Thursday, January 19, 2012

Keeping it Fresh

By Leah Hultenschmidt, Senior Editor

This week, I’ve been doing a big pitch critique over at YA chat lit. Even though the material is all young adult, you might want to check it out for ideas in honing your own pitches:http://yalitchat.ning.com/forum/topics/pitch-slam-weekend-january-13-15-2012.

Here’s a roundup of some of the most common questions I had for those who submitted a pitch:

· Where’s the hook? What is the element of your story that’s going to make everyone clamor to read it?

· Where and when is it set?

· Does it fit the category? If it’s YA, the pitch needs to mention that the characters are teens. And for romance, I need a happy ending for the main characters.

One comment that came up frequently for me was that I’d seen a lot of similar themes lately. The pitch was strong—it summarized the story, it had a hook, there was a sense of drama, the storyline was clear—but I felt as if I’d read it before. This is always the most devastating for me because it’s tough to advise the author in how to make it better. And so many times, it’s not even as though there are a ton of books that have already hit the shelves on that theme. But I’ve just happened to have several proposals with the same thing in the last few months.

How can you try to avoid this?

BEFORE submitting:

  • Study recent releases the category. Does your story feel fresh? If it’s a Regency or a Highlander book, for example, what makes it different from all the others?
  • Check Publishers Marketplace for recent deals. This will help you see what *will* be coming out in the next year or so. Does your story still feel fresh?

AFTER submitting, if you hear from several places that it’s too similar to other projects:

  • See if you can change an element. Can your vampires be dragons?
  • Try to get an endorsement from a well-known author. For any debut author, this can help tip the scales in your favor.
  • Think about adding an unexpected element.

Most of all, thank you to everyone who was brave enough to put a pitch out there.

7 comments:

  1. Thanks, Leah. Seems we're increasingly leaving the query letter behind and going straight to the pitch. Will we see the pitch limited to 140 characters next?

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  2. Thanks, Leah. These are good points for everyone to keep in mind.

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  3. Hey Leah! thanks for the link to YA Lit Chat! I wasn't familiar w/ the site, and am going to go check it out. Great to "see" you in cyberspace!

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  4. Great advice, Leah, and food for thought...

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  5. Grace - to me the pitch is a vital part of the query letter, one piece of a whole package.

    Thanks, Shana!

    Julie - holy cow, how the heck are ya! So good to see you 'round.

    Kathryne - I just hope people find it helpful.

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  6. Leah, we all need to be reminded of those points often...thanks for taking care of us!

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  7. You just gave me the "Ah ha moment" I needed to write a few log-lines for Deb. Thanks!

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