A warm welcome back for Diane Holmes, with the last entry on her 7 part series about pitching…and for today we have…
#7 “Listening to you is like Herding Cats.”
Translation: “What? Wait, No, over there and there and there. Yeah– But– I don’t under– Un-huh. I think– Okay, start over from– Wha–?”
Reality: While books are complex and unfold over many pages, pitches are elegant and illuminate the unique aspect that makes you want to dive into those pages. 1,000 cats vs. 1 cat.
It’s good to be passionate about your book, but you still need to present your book’s hook with logical links from one idea to another. And ultimately, you need to demonstrate that your book can be matched to an audience beyond you (aka interest the person you’re pitching to).
Solution: Think of the editor or agent as your audience. Bring your audience with you as you pitch by understanding what he or she already knows, thinks, and feels about your book’s subject and genre. Start there, then talk them through your book’s hook, building information logically.
If your novel is about a world in which magical beings named Linkers are tied to human souls, don’t start with, “Linker Mai-su just loves what she does and she loves all mankind and she’s their only hope. Souls are really these vortexes and everyone has one except for a few. And they’re really world-makers and really powerful, but that’s not Mai-su. And….”
Instead, you might start with the genre, then with what the audience needs to know first to make sense out of what you’ll tell them next. “This is a fantasy novel set in a parallel dimension, where every being is linked spiritually across time and space to a human brother or sister living on Earth. Of all these beings, Mai-su is different because her link is to the foretold human ‘destroyer,’ the one destined to ‘kill them all.’” And so on.
The same goes for a non-fiction book. If you’re writing about three chefs at three different failing restaurants, don’t start with, “I’ve got these chefs and they’re all wild personalities, bigger than life, and they yell and—well, not all of them—but you’re in the kitchen and you get to see how the restaurant runs, because 99% of all restaurants fail , you know, and….”
Instead, start with what your audience (the editor or agent) already knows, which is nothing, and build up, “My book is a portrait of three different failing restaurants, the chefs who live and die by their food, and their individual struggles to turn their businesses around and succeed. And throughout the book, I share the recipes each chef creates in an effort to finally bring in new patrons and save their livelihoods.”
The good news about all 7 of these problems is that there are solutions. 99% of writers start out pretty bad at pitching. It’s simply not in our craft-of-writing skill set.
But that’s just where you begin. The next step is to improve, and that’s what Pitch University is all about. Join us and start becoming the person you’d hire to pitch your own books.
And that’s no bull.
Diane Holmes is the Founder and Chief Alchemist behind Pitch University, an online website where writers learn to pitch from the literary agents and editors (and maybe even sell their book in the process). http://www.pitch-university.com/
And yes, she was born in Texas.