Thanks so much for all the ideas for my mini-conferences. I’ll put those together soon.
Speaking of conferences, while I was at a writer’s retreat awhile back, I was struck, as I always am when in the company of writers, by the power of the right word used in the right way. On the first day of the conference, I had group meetings with the writers. This is where a group of writers come in, sit at a table together, and each takes a turn pitching his/her book to me to see if I would be interested in representing the author. I had six groups, each lasting a half hour, made up of anywhere from 5-7 people each. So folks had a total of 3-5 minutes to engage me in their project.
It’s the writer’s conference version of speed dating!
The cool thing is, a good number of those who came had such a strong understanding of their project and of the market that they were able to hook me in the first few words. Now that’s doing your homework! For example, one woman told me right off the bat her book was romantic suspense, what the main story line was (in a sentence), and what the conflict and spiritual takeaway were. That took about 45 seconds of her 4 minutes, so from there I asked questions about the story and focus and she was able to relax and just talk. I ended up asking her to send me the proposal. Don’t know if we’ll pursue it–the writing is what tips the scales, of course. But I was impressed with her well chosen descriptions. And if I’m considering two manuscripts and all things are basically equal, I’ll always go with an author who is, first and foremost, teachable, and then able to communicate the heart and soul of her story quickly and effectively.
Summer and fall boast a lot of wonderful writers’ conferences to attend. So you writers need to know how to capture an editor’s or author’s attention in a matter of seconds. Yes, SECONDS, not minutes. So spend some time thinking about the following:
*What’s the main theme (or themes) addressed in my story.
*For fiction, what’s the nonfiction hook I could use to stir interest in media outlets (e.g. radio, where they generally don’t have a clue what to do with novelists).
*What genre/category is my book? Are there any best-sellers or movies that I can compare my book to that will position it quickly for the agent/editor? For example, “My book is Die Hard meets Left Behind.”
*What’s the spiritual takeaway?
Finally, can I describe my book in:
* one sentence
(At different stages in the process of seeking publication, you’ll need to be able to do all of the above!)
That’s enough to get you started. So hey, go for it! Put together a masterful pitch, one or two sentences, that will position your book in any editor’s or agent’s mind. And if you want to try your pitch out here, feel free. I’ll let you know what I think.
My historical fiction novel, based on the life of the 9th Century B.C. prophet Elijah, tells the story of a person desperate to know God who learns through paradox and pitfall that a life lived depending on YHWH is simultaneously simpler and more complex than he had imagined. YHWH thrusts Elijah into a life of danger and depression, heat and horror, trouble and triumph as Elijah introduces Kings, commoners, and infidels to YHWH’s power and love.
When I read the title of the post, my instant thought was “I don’t but my 9 year old does.” I’m SUCH a mom. I’ll be leaving a pitch later, when I can craft it just so. (That 9 year old with perfect pitch is home sick.)
Diana, this is good in that it positions the time period and the theme well, but I confess I wasn’t clear that this was a story about Elijah. When you said it was based on Elijah’s life, that told me that it was about someone else, not about him. Also, you call it historical, but if it’s about Elijah, than it’s more biblical fiction than historical, isn’t it? Finally, you don’t’ need to say both “fiction” and “novel”, since fiction implies it’s a novel, and vice versa. So maybe…
My historical novel focuses on the biblical prophet Elijah, who lived in the 9th Century B.C. This is the story of a person…
And so on.
Thank you for the comments. Here’s the revision: This is the story of the 9th Century B.C. Prophet Elijah who is desperate to know God. He finds his way through paradox and pitfall, learning that a life lived dependent on YHWH is simultaneously simpler and more complex than he had imagined. In his search, he finds himself thrust into a life of danger and depression, fire and faith, trouble and triumph, introducing kings, commoners, and infidels to YHWH’s power and love as he grows in maturity and comprehension.
Jenny, looking forward to your pitch.
Thanks, Karen, for the opportunity to “tune up.” 🙂 You said “one or two sentences,” so here you go…
When truth is lost, liberty dies. Peter Sheridan learns this the hard way when he finds himself on the wrong side of the law but the right side of freedom.
