Tag: pitching

pitching

And more pitch tips!

Last night (or possibly last week–I’m not sure. Still on California time) I spoke to the Central Coast Writers meeting in Pacific Grove. A truly lovely group of people who made me and my daughter feel very welcome. My daughter was there to assist me in my talk, which was about how to use pitches to help you sell your book, but also how to use them to diagnose problems with your novel.

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Pitch tips

The first question I always ask when I’m helping someone write a pitch is: What is interesting about your book? Usually the answer falls into one of four categories: character, plot, setting or voice.

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Pitching

 This past weekend I worked at the New York Pitch Conference, which is always a fun/exhilarating/exhausting experience. I’m the workshop leader for the general fiction group, which includes women’s fiction, literary, upmarket and so on. One of the great perks of my job is that I get to listen to editors and hear what they’re looking for and one thing I heard a lot this time was how important it is to know very clearly who you are writing like, and, if at all possible, to try and make connections with that person. Or, as one person said, more or less, if you want to be the next Michael Chabon, you should try to go to his readings, meet readers who are interested in his work, and, if at all possible, get him to write a blurb for you.  That led me to think about how one of the nice things about the mystery writing community is that the writers are so accessible. At the most recent Malice Domestic, I chatted briefly with Louise Penny and Nancy Pickard, was on a panel with assorted great writers, was in an anthology with other assorted great writers and went to the bar and met other great writers. The fabulous Hank Phillippi Ryan wrote a blurb for Maggie Dove. All of this came about because I crept out of my office and forced myself to get out there. So get out there, writer friends, and make friends. Starting with the Miss Demeanors. We’re happy to know you! 

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Pitching

This past weekend I was a workshop leader at the New York Pitch Conference. I’m in charge of the women’s fiction/literary fiction/memoir group, so I get to hear many wonderful stories. Many that I hope to read in book form at some point or another. I am continually awed by the diversity of stories out there. Just in my group there were people from India and Ghana and Lebanon and England. Professors and Ph.Ds. People who’ve survived some terrible things and others who’ve survived Hollywood. People who seem very polished and people who are scribbling notes on bits of paper. Mothers and daughters and some really odd people. It’s also fascinating to me how individual this publishing business is. Every editor reacts to each pitch in a different way. The very same pitch will be met with enthusiasm from one editor and blank indifference from another. They like for you to have a large social media presence. They like to know you’ve worked hard on your story–whether by studying writing or having pieces workshopped by beta readers. They like for you to have good comps. They like all these things unless they don’t really care because they like your story so much. Or they like you so much.  Or they like your shoes. It’s a mystery.  But I’m happy to report that almost every member of my group got a request from an editor, and most got more than one. Now the next part of the process begins, the revising and waiting and hoping. Fingers crossed!    

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Book Promotion = More Writing

When I’m working on a novel, I write everyday. When I am promoting a book, it feels as though I’m writing every minute.  Why am I spending more time tapping away on a keyboard after finishing my latest novel than I did when I was working on it? In two words…guest blogging. For a debut or little-known author, guest blogging is a key tool in getting the name of your book out there. Sure, we mystery writers are all hoping that stellar reviews will sell our work (and they do). But unless you’re fortunate enough to have landed national press through your publisher, few people will visit your Amazon page to read any of that glowing critical praise. Folks need to either hear about your novel from a friend or read about it on a site that they regularly visit. In the month since The Widower’s Wife came out I’ve written: 2 posts for Booktrib.com (One story has yet to be published. Here’s the story that ran:How I Made Two Cinematic Book Trailers Each For Less Than $500) 1 post for Jungle Red Writers on why a horrible cruise inspired me to write my last novel. It’s scheduled to run on September 21.  1 post on How I Got My Agent for Writer’s Digest.  1 Q&A for Bookhounds. There are pictures of my dog in this one. 1 Q&A for MRS. MOMMY BOOKNERDS 1 article for Medium.com completely unrelated to my latest novel but, hopefully, enjoyable enough that people who like my writing style will consider visiting Amazon. 6 Pitches for articles in newspapers and blogs that would include my bio with a link to my book. 10 Letters to local libraries suggesting that they carry my book and volunteering to come speak. Dozens of book-related Facebook posts and tweets. All this writing is in addition to what I normally do here blogging with my fellow MissDemeanors and working on my next novel. Does all this blogging pay off? Well, I can’t know for certain. But I do know that I didn’t write nearly as much when my debut novel, Dark Turns, came out and I didn’t make any lists, despite pretty good reviews. I didn’t realize that I was supposed to write about writing or that there are so many books out there that writers have to assume much of the promotion themselves. The Widower’s Wife, as of this writing, is ranked in Amazon’s top 100 for all Mystery, Thriller and Suspense books. So I’m guessing that the blogging is having an impact. At the very least, all this writing lets my publisher know that I’m willing to do the hard work of promotion. And if they know I’m working, maybe they’ll work a bit harder getting the attention of other people who will write about my book.        

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Pitch Not-So-Perfect

             I tell long stories. Shortening them has always been a struggle.            From the time I was a child, I’d go on and on with details, trying to give a sense of place and character, while my overworked parents begged for the bare facts. Later, I became a newspaper reporter and the scourge of copy editors. Daily, I’d beg for another inch of newsprint to include a detail that I felt crucial to my story as the higher ups dismissed my pleas as trying to include needless, scene-setting “color.” Things weren’t much better when I moved to writing for business magazines. Serious people, I was told, didn’t want to know that some tech giant had twenty kinds of cereal in their cupboards. Such “fascinating” details were superfluous.            Eventually, I left daily journalism for fiction writing. Doing so felt like moving from a cramped New York city studio to a New Jersey McMansion. I was loaded with space. Finally, I would have eighty to a hundred thousand words to tell a story.           Imagine my disappointment when I learned that nearly every long-form writer needs to pen a pitch.            Pitches are the universe’s way of checking my ego. All the pride I feel after finishing a novel tends to dissipate when I’m forced to write the one page summary. In some ways, writing the pitch is worse than writing a short article. At least when I was a newspaper reporter I hadn’t already crafted my perfect story and then been told to write the Spark Notes version.            Thankfully, my agent has given me some sage advice on writing pitches. She’s told me not to try to get in every character arc or plot point. Agents and editors want a sense of the protagonist and the main problem. Maybe they’ll read about a subplot if its truly germane to the main action. They want a taste of my writing style. The pitch itself should leave the person pitched wanting to read the book, not feeling as though they already have.            Perhaps my favorite piece of pitch advice was to answer the questions: What If and So What. I used the technique to pitch my latest published book: The Widower’s Wife. WHAT IF a young New Jersey housewife fell overboard on a cruise ship with a large life insurance policy and an investigator must decide whether her death was an accident, suicide or murder. SO WHAT? And the life of her young daughter and others hang in the balance of his decision.  Here’s how the pitch came out:   Ana Bacon, a beautiful young housewife, tumbles off a cruise ship into dark and deadly waters, leaving behind a multi-million dollar life insurance policy for her small daughter. Investigator Ryan Monahan is a numbers man. So when his company sends him the Bacon case, he doubts that her death is the tragic accident that it seems. Initially, he assumes suicide. But the more Monahan uncovers about Ana’s life the more he realizes how many people would kill to keep her secrets hidden and that his ruling on the payout could leave a murder free to kill again.  What do you think about pitches? What is your favorite method?

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