23 March 2011

The Other Stuff

So you've written a fabulous book, polished it until it sparkles, had peer reviewers and improved it yet again... what do you do?


Yeah, erm... I hate to be the bearer of bum news, but before you think about querying, marketing, pitching, anallat... you have several more things to WRITE...

The Elevator Pitch

The set up for this is... suppose you find yourself in an elevator with a dream agent/publisher... your chance with a captive audience for 15 seconds... they give you the go to pitch your book... what do you say?

[You should ALSO have this for random people who ask about the book, by the way, so even if you will never, in your wildest dreams, end up in that elevator, it is still good to have one. No excuses.]

This is not ONE pitch, but a handful of varied length and detail so you can cater to the time you have and the detail you think the listener wants. I suggest:

A 25 word version (one solid sentence that gives the essence of your story that will conjure a very clear emotion and make the reader want to hear in specifics, though at this length, specifics DON'T really go here.

A 50 word version: MC, goal, obstacle, hint of journey. (same thing, only you can give names, places and a detail or two to tie it to the other one)

A query pitch. Nathan Bransford says the sweet spot is about 250 words... two paragraphs. There are a thousand sites that give a far better summary of this than I could, but there are a few keys. It should be present tense, third person, regardless of your book (I'm sure exceptions get through, but this is the standard). It should OOZE your voice, which can be tricky if you are changing tenses and viewpoints. You need to be clear who the MC is, what they want, what stands in their way and give some idea what they will have to get past to accomplish their goal.

PRACTICE ALL OF THESE ORALLY. You think I'm kidding? How awkward is it to meet someone who wants to hear about your books... THESE are your tools. If you can't make them sound good in conversation, how will they read (or sound) to your dream agent?

Before you use the query pitch in a query, I ALSO strongly recommend vetting it with some pros... find some published authors in your genre and ask for feedback. Ask them to tell YOU what they think your book is about, based on the query. Ask what isn't clear. The more feedback you can get, the better, but I will tell you now, there are some people with a magic touch on these... people who really know how to pitch... see if you can find a couple of THOSE... (people who, even if they aren't published, get a high rate of requests—hint--this is NOT me)

Author Bio

Say what?

I am going to tell a tale on myself now. My first request for more than just a few pages asked for 75 pages, an author bio and a synopsis (coming next). My EXPERIENCE with a bio is what we attach to GRANTS at work... it is basically a brief resumé. Education, work, publications... well and good, eh? But the FORMAT is all wrong. Doesn't matter... I didn't KNOW that, so I basically sent a resumé. *dies*

In THIS environment, think 'what goes on the back cover about the author'. If you have publications, this is definitely where to show them off—if you DON'T, it can be trickier, as this is more than just the sentence or two that goes in the query... it is more like a paragraph... and it shouldn't be stupid filler stuff, but it does need to say SOMETHING... and it can be challenging when you don't have writing credits, writing-related education, professional memberships... the FEEL of it depends a little on the work it goes with... (meaning for some genres, it is a-okay to be playful, for others, not so much)

Some ideas for what to include if you have nothing 'legitimate':

-when and how you fell in love with your genre
-anything interesting about you
-something that brings out your personality (like I think I am safe saying I write from my bathtub, as it is part of ME)

Whatever the case, have it READY, because someone will ask for it when you aren't expecting it.


Shoot me now, will you? Seriously. A synopsis is perhaps the most painful writing experience you will have. Know how you wrote a fabulous 400 page book? Now you have to put ALL OF IT in a page or two...

Unlike the pitch that is geared only to make the reader want to read MORE, this one needs to show you can plot a darned book... the twists, turns... not all of them, but enough of them to prove your stuff. There are also some great blogs telling how on this... I recommend going to Writer's Knowledge Base and searching synopsis. (this is good advice for the query, too)

But that isn't all... the one-two page version may not be the only one you will need. SOME publishers or agents want to see a detailed synopsis... Now I HEARD this is about a page per 25 pages, but I think that is too much... this is more like an 8-10 page summary of your book.

Most agents won't ask for these, but believe me, they are NOT the kind of thing you want to do last minute, so it's better to have them ready before you start querying.

So yeah... you aren't done yet... but at least now you know what you still need to do, eh?


Matthew MacNish said...

I can handle all of this except the synopsis. God I hate synopses.

LTM said...

omg! I'm telling you, Matthew Rush steals my lines. Line thief!

I was reading this and thinking, "Can do that, can do that, GOD I hate synopses..."

*sigh* :D

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Great point! Really, we have to write our way through the whole process, don't we? Am tweeting. :)

Tundiel said...

This post depresses and scares me so much....

I KNOW it has to be done, but still. *cinges* Great advice, Tami, however unpalatable it is.

Tundiel said...

Er.... that's *cringes*.... man, these dawn shifts make my typos worse than ever. *shifty*

Sarah Allen said...

This is fantastic advice, and a great reality check. I would also add that once one project is done, its a good idea to move straight onto a new one. Thanks for a great post :)

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Hart Johnson said...

*giggles at Matthew and Leigh* JINX! Oddly, I have almost as hard a time with the short stuff, though--at least until Kahlotus... my other short stuff is hard to get the gist of quickly.

Elizabeth-thank you so much!!!

Tara-I know... scary stuff! And I'm relieved you weren't tryint to start me on fire...

Sarah-absolutely, keep writing! I try to always have a writing or editing project... though I'd argue a synopsis is a hefty writing project in my book...

February Grace said...

*shaking fist* Curse you, synopses!!!

Jan Morrison said...

what is the plural of synopsis? synopei? I found a great site on Elizabeth's list to do them and did one for The Rock Walker but now I cannot remember where it was. Oh - Mini somebody!! I'll find it and get back to ya. Have to do one for True - not looking forward to it but hey I had oral surgery this month and recovered so...