By Deb Werksman
I noticed in my recent pitch sessions that I'm getting a lot of pitches that are really plot summaries, rather than providing the kind of sales hook that I'm looking for.
Let me start by telling you why I need the sales hook.
When I find a project that I think we should publish (it meets all my criteria), I take it into an Editorial meeting where I present it to our publisher, editorial director, and all the other acquiring editors. I may be first in the lineup, I may be last in the lineup, I may have 1 project to present or I may have 10, and all the other editors may have 1 project to present, or they may have 10. We may have 1/2 hour for the meeting, or an hour for the meeting, or 90 minutes for the meeting. So I may have 3 minutes to present a project, or 5, or 1 minute.
The first thing I have to have, is a 2-3 sentence "hook" that has people totally enrolled in and excited about us publishing this book. What the hook tells them is WHY the reader will find this book a MUST READ. It tells them how I'm positioning the book in the marketplace, who the readership is going to be, and that the book is hugely saleable.
Now, let's say that everyone's excited and I get to make an offer on the book. The next part of the process will involve a series of meetings in which every book coming from every editor has to be approved to "launch" for that season. For launch meetings, I assemble:
*a 50-word Positioning Statement--for which the "hook" is the basis
*3-4 paragraph description of the book (expanding on the hook and giving a rudimentary plot summary)
*3 key sales handles--critical, one sentence each--this is where author's track record, the prominence of the subgenre, etc. come in
*comparative and/or competing books with their sales figures
*cover comps and direction for the design department
*character descriptions from the author, for the design department
*synopsis from the author
*proposed format (for romance fiction, almost always mass market format)
*proposed retail price
*proposed publication schedule (including when the manuscript is due to me, and when I'll be ready to turn it over to the Bookmaking group)
The launch materials later morph into the catalog copy and the catalog copy morphs into the back cover copy.
When our salespeople call on the buyers, they may have a 15 minute meeting in which to present 10 books. Sometimes all they have time for is to share the "hook" with the buyer.
That's why I say I need "a hook I can sell with in 2-3 sentences."
A plot summary just won't serve the purpose of a "hook".
I look forward to your questions!