Before you publish, Part 4 – The pitch

Before you Publish - 4

In the initial post to this series, I suggested you need to have developed and memorized both a 5 and 30-second pitch for your book. Actually, you need this for all of your books. I am embarrassed to say that I am horrible at this. In the month or so since releasing Wine Bottles and Broomsticks, I’ve realized just how important this is. If you ignore every bit of advice anyone ever gives you on publishing, this bit had better not be ignored. Imagine the following situation.

Them: You wrote a book? Cool, what’s it about?

Me: Um… Like witches and stuff.

Them: …

Me: …

No sale. You really need to do the following:

Them: You wrote a book? Cool, what’s it about?

Me (5-second pitch): The book is about a regular guy who unexpectedly becomes a witch hunter, and everything goes totally wrong.

Them: how does everything go wrong?

Me: Rick Basket is an FBI investigator who gets transferred to a witch-hunting unit. He meets a red-headed wine bar owner, who helps him find witches, ruins his marriage, and gets him into a chase with a witch that nearly gets him killed. Every step of the way he finds even more witches and all of them seem hell-bent on seeing him dead.

These aren’t the best possible pitches. I know the content of the book, and it’s almost painful to distill the content of the story into just a few breaths. However, it’s essential. I can’t tell you how many times in the past month I’ve been asked: What’s it about? and I’ve stumbled all over the narrative trying to give folks a quick two-breath description that communicates the plot. Every writer is going to struggle with this. Sometimes, the story lends itself to a short description, and it’s a relatively straightforward task to communicate this. A fantastic case example might be The Martian by Andy Weir. Think about his potential pitch:

(The Martian 5-second pitch) It’s about a man stuck on Mars, trying to survive long enough for a rescue mission to get him home.

I could give a 30-second pitch on this, but it’s not my book, so it seems weird. The point is, some stories are going to be easier than others. I mean, could you imagine trying to get a 5-second pitch for something like the Game of Thrones? Yeah, me either.

I want to point out that these are incredibly hard to do well. It takes a lot of work to get them right and rattle them off without having to think too hard or stumble. All that said, if you go to publish, whether it be indie, or traditional. You MUST have all of this nailed down. This is a sales pitch. It’s not just a sales pitch for your book, remember, as an author, you’re selling YOU and your ability to tell stories more than an individual book.

What’s been your experience with the pitch? As an author, do you have any sage wisdom? Leave a comment.

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