ETA: The first thing to say is that a pitch isn’t necessarily about selling your book to an agent/editor. Time to move out of that mindset! Read on…
Here’s another one to file under conversations from Twitter. This came up this past weekend in a conversation about Blood and Chocolate by Annette Kurtis Clause. It’s a great book and I highly recommend it. Someone (@lihsa, follow the link for her article on it) on Twitter asked for a review/description and the challenge was on. 140 character review for a book? It’s the “elevator pitch” at its most refined!
Now, it’s been a few years since I read Blood and Chocolate so even though it’s one of the books I recommend often when someone asks for paranormal YA, I still had to stop and think how to refine it in an interesting way. Years after I’d read it. Hard!
I came up with: teenage female werewolf struggles to find acceptance in a world that doesn’t know about the supernatural. Moody, dark and emotional.
I don’t think it’s the best review/pitch but it does start to refine the ideas. I could make it punchier, ramp up the hook, really get someone interested. Let’s see…
Rebelling against her society. Searching for love. Desperate for a chance. Can this teen wolf reconcile what she is with who she wants to be?
Hmm, I’m not sure. I’m actually over by one character but I figure if I delete a space, I’ll be okay. What do you think? Better? It took me 15 minutes of fiddling to come up with that versus the first one, which I just popped off the top of my head.
But what I’m getting at is that it’s important to be able for authors to refine your book to its purest hook. The conflict, the angst, the info that’s going to make a reader, editor or agent want to pick it up to read, go find an excerpt, request a full or keep reading your query letter.
TV does this with what they call log lines. A one sentence hook meant to engage the viewer and get them to watch the show. Something that will easily fit in the TV guide or, for many of us now, on the guide channel. There’s no second chances when the viewer has only that guide to look at and base their decision off of. So the log line has to be good enough to convince the viewer to turn the channel right then and there, without a bunch of extranneous detail or someone saying “oh wait, that didn’t quite hook you? Well let me tell you just a little more”. The log line is it. The same should be considered true of the elevator pitch or, for purposes of my blog post, the Twitch (Twitter pitch. Ha! I’m funny).
At Samhain, we do something similar with each of our books’ blurbs, but we call it a tagline. If you go over to the website, the tagline is what you see on this page. Something to pique the interest of readers browsing our website, to entice them to click through to the book’s blurb and then excerpt.
I remember being at a conference a few years back and someone at our lunch table asking another author there about the book she wrote. I remember it was a historical but that’s all I remember because she spent the next 15 minutes talking, in depth, about the plot of her book and all the details. Ouch. Those are the times that I have to really struggle to pay attention. It’s harder if it happens during a pitch session because, let’s be honest, it’s hard for any of us to be talked to for 8 to 10 minutes without drifting off and thinking about lunch (unless you’re at lunch, in which case you’re thinking about your post-lunch nap and how much you’d like one). But I can be hooked by a plot refined down to its most interesting conflicts and ideas. Something that either makes me want to ask questions and find out more, or go buy the book and find out more.
In other words, the elevator pitch isn’t just for elevators. It’s for pitch sessions, query letters, the bar, NOT the bathroom, the bookstore, standing in line at the grocery store…well you get the idea. You’re selling your book. To whoever is your audience. Maybe it’s a reader, maybe it’s your dream agent. But the only way to sell it is to get them interested.
All this is to circle back around to what Twitter can do for your pitch. Twitter is currently the largest social media platform behind only Facebook and MySpace. But I believe it’s more open than Facebook or MySpace. Unless you have your Twitter account marked as private, anyone can read your Twitter page. Even those not “following” you. And you may end up with people following your Twitters that you might not have had the opportunity to communicate with/to anywhere else. But Twitter only allows you to type 140 characters (that’s spaces, letters and punctuation). It teaches you to refine your thoughts to the purest level and type only what you need to get the thought out there. And it’s because of those limitations that Twitter can help you refine your pitch. You only have 140 characters and you have a new book releasing, a new writing project in the works, etc (**please read side note at end of this post) and you want to tell people about it. How do you do that in 140 characters or less? You take your elevator pitch (you have one, right?) and you pare it down even further. No, it’s not easy, but once you do it, you can use it everywhere. Book promo, pens, websites, business cards, social media and in person.
Okay, you got it? So let’s hear your Twitch! If you don’t belong to Twitter and want to make sure you’re not going over the 140 character, open Notepad or something similar and let it do the count for you. If enough people leave their Twitter pitches in the comments, I’ll pull a few out and highlight their books/websites/blogs next week in a separate blog post. Ready, get set, Twitch!
**side note: please don’t query editors/agents on Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace. It’s really not the appropriate place because most of us use social media as a mix of work, pleasure and goofing off, and we’d prefer to get business related proposals that follow our submissions guidelines at our submissions email address.