Really pretty sundog yesterday when I was out gardening.
Had a request from Mnemosyne this week:
Right after I get back from Disneyworld (have you heard I’m going to Disneyworld??) I’m going to a writing conference where I will be pitching my novel, and I need advice!
So let’s help her out…
Elevator pitch. Refine, refine, refine.
Even more targeted, the most salient/ear-catching element in the work.
GET contact info to send a query; ASK. Assertion is inevitable.
From my own limited knowledge of such cons…
Thanks, TaMara! Here’s a bit more information:
I’m attending the California Dreamin’ conference, which is put on by 4 local chapters of the RWA (Romance Writers of America) and is romance-specific. I have my elevator pitch done — in fact, it’s printed on the back of my business cards that I had made specifically for this conference — so I’m not sure what else I need to do.
I think I’ve figured out that the dress code for romance authors is a cute dress — fortunately, I have several such numbers in my closet, though I should probably get them cleaned and pressed the week before.
Just advice in general or more specific questions?
I’ve never pitched a novel, though I’ve done waaay too many screenplay pitches. Give the genre, the premise, capsule description of the protagonist, what makes this story different/interesting. And crucially – do not not NOT reel off a plot outline. “…and then…” is going to make the pitchee’s eyes glaze over.
One invaluable source for querying is queryshark.com, one of the web sites of agent Janet Reid. It’s fabulous and helpful.
The pitch is similar to the beginning of a query letter: hook plus very short summary. Not even a summary, really, but a quick synopsis of the kind of book, narrative arc, etc.
It has to be short and sharp, period. If you ramble it doesn’t work.
Google widely for advice from agents about what they want/expect.
@Mnemosyne: Why don’t you give us your pitch and see what we think?
We’re not only good looking, we’re also smart and experienced.
Hope you are speaking for yourself.
1. I see myself in the mirror every morning.
2. If I’m that smart what am I doing at this point of my life?
3. OK I’ve experienced a few things. Some of them actually involved writing. Technical writing but still.
Thru the Looking Glass...
I had a friend once who was a songwriter… actually got a couple of songs on Jefferson Airplane/Starship albums back in the day… he told me a story once about being in a producer’s office in Nashville to pitch songs… while he was sitting there, the producer opened an envelope that came in the mail, pulled out a demo tape, popped it in a player, listened for 20 seconds, and threw the tape in the trashcan… TWENTY seconds… that’s how quickly he made up his mind…
Soooo… my point… whatever you tell people, it’s gotta get their attention immediately… you get so little time to sell yourself and if you lose them in the first 20 seconds, they’re on to the next person…
Whatever words come out of your mouth the moment you start, they better be good…
Ever watch the Shark Tank on ABC? Not quite the same as pitching a novel, I reckon but still, entreprenuers making pitches in real time…
Thru the Looking Glass...
This… you’ve got to be To The POINT…
Ugh. Okay. Keep in mind that (a) I’m still trying to get over my self-consciousness about writing Kissing Books and (2) this is already printed on the back of my business cards, so it can only be expanded on verbally, not changed. With that said:
FWIW, Gideon Hewitt is a great name!!
Gin & Tonic
@Thru the Looking Glass…: A long time ago I spent a lot of time interviewing job-seekers for an entry-level position at the company I worked for. My job was first cut, not final decision, but after that experience I told people that the candidate comes in the room, says hello, shakes hands, sits down, and by that point the decision’s been made. The rest of the interview is just for politeness; it’ll change the initial impression maybe 1 time out of 100.
@BGinCHI: Not to mention, modest!
No advice, sorry, but good luck!
And O.T., but jeeze, TaMara! That sunset pic; where the hell do you live, the acid planet?!? That is unreal.
1. watch Ryan’s powerpoint on HealthInsurance
2. do opposite
sorry to be flippant.
think of your presentation as you do your writing. you have to hook your audience immediately. so knowing your audience beforehand is important to focus your ‘sales pitch’.
Thanks! He started off as a Miles years ago, but I’m doing a page one rewrite with a beefed-up plot and he didn’t feel like a Miles anymore.
@Mnemosyne: I like it!
Dear Mnemosyme: You’ve changed up the formula. Usually it’s the girl who inherits the house. So you should be one-up at least.It’s not a genre I am familiar with to say the least, but if you have changed up some of the background and makeup of your protagonist, I’d bet that’s a plus, too.
@BGinCHI: BGinCHI must be a Russian hacker, accessing my laptop cam. How else would my good-lookingness become common knowledge?
Our local RWA chapter was lucky enough to have NYT bestselling author Tessa Dare come speak to us (she’s local to So Cal) and her advice was two have two plot conventions and one twist. So, for example, in one of her most popular books, she has a bluestocking (intellectual) girl get involved with a womanizer, but the twist is that they go on a road trip. So I’m trying to add a twist or two without getting too far away from what readers would expect.
D’oh — I hate when I don’t spot a typo until the edit window closes! To, not two. Damn it.
