do one, it should immediately capture interest and sparkle.

"My Chicklit novel is like 'Bridget Jones' in the Amazon, where Ashley, an urbanite seeking both love and purpose, decides to bring her version of civilization to South American natives." (Genre, Angle and setup, sentence 1)

5) Reader—mention the specific audience. Urban 30-somethings, professional women, troubled teens, lukewarm believers, etc. This can also be at the end or mentioned in the first sentence. I think this is an important aspect of the pitch.

"This novel is like 'Bridget Jones' in the Amazon, and will appeal to 30-somethings, lukewarm Christians, and believers interested in overseas missions." (Angle and Reader, sentence 6)

6) Passion and qualifications. What inspired you to write the book, what makes you qualified to write about this topic?

"I was inspired to write the book after my overseas short-term missions trip to South America (qualifications), and I want to reveal the joys of missions to a fiction-reading audience (passion)."

Jan Coleman also mentions preparing possible marketing ideas for AFTER the presentation, if the editor is curious to know more, but I don't think this is absolutely necessary.

One thing I personally think would be a good thing to prepare for the pitch is a Comparative Title Analysis. It's a list of other published book titles, and what about the book is similar and different from your own. This, however, is not absolutely necessary—it's usually used for book and series proposals—and it probably shouldn't be mentioned unless the editor/agent expresses interest after the pitch. Here's an example:

"What a Girl Wants" by Kristin Billerbeck, Westbow Press, 2004
Both this book and my manuscript star an urban Christian career woman, discontent with her singleness and looking for purpose, but "What a Girl Wants" is set in trendy Silicon Valley, whereas my manuscript thrusts Ashley into the rough-and-tumble Amazon on an overseas missions trip.

Some editors say they enjoyed reading the Comparative Title Analysis in query letters, others did not. I doubt they'd throw you over just because they didn't like your CTA, and some might be interested in you because you took the time to do a CTA.

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