The 2014 World Fantasy Convention is fast approaching (Yeah, I know, itâ€™s not until November but when you think that next week, itâ€™ll be August. The season of pumpkinfying everything will soon be upon us!) and is a very different experience compared to other cons. In fact, calling World Fantasy a â€œconâ€ is innacurate. Sure, there are panels, Guests of Honor, readings and signings, and even a few fun get-togethers, but this convention is a place where business, serious networking takes place, and where new novels find a home.
Representing your novel, along with showing how marketable your novel could be, you think would be easy for writers. After all, writers can put words to thoughts, weave then into gripping stories and engaging characters, and easily create heroes, villains, societies, and worlds where readers happily lose themselves.
But pitching a book? It might surprise you how many writers canâ€™t do this.
Before you think â€œSelling a book is someone elseâ€™s jobâ€¦â€ itâ€™s not. It no longer matters if you are published by a New York houseÂ or if you are setting on the independent route, writersÂ need to master the pitch.Â The pitch shouldÂ sell your book within a minute. One minute to convince someone that your book is the one they want. I have witnessedÂ authors blunder through a brief description of Chapter One, their passionate dissertation receivingÂ a lackluster â€œThat sounds interestingâ€¦â€ just before anÂ agent/editor/customer wander off.
ForÂ the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, Pip and I pitch the series as â€œThe X-Files set in Victorian London.â€ This is ourÂ the elevator pitch, a single sentence that conveys the feel and mood of your book. Iâ€™ve been told using pop culture references â€œreduce the value of their workâ€ but what you are really doing is giving your work a marketing angle. This is essential for selling to a publishing house or to a potential reader. A fantastic elevator pitch sells itself, usually followed by Â threeÂ words authors love to hearâ€¦
â€œTell me more.â€
Now is the moment you go into details, those juicy tidbits about who the people are on the cover and what shenanigans ensue. â€œA brash, impulsive secret agent from New Zealand teams up with a bumbling Archivist to solve the unsolved mysteries conspiring against the throne of England.â€ You still keep it brief because, much like what I talked about last week concerning villains, you only want to give up enough details to entice.
Finding the perfect pitch for your project is not an elusive art. Itâ€™s a process of finding what best fits your book or work-in-progress, making your story marketable to agents and editors and accessible to readers.
- Find pop culture references that work for your world, your characters, your work. â€œItâ€™s a Steampunk X-Files.â€ â€” The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences.
- If pop culture references are not to your liking, go on and use literature references, but give it your own spin. â€œThe Lord of the Rings, if written by Mickey Spillane.â€ â€” The Billibub Baddings Mysteries
- Sometimes, great pitches can make greatÂ tag lines for books. â€œNot all are expendable.â€ â€” John Scalziâ€™s Redshirts
- Find current events or trends and then build on them. â€œA childhood friend prevents his best friend from joining a gang.â€ â€” A.B. Westrickâ€™s Brotherhood. (She used this pitch to sell her book to an agent. The agent said, after reading the first three chapters, â€œYou didnâ€™t say the gang was the Klu Klux Klan! Nevermind, send me the rest!â€ It sold within that year to Penguin Publishing.)
Welcome to the wonderful world of the writerâ€™s pitch. This is when the pressureâ€™s on with your latest labor of love, blood, sweat, tears, and editing.
So, sell it to me. Whatâ€™s your best pitch?