One additional bit, practice telling strangers (or acquaintances who have’t read portions of the book before). Make sure you know it well enough that you can be watching for their reactions. I’d suggest changing it if they have questions, but don’t know how you’d do that if you already have the cards. Since we tend to be introverts, we tend to stammer and stumble when we meet people like agents, and practicing with people who don’t know you write helps get over that shock.
Good Luck. Enjoy the conference.
Confidence and enthusiasm. Broadcast it like you are that Mexican radio station with Wolfman Jack.
When I got over my shyness and let myself show a bit of what I am passionate about, I found it was catching. I got longer chats, invitations to sent them stuff, and even a rare copy of a magazine because I had expressed my love for the writer it was featuring.
If you are enjoying yourself, they will enjoy talking to you.
West of the Rockies (been a while)
Any way to be a tad more specific about the love interest? E.g., “… a woman who may or may not be… a werewolf/corporate raider/his enemy’s sister/old girlfriend…”?
Any interest in a Balloon Juice Writers Circle?
I mentioned this in the previous writers thread but it was well after the traffic had died down, so doubt many people saw it. I asked about / suggested a Balloon-Juice writers circle in which we read and critique each others work, provide constructive feedback and useful advice, etc. I’ve tried a face-to-face group, but my travel schedule makes it difficult. Anyone else here interested? I would be willing to coordinate and even host it on my server, or we could use some existing forum anyone if has a suggestion. Feel free to email me at tdphette AT gmail DOT com if you are interested and don’t want to clutter up this thread.
Late as usual, and I don’t have any useful advice that others haven’t given already and better, so I’ll just say, break a leg and let us know when you’re ready for beta readers!
@Mnemosyne: Not bad. Sounds like the good 5 second elevator pitch and that’s half the battle.
(1) Smile, but not in a scary way.
(2) Exude confidence, but not in a scary way.
Glad I could help.
I’m in a bit of a dilemma right now — I’m worried that I’m spending too much time on the heroine when the logline implies that she and her motives are going to be mysterious to the reader.
I may have to decide if I’m going for mystery (reader and hero are both in the dark) or suspense (reader knows what’s going on but hero is in the dark).
This sounds great for a blurb for a reader on the back of the book, but I wonder if your pitch at the conference needs to pick out a single detail of each one so they can imagine how it will play out (kind of like West of the Rockies’ comment above). I’m assuming you have the details already, and might want not want to share them in this forum, but I’m envisioning something like
Caveat: I write nonfiction, so this might be bad advice, and the example is definitely way too flabby.
Sigh. You’re going to hate me Mnemosyne, but ‘Inheriting a dukedom sounds like a dream come true for American workingman Gideon Hewitt…’ actually sounds like, to my ear, either the plot of King Ralph, or the that Hewitt inherited the Dukedom of Fredonia. =:|
Actually: ‘Inheriting a dukedom sounded like a dream come true for American workingman Gideon Hewitt. Until he found out it was the Dukedom of Fredonia. And it came with a crazed practical joker of an uncle* and the woman of his dreams – or his nightmares.’
Which is probably going to be a pretty funny book that I would buy after I’ve rewritten that blurb two or three times.
OK, I can see where it’s bugging me – the hook is all up front (‘American workingman’) and there’s nothing in the tail.
[‘Keeping in mind that I have no idea at all about the actual contents of your book – which is why I’m perfect. “What’s going to make me pick up a book and buy it?” is the question an elevator pitch is trying to answer.’]
* Groucho Marx doppleganger of course
Mnemosyne, your pitch sounds great. One caveat – it’s Regency, right? Say so upfront, because your pitch, while it sounds Regency to me (dukes and all), could also sound contemporary to a listener who doesn’t know which sub-genre to expect. Romances dealing with modern-day nobility and royalty seems to be a thing lately.
@max: OMG – now I have “Hail, Hail Fredonia!”going thru’ my head! I’d hate you if I weren’t howling inside at the thought of a Regency romance/Marx Brothers mash-up!
@Mnemosyne: I think this is really solid for a hook. My experience is in query letters for novels, but I’m on my 3rd agent, so I’m pretty good at it (first two agents quit repping, so it had nothing to do with me or my work).
The idea of the hook/pitch, is to get PAGES REQUESTED. They are never going to sign you or anything so grand from an idea. The WRITING has to carry through with the premise, and it’s the latter you’re hawking at this thing.
Most people won’t know a hawk from a handsaw, so you’re in a good position to get asked for a partial or a full from that tantalizing bit. And then it’s up to your writing chops to carry you through.
My agency is strong in romance, so if you get some bites you can reach out to me and I’ll see what I can do. No promises: it’s a very, very subjective business.
Sorry for delay in responding. I had to make dinner for the fam.
Too late! And, dude, it’s a romance novel. Go write your own novel if you want it to be a comedy. ?
My designer friend talked me into putting the title of the book on the front of the card, so it’s clear that it’s a Regency. If the editor isn’t intrigued enough to flip the card over, then I have bigger problems.
