Some time ago a guest attended our local writers’ group meeting. She hadn’t come seeking editing or opinion for her life-changing book, but a fast track to publication. However, she couldn’t seem to tell us what her book was actually about.
Later, I talked with her on the phone and suggested she write up a two-sentence summary for the next meeting. I told her, as gently as I could, that if she couldn’t tell us what it was about, how would she tell and editor. And if she couldn’t tell an editor, the book would not be published. She never returned to our group.
The point of my anecdote is that we need to be able to condense our stories to the bare bones in order to interest an editor, and, I would add, our potential readers.
There are several levels of summary required in marketing our stories.
- I discussed synopsis in a previous post. Quick review: a synopsis is a concise overview of the story from beginning to end, as a selling tool for an editor. (My book synopses are usually two pages single-spaced.)
- Another level is a summary of the main characters and story question for the back cover of the book. Length can vary, but it usually consists of a couple of brief paragraphs.
- A third level of summary is the pitch. Boil down the essence of the story into one or two strong sentences. Reduce it to its essential flavors. What does your book promise to deliver? What is the story question? What is at risk? Why should I care? These are all questions to ask ourselves as we craft our pitch.
The pitch must first of all be brief and concise. It should also stir emotion, and it should throw out a question that begs to be answered in the course of the story.
I’m currently reading a book called Thorns of Rosewood by G.M. Barlean. I’m at about the halfway point in the story, and would say the essence is this: “Journalist Gloria Larsen interviews four elderly women in hopes of finding the truth about a 40-year old, unsolved murder. Could these octogenarians really be guilty of murder, and could one of them be her biological mother?”
I just now looked it up on amazon, and the one-liner is: “Gloria Larsen knows only three things about her birth mother: she was over forty, she lived in Rosewood, Nebraska, and she was accused of murder in 1974.”
Examples work well for me, so I’ll share a couple more with you:
The amazon product description for Angela Hunt’s biblical story, Esther, Royal Beauty, says, “When an ambitious tyrant threatens genocide against the Jews, an inexperienced young queen must take a stand for her people.”
Here’s the product description pitch for When Sparrows Fall by Meg Moseley: “Freedom. Safety. Love. Miranda vows to reclaim them—for herself and for her children.”
As you can see, amazon product descriptions offer some good pitches (remember you’re aiming at one or two sentences). A book catalogue is another great way to study pitches, since by necessity they must be brief.
So set aside some time to analyze your story and come up with a riveting pitch. I guarantee it will prove to be a great marketing tool.