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Write On, Wednesday: Perfecting the Pitch

Write On, Wednesday:  Creating a World So Believable Your Critique Partners Think You're Having an AffairBy Leslie Lindsay

This past weekend, I packed my overnight bag and headed to  the University Wisconsin-Madison’s Continuing Ed Writer’s Workshop: Marketing Toolkit.   Besides the hotel room all to myself and the uninterrupted time in a coffee shop, it was a glorious–if mildly terrifying–time away from family and the hustle and bustle of”real-life.”  I got lost in my fiction world.  A little bit.  

But I also got a good dose of reality. 

Our instructor, Laurie Scheer started our three-hour workshop off with this statement: “There is no conspiracy against you as a writers.  You are all capable.  The publishing industry wants to hear from you.” 

Wow.  Read that again if you have to.  They want you.  A wave of relief.  But still, it’s not easy. 

For a writer to get noticed in the marketplace, this is what needs to happen before you pitch your book (we’re sticking mostly with the fiction model here, so if you’re a non-fiction writer, don’t take this to heart, although some of the elements do overlap). 

#1  Your Logline.  Your what?!  You thought loglines were just for marketing inventions and products.  Oh, but wait…you book is an invention that you are marketing to agents, and ultimately readers (the product: a book).   See what I mean.  Your logline is different than your brand.  (that’s what you are all about as a writer.  Jodi Pocoult’s brand, is family and close interactions between those individuals, throw in some world dilemma or organ donation…).  So,  let’s look at your logline, which is a 1-2 sentence about your book.  That’s right, one teeny sentence to summarize that whole 100,000 word manuscript.  A general formula:

Character name & vocation + general situation

Add a “when”….that doorway to no return

Finish with a “now”…death overhanging/what’s at stake

(Logline Example provided in class:  THE NANNY DIARIES.  A NYU student becomes a nanny for a family living on the upper East Side, but they turn out to be the family from hell.).  For more ideas on loglines, look to www.Amazon.com  (how do they market some of your favorite books?), also www.GoodReads.com  and www.inktip.com 

#2  YOUR SYNOPSIS.  That lovely little thing we all love to write.  Not.  Your synopsis should a 1-page summary of your entire novel, twists included.  Some, maybe even most include the ending.  And you thought the one sentence logline was hard!  Some writers keep the logline along the top of the synopsis sheet.  You don’t have to, if you need to save that space for more precious words.  make your synopsis sing.  Get your voice in there, but don’t over do it.  It’s always a good idea when pitching in person to have a hand-out of your synopsis (called a ‘take-away’ in the industry to hand to your agent). 

#3  YOUR QUERY LETTER.  Whether you’re picthing in person or thru email, or snail mail (always do what the agent requires, even if you think snail mail is antiquated), you still need a query letter.  In person pitches are a follow-up letter.  “I enjoyed meeting you at Books Are My Friends Conference…and I am equally thrilled to be sending you …[whatever they asked for]”  Make this  speak to the agent.  Why did you pitch to them?  A brief blurb about your book (the logline), a bit about you (pertinent bio).  Do not say, “looking forward to hearing from you.”  That’s cheesy.  Of course, you are!  : ) Instead, “I’d be thrilled if you would consider MY NOVEL…thanks very much.  Hope to talk to you soon.” 

Do not rush through these things.  They are an important part of your marking toolkit.  Make them outstanding! 

What are you waiting for?!  Write on, Wednesday!! 

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