Michael, very good! Just a few things: we need to know if it’s contemporary or historical. And if it’s historical, we need to know the time period.
Okay… here goes! Thanks for the insight. 🙂
When truth is lost, liberty dies. In the summer of 2132, Peter Sheridan learns this the hard way when he finds himself on the wrong side of the law–but the right side of freedom. With the United States in the grip of marshall law, Peter must turn to the last hope for America, the mysterious group known as the Shadow Remnant.
Your help, Karen, is much appreciated.
Your extended pitch intrigues me Michael. Sounds like a book I would buy, but then again, I’m writing something similar 🙂
God bless your endeavors.
Thanks! 🙂 I hope others will think the same way.
Michael, you had me with the first pitch. I didn’t even care if it was historical, contemporary, or futuristic. And you almost lost me with the 2nd, for one simple reason.
What kind of law are we talking about? From your extended pitch, there are US Marshals ruling the country, or the US is under some type of new Marshall Plan. Is that really what you mean? Or is the US under *martial* law, with rules enforced by the standing military?
BTW, in my opinion, your original 2 sentences were incredibly powerful, just as they were. I would save the time-frame for the 3rd sentence, saying something like: “In 2132, the United States is in the grips of martial law, and Peter must turn…”
Just my 2 cents, not adjusted for inflatioin
Thanks for this post, Karen, and for this opportunity. 🙂
My WIP is historical fiction set in the eighteenth century West Indies.
An idealistic white missionary must sell himself into slavery in order to preach the freedom of the gospel to African slaves suffering beneath a cruel owner.
I value any input. Thank you!
Heidi, thanks for playing! You give us good information, but it needs a bit of punch. So maybe…
Set in the 18th Century, this is the story of ___________, an idealistic young missionary who travels to the West Indies to preach the freedom of the gospel to African slaves. But when he encounters the cruel slave owner, he realizes there’s only one way he can reach the suffering: sell himself into slavery as well.
Or something like that…
Thank you for this advice, Karen! I like what you did with my pitch–it really sings this way and gives it a punch at the end. Nice. 🙂
Thanks so much!
Thanks for the opportunity, Karen.
Here’s my pitch…
It is a season for killing blondes and brunette lottery winner Gilda Greco never has an alibi when dead blondes turn up in dumpsters near her favorite haunts. Complete and ready for review, A SEASON FOR KILLING BLONDES is a 74,000-word cozy mystery.
Thanks for this opportunity, Karen.
Here’s my pitch…
It is a season for killing blondes and brunette lottery winner Gilda Greco never has an alibi when dead blondes turn up in dumpsters near her favorite haunts. A SEASON FOR KILLING BLONDES is complete at 74,000 words and available for review.
Joanna, good job of catching my attention. I love the title! But I’d want a little more information. Is she suspected of the killings? Is she really the killer? You don’t want to give those things away to the readers, but you need to give them away to the editor/agent.
Thanks for your advice, Karen. I’ll work on it.
OK, here’s my pitch. I’m open to feedback.
My novel is contemporary fiction with romantic elements.
The victim of abuse, a talented Christian co-ed leaves her family, joins a rock band, and falls for a drummer with a violent past.
In Longing for Birches, my character find freedom from her ugly past and her own sins and learns that admitting the truth and seeking forgiveness are the first steps.
Hey, Robin. Like some of the others, you need to punch it up a bit. Also, it would be great to get a little more focus. Something like…
In Longing for Birches, a contemporary novel, a young Christian woman, understands abuse far better than she ever wanted to. But she refuses to call herself a victim. Instead, she leaves her family and joins a rock band, where she falls for a drummer with a violent past. Now ______ must find freedom from her ugly past–and her own sins. The first steps? Admitting the truth and seeking forgiveness.
Something along those lines.
MIRACLE IN A DRY SEASON
ONE SENTENCE – What if you had faith enough to feed–and forgive–an entire town?
TWO SENTENCES – A self-righteous man, an unwed mother and a desperate drought converge in 1954 Wise, WV. It’s going to take a miracle to save the town and find forgiveness.
