By Deb Werksman
I have just returned from a marvelous weekend with an RWA local chapter and the week before that I participated in an on-line pitch session and I had a GREAT time doing both--I love to take pitches (some of you may have noticed!) and it seems to me that authors are working hard at creating effective pitches. I'm hearing lots of good ones!
THE ANATOMY OF A PITCH
Pitches may be verbal or written, and by their nature they have to be concise and compelling, but they also have to include some key information:
*The author's publishing/sales history (how many books and how many copies sold to readers). This is where, if you're a debut author, you say so. If you're introducing a new pen name, please share your publishing/sales history of your previous name(s).
*The category and subgenre of the book: I can't tell you how many times a pitch gets derailed because I can't tell whether the book is mystery (which we don't publish) or romantic suspense (which we do), or whether it's sci-fi/fantasy (which we don't publish) or fantasy romance (which we do). Be very clear about where your book a) sits in the bookstore and b) fits into the category--especially if it's a romance, be clear about the subgenre or mix of subgenres (Regency paranormal romance, Scottish Highland time travel romance, etc.)
*The hook! (see below)
*A quick introduction to the main characters and the major conflicts
If all these items are in place and clear, then I'll be able to tell you very quickly whether it's something I publish, and whether it's something I want to see a full submission on. And that's the whole purpose of the pitch!
A word on nervousness: we editors are really very nice people, and love to read as much as you do, and love to talk about books and hear about your book. We know we make you nervous. It's fine.
I talk endlessly about the hook, and it's the thing I get the most questions about. The hook is a 2-3 sentence selling tool that gets a buyer excited about stocking your book and a reader excited to buy and then read it. It positions your book as something unique and desirable. Here are some examples:
*Robin Kaye's Breakfast in Bed is the latest in her Domestic Gods series of contemporary romance featuring gorgeous alpha guys who are the nurturing one in the relationship. Because every woman wants a man who's as good in the kitchen as he is in the bedroom!
*Terry Spear has done so much research into how wolves live in nature, that in her paranormal romances, the werewolves behave the way wolves do in nature. They all drive SUVs because they travel in packs!).
*Lydia Dare's new Regency heroes in It Happened One Bite are gentleman vampires. They are high sticklers and would never bite a young lady to whom they were not properly introduced.
*Marie Force's newest down-to-earth contemporary romance Love at First Flight features a love triangle so gripping and emotionally complex that the hero and heroine finding their way together in the end is miraculous, both for them, and for the reader.
*Mary Margret Daughtridge's SEALed with a Promise features the personal side of being a Navy SEAL--men for whom being a hero is all in a day's work, and the personal side of life isn't easy at all.
*Cheryl Brooks' Fugitive, the latest in The Cat Star Chronicles series features a hero who comes from a planet where the people have a feline gene that gives them remarkable sexual powers.
*Shana Galen's action-packed Regency romances feature three aristocratic brothers who lost everything in the French Revolution, including each other. In each story, the brothers search desperately for each other, aided by a beautiful young lady to whom they reluctantly lose their hearts. Latest book is The Making of a Duchess.
The reason I need a hook is because there are multiple occasions on which I'll be presenting the book to rooms full of people who then have to go and do things like design the cover, or sell it to a buyer. I have to be able to get them excited about your book, and they have to go get other people excited.
A WORD ABOUT ORIGINALITY!
We all know there's nothing new under the sun, and there are plot devices and tropes that are time-tested and true blue. HOWEVER, in today's marketplace, you must make your book stand out. So if you are using time-worn plot devices, you must do something else that's really original so your readers will not feel they've read this book before.
OK, here's what I'm looking for!
*single title romance in all subgenres
*a heroine the reader can relate to
*a hero she can fall in love with
*a world gets created
*a hook I can sell with in 2-3 sentences
*a career arc for the author
So how about it? Got any pitches for me? Post them right here on the blog and I'll critique them right here, or if you're shy, send them to me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org