Friday, August 16, 2013

The Perfect Pitch: Hook, Line, and Sinker

In a lot of ways pitching your book is like fishing, casting a line and hoping for some bites. Okay, let’s be honest, we’re not really looking for bites so much as we want to hook a BIG FISH!

But if you’ve ever gone fishing you know that it’s not always as easy as it seems.

Whether your six-pound bass is that superstar agent or your dream publisher, you’ve got to go in with a game plan because we all know when we start talking about our book, well . . . lets just say we have a tendency to ramble. And with so much pressure and competition, and very little time to cast the lure, how can you be concise and still utterly unforgettable that ten minutes will have your big fish catching the vision?

Here are a few tips on how to make a splash:

1. Prepare your tackle box in advance.

Do your research on all those fish and go in armed with knowledge. Read their bio. Know what they are looking for. Who they represent.

If it’s an agent, read their blog, get a feel for their personality so you know how best to present your story. Mention things you like or respect about their blog or their authors so they are confident your meeting was intentional and not a blind cast with the wrong bait.

If it’s an editor, research the author’s they’ve worked with, better yet, read some of the books they’ve edited. Then you’ll have a point of reference.

Be armed with sample chapters, a one sheet, a business card, and a short synopsis, just in case they want a nibble. Be prepared.

2. Be some tasty bait.

We know underneath that squirmy worm or flashy spinner there is a nice sharp hook. We’ll get to that in a minute. What I’m talking about here is the thing that gets them swimming along a bit faster, tempts their mouth to start chomping.

So, how’s your presentation? Have you rehearsed your elevator pitch--in front of a mirror, then in front of another human being? Do you sound robotic or conversational? Have you considered what types of questions they might ask you and how you might respond? You won’t be doing all the talking, so are you prepared to answer questions about your story?

Have you chosen an outfit that is both professional and portrays your style? Your personality will be something that is slathered (in one way or another) on every page of your novel as if imbedded with your fingerprints. But before they crack open your pages (if they ever do) YOU are the open book they get to read first. You wouldn’t show up to a job interview in your Thanksgiving pants, a wrinkled shirt, and with bed head, would you? As much as we hate it to be true, our first impressions are generally visual—Ahem! We all sometimes judge a book by its cover. Moral of the story here: Don’t wear something that makes you look like everyone else. Wear something that looks like you! The best version of YOU you can put forth. Something that makes you feel confident, and just as unique as your story they should publish!

Smile! This one seems so elementary but when we get nervous, often times our baser instincts skip town faster than the pitch that just flew out of our head while standing in the elevator with Agent X. Take a deep breath, remember the joy of writing your story, think of how your book could touch the lives of so many readers, and waltz in with that enthusiasm.

Make eye contact. Don’t be that weird introverted writer that only converses with imaginary people. J Sometimes these things don’t come naturally. Don’t panic. Agents and editors are people with nerves and flaws and feelings just like you. Take a deep breath, look into those beady fish eyes, give them a firm finn-shake, a smile, and a cordial introduction. See that, you are some tasty bait! All those fish will be circling.

-Hook ‘em!

Writing a book is no easy task. Boiling it all down to a few compelling and eloquent sentences is even harder! You may have written a great story, but even if it’s there, you may struggle to figure out exactly what the hook is. (Read Ashley’s post yesterday for some great hook tips!)

Your story might be a romance, but there’s definitely more to it than that. Think about your main conflict and how it relates to some kind of irony. For example: A woman running from the law under an assumed identity falls in love with an undercover cop. Your hook lies within those parameters. Then think about the theme of your story. Is it redemption, forgiveness? Does the main character have a hobby or passion that characterizes the way they think or act on the page? Draw those words out and weave them into your hook. That way you will not only get a sense of the plot, and conflict, but a sense of the “feel” and takeaway as well.

If you’re still drawing a blank, start with a story question. Beth Vogt is great with these! For Wish You Were Here the question was something like…Can the wrong kiss lead to Mr. Right? Use yours as a spring board to toy with hook ideas.

Alright your turn! Anything to add? What are your greatest fears about pitching? Your greatest pitfalls? Need some help? Let’s get you ready to reel ‘em in! Cast a question, the lines are open!


Beth K. Vogt said...

Thanks for the shout out, Amy.
One thing I've learned: crafting a strong pitch is not easy, but it is so worth it!
One thing that helps me is brainstorming with other writers. The give and take of creativity is so vital to the process. This is one of the reasons I advocate the MBT Pitch seminar, which happens the Friday morning of ACFW this year.
If you can't make that, than brainstorm with your writing buddies via the phone or Skype or email -- although there's something to be said about face-to-face or at least voice-to-voice brainstorming.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Amy, Beth IS good at this! :)

I loved your thoughts and suggestions, and the fishing theme. :) Well done! I definitely need to do a little studying up on the agents I requested meetings with. Thanks for the reminder!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

I agree Beth! I think the pitch seminar is the perfect opportunity to get in that last minute prep and work out all the jitters. :) Also, having a great writer friend get their eyes and ears on your pitch is one of the best things you can do to prepare!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Always a good idea, Jeanne! It's difficult when you don't know who you are meeting with in advance, but better safe than sorry! Just be calm and confident in the story God gifted you. You're gonna do great!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Good stuff, Amy. Great tips, and I love all your fishing analogies. :) If anyone can hook that big one, I reckon it's you!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

LOL! Thanks! That's funny, Karen! And I love your use of the word reckon... sounding a bit western ;)

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Excellent post, friend! Grateful for your wisdom!