PITCH – Casewell Phillips wants a wife. But in all his 34 years he has yet to find one who can meet his moral standards. When Bess Long arrives in 1950s Wise, WV, with her illegitimate child, Casewell knows she’s not for him. So why is he befriending and supporting her in the face of community
criticism? And how can he explain the fact that the food she cooks is always more than enough to feed everyone who’s hungry? As Casewell delves into the mysteries surrounding Bess, he must also face his father’s serious illness, a vindictive pastor and a desperate drought that threatens
the town. It’ll take a miracle to save them all.
Wow, Sarah, this is great! Well done!
Thanks! It took quite a bit of polishing and I so appreciate your vote of confidence.
Great job! Helpful for me to read. Thank you for sharing it.
I loved the title for today’s post. My first thought was of perfect pitch in music. And no, I don’t have perfect pitch. But then, I remembered this is an agent blog. 🙂
It’s been a busy day, but I thought I’d try to craft a pitch. I’ll look forward to any feedback. 🙂
My novel, Lead Me, is contemporary women’s fiction.
Can a woman fall in love with her husband while dancing with another man? When Anya Whitson wins ballroom dance lessons, she’s certain she’s found her ticket to intimacy with her overworked husband. When he refuses to take the lessons with her, Anya must find another partner. In learning to dance, she discovers forgiveness is the price to get what she really wants.
Thanks for this opportunity, Karen. 🙂
Jeanne, you’ve got an intriguing plot here, but if your market is the Christian market, you need to do a little refinement to remove anything that could be interpreted as the woman having an affair. I don’t think that’s what happens, but some could read it that way. How about…
In this contemporary love story, Anya Whitson is delighted when she wins ballroom dance lessons. This, she’s certain, will be the key to intimacy with her overworked husband. But when he refuses to take the lessons with her, Anya determines to learn to dance anyway. And as she does so, she discovers forgiveness is the true key–not just to intimacy, but to life.
Something like that, that makes it clear it’s not being with another partner, so to speak, but the dancing that teaches her.
Thank you, Karen, for your suggestion. I’ve been trying to figure out how to create tension but also show that, as you mentioned, there is not an affair involved. I appreciate your time and help! 🙂
THE SECRET KEEPERS
Trust is dangerous, truth is terrifying, escape is impossible.
A wealthy Boston woman and a Navajo man must fight to hold on as their faith is tested far beyond the point of death. No secret is too dark, no pain is too deep and no soul is ever removed from the hand, the heart and the love of God.
In the final, pain filled hours of her confinement in a gilded prison, a Boston woman is found unconscious in her garden. Covered in blood and ashes, her dress soaked in kerosene and clutching a handful of matches, Sarah Monroe Henderson is tried and convicted of the murder of her five children, long before she stands near a judge. Written out of existence, Sarah battles despair, certain death and a disappearing faith while locked away in the devil’s playground.
Thousands of miles and a lifetime away, death from man and sky has sent Rides Like An Arrow from one life into the next. A simple, hurried promise and safety with a pioneer family keep the young Navajo widower alive. A night together in the darkness unlocks a lifetime of carefully hidden secrets, pairing Sarah Monroe and Rides Like An Arrow in a dangerous and precarious dance. He must face the truth, or escape from all that he holds dear. She has endured death, but cannot pay the price of survival. They turn against their sanctuary as their fears take wing and pull their family down a dark and terrible road.
THE SECRET KEEPERS is a completed 119,000 word historical romance set against the heartbreaking history of the Navajo Nation, the wealth of Boston society and the pioneers of the Arizona Territory.
Karen, thank you so much for this opportunity. It is not lost on me that this is a gift.
Jenny, this could works for synopsis, but it’s too long for a pitch. You need to get it down to a paragraph.
Before we jump into that, I’d suggest a couple of things for the synopsis:
–the part about her being locked way in the devil’s playground is too cryptic. I have no idea what that means, and it makes me think this is a supernatural story not an historical. You need to make it clear what you’re talking about. You want to be mysterious and somewhat cryptic with back cover copy, but not when you’re presenting to an agent or editor. The only way they know they’re interested in if they know what the story’s about.
