A critical key to landing a book deal is the presentation of your idea in such a way that the editor or agent is completely sold out on the concept.
In musical terms, perfect pitch is the rare talent to name or pick out a note without having any reference point. This is illustrated by this youtube video where they clear your mind, then give you a tone, and ask you to name the note….most people fail this test. Just like most writers haven’t figured out the best way to pitch their idea.
The pitches that are “off” are easier to reject. They aren’t “musical” at all. For example:
“I am a novice with an abundant bevy of stories, I am just happy for exposure.[sic] In the right hands I am sure my stories can be molded into gold.”
After naming a number of bestselling books the author pitches: My book “is what you might get if you mixed the DNA of their mission and writing styles. I’ve taken the best of their bestsellers, married them, and now…are blended together to form…”
Received a pitch for a novel written from a dog’s point-of-view. That isn’t so bad. But the material was mailed to my office wrapped in a plastic “Dog Waste Bag.” I felt the need to wash my hands…
The cover letter included in bold print the sentence “I do not want my work involved with anyone attempting to dominate it.” In other words, the author was not willing to be edited. At least they were honest about it!
Another topped the last one with the sentence: “If you think there are errors, you are wrong, there are none.”
A Little Sharp
Sometimes an author’s tone takes a strident turn or makes unrealistic claims. For example:
“This book is nonfiction with a message that is so remarkable that it could quickly and justifiably become recognized as ‘the most important book ever written.’”
The subtitle of the book pitched is “You’re Not Who You Think You Are” but the author is a collaboration of “by Holy Spirit and __author name__” I won’t reveal the name. Only that their claim of co-authorship is a little much.
In the description of the novel the author writes about how two boys, playing around, throw a “Molotov cocktail” at an abandoned shack for fun. To their horror they see someone is inside and is aflame. This terrible scene is vividly described. Therefore, what makes the pitch stop working? The last sentence of the pitch says “A novelist I hired to help polish the book concluded: ‘It’s laugh-out-loud funny.’”
The pitch described a “novel in the Christian Western genre. By that, I don’t mean a syrupy Amish prairie romance where the worst thing that happens to some hapless townsman is that he gets ‘drive-by’ hollered at. There are no quilting circles in this story…feminine characters of this work do not neurotically torture themselves into sleeplessness over ‘Does he really love me?'”
A Little Flat
Unfortunately I cannot provide examples of this kind of pitch since this is more commonplace. Just like when you are singing it is more common to be flat that it is to be sharp.
The “flat” pitches are those that are okay but they just lay there. They don’t have a unique storyline. Or a title that is “uninteresting.”
The hardest part is that the writing may be great. It is either the topic (for non-fiction) or the storyline (for fiction) isn’t strong enough.
Or the storyline or topic may be fine, but the writing isn’t good enough to support it.
If you’ve ever watched the early season shows on American Idol or any of the other first round competitions you get to see what the judges see. The ones that are pretty good move to the next round and we all cringe at the “flat” or “sharp” or “off” pitch musicians.
But every once in a while there is someone whose presentation is amazing.
I’ve had pitches like that presented to me over the years. Their pitch was perfect. There was a combination of passion, personality, and giftedness that caused the tuning fork in my brain to start humming.
My hope is that your pitch will someday may and editor or an agent begin singing along…in perfect harmony.