Thanks! I know for sure that an editor from Avon is going to be reading and critiquing my first 8 pages, but I haven’t been told yet if I’m going to be pitching to an agent or a publisher. I may take you up on that offer once I see how the conference goes.
BTW the atmospheric phenomenon in the picture is called iridescence:
Not a writer, but I have a language question. Is the sister of my brother-in-law my sister-in-law, or is there another term that should be used?
@Mnemosyne: The treason part is intriguing and quite a pull.
Can we talk about sources? ‘Cause I feel like I get ideas for stories about things I know jack shit about, but they’re so all over the place it’s hard to know where to look for information to bolster them.
@Mnemosyne: Wishing you the very best of luck! But also, honestly, what will matter is the writing, so see how it goes and then back to working to make it better.
Let us know how it goes!
At a panel at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs last month, the moderator, when asked how to approach sending our material, said something that caused the entire room to erupt in cheers: “Go forth with all the swagger of a mediocre white man.”
Also, too, I will be checking back tonight and through tomorrow because I know there are some commenters in other time zones (like tokyo expat) who have some RWA experience but might not be able to reply in real time.
Thank you, everybody!
I’m just starting the query stage myself, so have no advice to offer, just wishes for your success!
Remember if it’s a pitch, you’re allowed to tell them what the secret is. “May not be what she seems” sounds like maybe you don’t know what happens either. Do you have a really striking twist that directly relates to the intentions of the main character? Tell them.
“Inheriting a dukedom sounds like a dream come true for American workingman Gideon Hewitt, but he soon finds himself at the center of a treasonous plot, and in love with a woman who…”
-is sworn to kill the Duke, but falls in love with him too?
-that, while not knowing the American workingman is also the duke?
-is really a space alien who will revert this whole timeline?
-is falsely accused of the plot?
What constitutes a treasonous plot here? Is it against him, or against the Queen? Are they conspiring against him, or using him for their own purposes? Does he turn out to want to remain an American workingman, or does he stick with wanting to be a Duke? That could be his arc. You should be prepared to tell them what his arc is, to show that there is one.
Le Carre did great things with ‘he falls in love with a woman who gets sucked into the plot without understanding the full extent of it’. The elevator pitch for some of his would be, “that, and he spends the whole book trying to destroy an evil bastard who turns out to be the real British spy and bails him out of the situation. Then the girl can’t accept it and balks at the last minute. Does he save himself or does he keep faith with his naive lover and refuse to see what’s right before his eyes? The answer is ‘both’, and everybody dies” :)
Don’t worry, I know the answer, but I’m only going to tell it in the pitch session.
@Mnemosyne: Cool—I don’t need to know it, it’s just—have you ever seen the screenwriter Max Landis pitch?
It’s pretty mesmerizing. He’s unusually good at it, and the way it works is, he starts telling this story and making it unfold in front of you, as his enthusiasm ramps up. There’s not a hint of withholding, he very obviously wants to take you through the whole thing and show you how amazing it is, from beginning to end. If there’s a mystery, he explains that there’s a mystery, and immediately tells you what the audience will discover in a way that conveys how shocked they will be.
A lot of it has to do with personality and enthusiasm, and the guy’s manic style, but there’s an aura of confidence that comes from how brazenly he tells all the twists and secrets of the story. You get the sense that he really knows where it’s going, because he’s walking you through all the best ideas and as thrilled with it as he’d like YOU to be. If you can do any of that, you’ll be a star :)
Sorry I’m getting late to this thread.
If you’ve got the Elevator Pitch figured out – that’s THE key – then you’re solid. You just need to be focused and confident that you’re going to catch that MewTwo and rule the Pokemon Gym… wait, wrong allegory.
Damn. I got too much self-doubt for that.
OK, this is an example of what I end up thinking about when I’m woken up at o-dark-thirty by importunate hy?ounds…what does “American workingman” mean? Are you saying the hero is working class? What’s his trade? Is he a skilled artisan? Is his work an important part of hisidentity, or is he more a of a day laborer? And if that’s the case, why the huge class difference?
You have to wait for the beta read to find out. ? Don’t worry, it’s all perfectly clear in the first three pages.
Thad, I’d love to join a writers’ circle. I’ve never shown my work to anyone.
Re: the conference pitch: according to Janet Reid the Query Shark, each sentence in a query should be so short that you can read or speak it without pausing to breathe.
My two cents: I’d be more specific. Where in America is Hewitt from? What kind of work does he do? What’s dreamy about inheriting a dukedom–money? A country estate? Who does his love interest seem to be? I realize it’s hard to address such questions when you’re writing in headlines…
I’m definitely heartened that everyone’s reaction seems to be, “Wait, tell me more!” That’s the sign of a good elevator pitch.
@Marina: Feel free to email me directly at tdphette AT gmail DOT com so I can get in touch when I set something up. I’m also reaching out to a few writer friends I have on other social media. Right now I’m investigating what sort of tools we can use to run writers circle… probably some sort of wordpress plug-in.