–I encourage you get your manuscript word count down a bit, too. Closer to 100K, if you can.
Here’s my attempt to cut the pitch to just the salient points. See what you think.
No secret is too dark, no pain is too deep, and no soul is ever taken from the hand, the heart and the love of God.
In _______ (year) Boston, wealthy socialite Sarah Monroe Henderson is found unconscious, covered in blood and ashes, her dress soaked in kerosene, a handful of matches clutched in her hand. It’s clear to everyone: she murdered her five children. Thousands of miles away, young Navajo widower Rides Like An Arrow struggles to escape a past haunted by death and loss.
When their paths converge, they must fight together against __________ (what is the primary foe?) if either is to survive.
Thank you Karen, I appreciate your advice !
BETHANY – biblical fiction
Tormented by her lecherous neighbor, exhausted from caretaking her mentally disabled brother Lazarus, and fed up with her loving but impractical sister Mary, Martha feels herself on the verge of a breakdown. She clings to the hope that Jesus will heal her brother, but ultimately learns that the gifts Jesus offers are not what anyone expects or imagines.
THANKS for being willing to critique our efforts – there’s nothing quite like specific examples to demonstrate what we should or should not be doing.
Julie, how about letting us know that this is a new look at someone we all think we already know? So see what you think:
You’ve heard of her all your life. But you’ve never really known her. This biblical novel will open your eyes to a woman the Bible seems to dismiss. For what Martha has to teach us goes far deeper than what we see on the surface. Tormented by her lecherous neighbor, exhausted from caretaking her mentally disabled brother Lazarus, and fed up with her loving but impractical sister Mary, Martha feels herself on the verge of a breakdown. She clings to the hope that Jesus will heal her brother, but what she ultimately learns–and teaches us–is that the gifts Jesus offers are far more powerful–and perfect–than what we expect or imagine.
WOW, I love it! If I try to re-write it along the lines of what you just did (same idea, different words), would that be too close plagiarism? I had written a sales handle that hinted at what you mention — “Not exactly the people you learned about in Sunday School” — but I got mixed feedback on it. Thanks for showing me another way to approach it.
Thank you, Karen, for this opportunity for your expert feedback.
RESTORING KATE’S CHAPEL is a romance set In 1935 Ireland, where time is running out for an American heiress who must restore a chapel in order to break what she believes to be a family curse that will soon kill her older sister, but the heiress’ task is complicated by a handsome country doctor who doesn’t believe in such nonsense. A thorn in her side, he competes with her for town resources, meddles with her plans, yet manages to ignites her heart with his kisses as he shares his faith and offers her compelling reasons to trust God instead of superstitions.
Jeanne, you’ve got a great foundation here. A couple of things. Since the part of the pitch about the heroine is, more or less, from her POV, you don’t need to say “she believes to be a family curse.” Also, I’d drop the part about the kisses. It’s a romance, so we know there will be kissing, but putting that in the pitch makes it a little cheesy. I’m all for eliminating any cheese factor! So give this a try:
RESTORING KATE’S CHAPEL is a period romance set In 1935 Ireland, where time is running out for American heiress, ______________ (heroine’s name), who must restore a chapel to break a family curse that will soon kill her older sister. But the handsome country doctor caring for her sister doesn’t believe in such nonsense. Not only does he compete with ________ for town resources, but the impossible man continues to meddle with her plans. So why is her heart so drawn to him and to the faith he shares–a faith that goes against all she was raised to believe and urges her to trust God and not superstitions?
Thank you, Karen! Your feedback is spot-on and very helpful! God bless!
Alright, here goes. Thanks for the opportunity Karen 🙂
Chasing Yesterday – Contemporary Romance
Short: Rachel Grant must live a lie to earn her freedom. Lucas Tyler must expose her secret to achieve his dream. Can they find each other, when lies tear them apart?
Long: Rachel Grant is America’s #1 relationship coach. Not that America knows it. Rachel writes the books, but her Aunt Laura is the face and media darling. Terrified of their secret being exposed, she has no choice but to keep up the charade – her father’s life depends on it.
