I’ve been doing posts all summer with some tips for writing your novel. Each of the steps I’ve talked about–plotting, finding voice, editing–are part of the writing process. They can take months. Sometimes work gets stuck in one of those steps, and is abandoned for a period of time. Never think that you are wasting time on any part of this process. Writing is a craft, and takes practice.
Once your book is “done”, you need to get ready to pitch it. Note, I put done in quotes, because it is such a relative term. I’ve read stories I’ve had published, and wanted to change things. I’m rereading a manuscript I wrote a long time ago, and pitched several times. It is good, but I can make it better now. It is a fine line between a work being “good enough” or “not quite there”. Make sure you don’t publish prematurely.
Assuming you are ready to go to the next step, you need to make decisions about your path of publication. Do you want to go the traditional route, and find an agent who then pitches to an editor?Are you going to self publish? Are you going to pitch directly to a small press? There’s a lot to this decision, and I can talk about that more in a later post.
Today, I want to talk to you about the pitch itself. Imagine this, you’re in a elevator and an agent gets on with you. You chat, they find out you’re a writer, and they say “tell me about your book”.
a) stammer and start telling them the story in details and you barely get past the first chapter when the elevator door opens and the agent runs away.
b) tell them your pitch as a conversation opener, and then have time to answer a few questions before the door opens.
The answer is, of course, b. But you’d be surprised how challenging getting that pitch down can be. Here are some of the things I try and keep in mind:
- Make it a hundred words or less. It should take you two or three minutes tops.
- Make it conversational. Don’t rush, try not to fumble with words.
- Don’t tell the story. Talk about the theme–why are you telling this story? What is the hook? Why should they care?
- Who are you pitching to? What can you change so it hits what interests them?
Those are some of the things to think about. So much easier said than done. But practice your pitch. Know it back and forth. You’ll use it at conferences, at meetings, in queries, in marketing materials. It’s never too early to think about your pitch. Who knows, it may help you focus your story while you are writing it.
My pitch for Clock and Dagger, the second book in my Clock Shop Mystery series is that Ruth Clagan is settling into Orchard, MA, and about to hold four parties in as many days when the past creeps up and threatens her new life. She has to find a murderer, and protect her family before the New Year rings in.
Clock and Dagger was published yesterday, August 2. If you go over to the Wicked Cozy Authors and comment on the blog talking about the debut (at the link) you may be entered to win a copy of the book.
As Julianne Holmes, Julie writes the Clock Shop Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. The second book in the series, Clock and Dagger, was published on August 2. She is over the moon!