A couple weeks ago we talked about the hook, the sound bite, or the ability to “say it in a sentence.” Someone asked for examples so I thought I’d give you a few.
Below are a few short pitches found in proposals that caught my eye over the years from first-time authors. Please realize that the sound bite is only one of many factors that goes into a great proposal. Ultimately it is the execution of the concept that makes for a great book.
Your challenge will be to see if you can identify which books these are. Do you recognize them? Each one has been published by a major publisher. Three are nonfiction, the other two are novels. I might reveal the answers if no one is able to figure them out.
Also note that each has a clear idea, one of the keys to a successful pitch.
A hint for the two novels? They both won the Christy Award for best debut novel!
This Bible study concept is uniquely designed to connect to women ages 20 to 40, drawing them closer to God and closer to each other. Our generation simply does not have time for hours of Bible study a week for several months. We don’t want to fill in the blanks. We want to go deep quickly and actually deal with sin, not just learn about it. And we want to do it on our terms, engaging in raw relational discussions about struggles and hopes, while deeply considering truth and how it applies to our lives.
One woman’s battle against a corrupt government to save her son and their race for freedom.
A three-year-old boy struggles to survive in a Ukrainian orphanage. An American family senses God’s call to adopt a child from a foreign land. What unfolds is a spellbinding true-life story of commitment, sacrifice, and intrigue as a mother single-handedly takes on a corrupt foreign legal system and lives in hiding for nearly a year as she pieces together the plan that will hopefully free her from impending arrest and bring her son home to freedom.
Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words? They can always heal me.
A child whose silence holds the truth captive…
An artist whose work speaks the agony of her past…
Will they let the truth set them free?
In a world void of role models, where rebellion and arrogance are rewarded, it’s easy to wonder if raising respectful children is possible at all.
A real look at real problems with real answers from real parents. We can’t shield our children from every possible menace, but we can fortify their souls to minimize the damage. Our children can become champions rather than casualties.
A simple baggage mix-up at the airport is more than an inconvenience: it forces three people to face the baggage they are unknowingly carrying around.
Five ideas in short form. Can you name the titles and authors?
That was actually the only one I had a guess for.
Damon J. Gray
Good morning Steve. While I am not able to identify the books that were launched with these hooks, I am hopeful for a follow-up blog posting wherein you outline what, specifically, grabs you in these hooks. Why do they stand out from other hooks you have read?
As mentioned, it is always more than just the tag line or short pitch. It is the rest of the proposal that follows through on the promise of the pitch. With the execution of the idea in its writing, for example.
But a bad pitch gives an editor or an agent to have their eyes glaze over and move on to the next one in the proverbial pile. I try to teach the principle of “Don’t give an editor or agent a reason to say ‘no thanks.'”
I read a LOT of pitches each week (at least 50). Often the initial pitch/tag line will get my attention but then I look at the craft of writing, or the platform, or the overall direction of the book, and it is quickly evident that this one isn’t ready. And I move on to the next one.
Kathy L Bruins
I know the Ukrainian adoption story is Kim de Blecourt’s Until We All Come Home.
That is correct! A non-fiction book that reads like an adventure novel!
I recognize that last one. It’s that Australian author that Thomas Umstattd Jr. interviewed, what was his name…
David Rawlings! The Baggage Handler.
That is correct. David’s book won this year’s Christy Award for the best Debut novel. The first time an Australian was nominated for a Christy…and…therefore the first Australian to win the award.
The third one sounds like Ginny Yttrup’s Words, a fantastic novel. I’m not familiar with the rest, but I am curious about a few of them.
That is correct! Ginny Yttrup’s novel WORDS won the Christy Award in 2012 for best debut novel. She also was a Chrsity Award finalist the same year in the Contemporary Fiction category.
Except for “Until We All Come Home”, I’m stumped.
I wish I knew the alchemy,
the secrets that refine
to make an agent devotee,
to make him plead, “Be mine!”
I wish I knew the Pub House rules,
such magic from without,
knew their dark selection tools
that say which trend to flout.
I wish I knew the readers’ mood
and knew which ring to kiss
to make them on their friends intrude
with, “Hey, bro, please read THIS!”
But most of all, I wish I knew
that my day will come before I’m through.
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Clever, Andrew. That was fun.
Mary Kay Moody
Thanks, Steve, for sharing these timely morsels. (I’m working on a proposal today.) I recognized the 2 novels, not the NF though. WORDS by Ginny Yttrup and THE BAGGAGE HANDLER by David Rawlings.
Well said Steave
What’s the first one? I’d buy that book if I read that on the back cover.
The first one describes Jennie Allen’s STUCK (Thomas Nelson Publishers). A bible study that also has an accompanying DVD, leader’s guide, and conversation cards. You can buy the study by itself (link below) or the entire kit is still available from third party sellers:
The other fourth book listed above is RAISING RESPECTFUL CHILDREN IN A DISRESPECTFUL WORLD by Jill Rigby (Howard Books).