Lucas Tyler is the darling of late night radio and dreams of syndication. When a big time producer calls, it looks like his dream is coming true. But the offer comes with a catch – Lucas must discover Dr. Laura’s secret. He doesn’t count on falling for her assistant, Rachel.
Can love find a way through the lies that force them apart?
Oooo, very nice! I like this, Kara. Well done.
Wow, thank you 🙂 Of course the real issue is actually remembering it all when I’ve got a real live agent or editor sitting in front of me!
Death’s Apprentice is a Trade Length Romantic Suspense.
Short: A sniper plots revenge. Can Forensic Social Worker Joanie Finley convince the accomplice to talk before someone else dies?
Long: Forensic social worker Joanie Finley knows you can’t depend on anyone else, especially a hard-nosed cop. But when a sniper threatens her town and her brother is implicated in the crime, she must turn to the one man who wants to put her brother in prison.
The last thing police officer Derek Severson wants is to repeat the past mistakes that got his sister killed.
When the woman he loves takes the case of a killer he must chose to forgive his sister’s murderer or let justice turn to poison in his life.
Thanks for letting us share! I look forward to constructive feedback.
Michelle, great start! I think you need to tighten it a bit and use language that’s a little stronger, but other than that, it’s good. See what you think:
Death’s Apprentice is a ___________ (word count) Romantic Suspense. (“Trade length” doesn’t make it clear what the word count is. That phrase can mean different things to different people, so make it clear what your word count is.)
Short: When a sniper terrorizes her community, Forensic Social Worker Joanie Finley must convince the accomplice to talk–before someone else dies! (Changing it to the imperative form creates a sense of urgency.)
Long: Forensic social worker Joanie Finley knows you can’t depend on anyone else, especially a hard-nosed cop. But when a sniper threatens her town–and her brother is implicated in the crime–she must seek help from the one man who is determined to put her brother in prison.
The last thing police officer Derek Severson wants is to repeat the mistakes that got his sister killed. but when the woman he loves takes on the case of a killer, he must face the hardest decision of his life: forgive his sister’s murderer, or let his drive for justice poison everything he holds dear.
Thank you so much for your help on this! I will definitely implement your recommendations.
The way you turned that last line around just really hit me! It is exactly what I want to portray. Great emotional punch!
Hope I’m not too late! Here’s my pitch, any feedback is greatly appreciated.
A Long Run Home
Her only crime is being Christian. His only passion is a job that exterminates everything she believes in. Can these would-be enemies find common ground or is the government he works for bigger than love?
It’s 2029 and America is dead. An EMP, Electomagnetic Pulse, has plunged civilization back two centuries. Mia, a Christian in hiding for her beliefs, suddenly finds herself thrust into a world she knows little about. Finding refuge in a physician named Victor, she must decide if she will accept his offered friendship or take her chances with the soldiers who stole her virtue.
A Long Run Home is an apocalyptic thriller with hints of humor and romance. It has the Big Brother flavor of an Ayn Rand novel but from a Christian perspective, as it demonstrates how the pre-rapture world of the Left Behind Series will look.
T.C. – This sounds intriguing! I am a huge fan of “apocalyptic” stories (i.e. the movie 2012) and my eldest son and I would watch them on the Sci-Fi channel for hours. Yours sounds right up there! A pre-rapture world set in the future yet in a civilization set back two centuries. Fantastic–can’t wait for the movie to come out. 🙂
Thanks for the encouragement. It’s completely in God’s hands. Need an agent first- lol!
Good luck and God bless your endeavors. I look forward to reading it someday.
Very nice! Just a few minor edits:
A Long Run Home
Her only crime is being Christian. His only passion is his job exterminating everything she believes in. Can these would-be enemies find common ground or is the government he works for bigger than love?
