Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pitch It, Pitch It Good

Now that I've got a good 80s song in your head that you'll hate me for the rest of the day until Lady Gaga or Beyonce get stuck in your head when you hear them on the radio, I'll move on with my post. (Yes, that was a long sentence.)

Back in February, I attended LTUE. I took the opportunity there to speak to Lisa Mangum. (When you see someone with a job you want not talking to anyone, you take advantage of it to learn.) Something I asked about was what she would be looking for concerning pitches at the LDS Storymakers conference that April. My plan was to figure out what to say that would sound good for my book to get her interested in it in April. But instead, I learned, in general, what to begin with.

I spent the next day or so working on a pitch for my book. Really, I just didn't like it. And so, I thought about it for the next month. What is a pitch? It's a short one-two sentence description of your book. It's like the first sentence of your book because it's suppose to grab the agent/editor in and make them beg for more. But it has to avoid some simple principles. And over the last eight months, I have learned a few tidbits that I'll share with you.

1. Don't ask a question: What happens when you take an agent and ask him/her a question to get them thinking? The answer is simple, they'll usually move on. Do they want to think? No. An agent wants to read something and say "I liked that, it was good." When it's all done, maybe they'll think. But they don't want to sit there and say "Well, I've never thought about what would happen if the Rocky Mountains really were the homes to Dwarfs and Elves."

2. Avoid cliches: Seriously, people still think they're cute because they're the one using them. They're not. They're annoying. I suffer from this problem and have been trying to overcome my own 'intelligent pride' and realize that you may as well shoot yourself in the foot. (NOTE: Utah Children's Writers and I are not responsible if you shoot yourself in the foot. It was just an example of using a cute cliche.)

3. Two sentences: Seriously, two sentences. Mr. Arrogant Author: "But my book is so good that I couldn't do it justice in just two sentences." Miss Pitched Agent: "And your pride is so big it can't fit in this room with me." Find a way to be concise. I've read books that elaborated a beautiful scene into garbage. And heard a sentence that spoke a million words to me (that sentence would not be a million words either, or anything close to it.)

4. Pitch confidently: I've never pitched. I plan to soon. One thing I've learned is that I can get arrogant. However, if I pay attention, I can be confident. There is a HUGE difference between arrogance and confidence. In sports, I personally look at most quarterbacks as very arrogant. Seriously. However, unless he does something stupid, I will always look at Kurt Warner of the St. Louis Rams/Arizona Cardinals as confident.

5. Practice on Someone: You know what was so great about Lisa Mangum...I mean....what is so great about her (gee, that sounded bad)....she is always pleasant to talk to. I went to Storymakers and shared my pitches to her. She didn't like one and the other sounded interesting. Well, the one she didn't like was the book I actually wanted to pitch. Fail? No, that would be if I gave up.

See, I worked on it some more. I reworked it and tried to see how it sounded each time. I knew it very well and had it memorized. So I said "this is my pitch for when I get to use it." Randomly, my wife and I made a last minute trip to Vegas. And I saw that Lisa was signing at a nearby Deseret Book. (Literally, the closest one to where my brother lives.) So my wife and I went. Lisa and I had a good discussion. And my wife forced me to pitch to her, but only with Lisa's permission. No, I wasn't trying to sell it and my book had a lot to go. But I know my pitch. In the end, Lisa said "I like it." And it wasn't a "Yeah, I kinda like it, it's ok, you know you suck though" tone. It was with some enthusiasm.

I don't think Lisa's buying my book when it's complete. Maybe if it's on the shelf of a bookstore. But she did like my pitch. Does it matter when I did it? No. I just did what I could to get myself ready for the day that I really do pitch it to people.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.


Scott said...

Very good post, T.J. Thanks for the pointers!

Julie Daines said...

That's good food for thought. I don't think I've organized a quick pitch yet in my mind. You've made me think I better get on that.