It’s 2029 and America is dead. An Electomagnetic Pulse has plunged civilization back two centuries. Mia, in hiding for her outlawed Christian beliefs, suddenly finds herself thrust into a world she knows little about. When she finds refuge in a physician named Victor, she must decide if she will accept his offered friendship or take her chances with the soldiers who have taken so much from her. (I changed this because I can’t see readers buying that a woman would take chances with soldiers who violated her. You want to use powerful, evocative words, but not inflammatory ones.)
A Long Run Home is an apocalyptic thriller with hints of humor and romance. It has the Big Brother flavor of an Ayn Rand novel but is crafted from a Christian perspective to give a glimpse into how the pre-rapture world of the Left Behind Series might look.
Oh thank you Karen. I hadn’t really thought of my choice of words that way. It’s nice to have some perspective, I was too close to the story and focused on giving an account of transpired than capturing my audiences attention. Thank you for all the suggestions. Greatly appreciated.
This may seem like a dumb question, but I am working on my query and this is part of it, am I on the right track for my query or should the pitch and query not be so similar?
Karen, thank you for this opportunity! Before I share my pitch, though, I want to tell you that many years ago (15 or so?), you sat down with me on the grass at the Write-to-Publish conference and gave me advice on my WIP that has stuck with me ever since. I won’t go into here but I’ve always been so grateful for that.
Anyway, here’s the pitch for my current WIP. Though the idea has been on my heart for years, starting out as a nonfiction book, I only began writing the novel last week, so this is pretty rough. But, here goes!
Short: SPINSTERED, a contemporary women’s fiction novel, tells the story of three friends, all single, all over 40, all clinging to hope. Then a new, 44-year-old guy joins their singles group … and immediately pursues a woman 12 years his junior. And that’s the good news.
Long: SPINSTERED, a contemporary women’s fiction novel, follows three friends as they navigate the heartaches and hopes of singleness after 40. There’s Catie, the disillusioned and sarcastic workaholic who has, she says, given up on love; Jolene, the compassionate and down-to-earth social worker with an affinity for online dating; and Uli, the artistic, romantic dreamer, who will do just about anything to get married before she turns 41, even date the wrong guy.
Then, when a 32-year-old friend they all adore becomes engaged to the new 40-something man in their singles group, they not only find new reasons to question their own desirability but wonder about God’s love for them. Can they celebrate their friend’s happiness and find hope in the life God has chosen for them? Or will they become trapped by their fears of being … spinstered?
Thank you again, Karen. Any feedback would be great!
More Than Words Writing & Editing
Did the pitch I posted last week go through? If not, I can try again. But if it did and it’s bad, please feel free to tell me. I’ve been writing long enough to be able to handle constructive criticism. 🙂
As I said, it’s a new WIP — though not my first work — so I’d love any feedback (from anyone here!) as I develop the novel. I’m 6,000 words in with a goal of finishing in December … plenty of time to make it stronger & get the pitch ready for my next writers conference.
Of course, if I just missed the deadline for this, I understand.
I wanted to post this simply because I wanted you to know that I took each of your thoughts to heart. Whether or not you see it, I wanted to finish the job and let you know your advice was taken, and pondered upon, with a healthy dose of “what can I learn?”.
(Yes, it’s July 4th, and I’m fairly certain you aren’t in your office!
But for us north of the 49th, it’s just July 4th.)
I attacked the MS, my poor baby. I’ve cut it down, and I use that word in its fullest form, to 105,000. It was hard, but quite rewarding and highly enlightening. 😉
So, the pitch…
No secret is too dark, no pain is too deep, and no soul is ever taken from the hand, the heart and the love of God.
In 1892, Boston socialite Sarah Monroe Henderson is found unconscious, covered in blood and ashes, her dress soaked in kerosene and a handful of matches clutched in her hand. Framed for the murder of her mother and children, Sarah is locked away to die, her freedom balanced on the wings of angels. Thousands of miles away, young widower Rides Like An Arrow is haunted by grief, loss and a single promise. Finding sanctuary in the heart of their family, they must face together the secret fears that stand in the way of healing love.
THE SECRET KEEPERS is a completed 105,000 word historical romance set against the heartbreaking history of the Navajo Nation, the wealth of Boston society and the pioneers of the Arizona Territory.
Thank you, Happy 4th!