When going to a writers conference, you need to pack more than comfortable shoes. You need to pack your best pitch.
Because when you get that face to face with an editor, you want to rock your pitch.
Here’s how to put your pitch together with all the right elements, and get it polished and packed for a writing conference.
A good pitch will convey your enthusiasm for your project, reveal the mood of the story and create enough excitement and curiosity in the editor to entice them to request a proposal. What pitching doesn’t need to be is a heart-stopping, frightening experience. No matter how you shake with unnecessary nerves or how badly you stutter through your pitch, chances are excellent that if your story fits the editor’s line and is something she is looking for, she will ask to see a proposal.
So relax. A good pitch will do the work for you. Your only task when you enter an agent/editor appointment is to have done your homework.
1. Can you explain your story in High Concept? High Concept (HC) is a Hollywood term for presenting a story idea in one line, giving the audience an overview of both story plot and theme. Yes, you read that correctly, one line. If you’ve seen the movie, “The Player” then you are familiar with this method. The first step in preparing your pitch is to find your HC, which is essentially utilizing familiar plots, stories and myths in comparison to your story.
When I started working on my book, STEALING THE BRIDE, I used the HC line, “It Happened One Night meets the Jane Austen.”
I once heard Susan Wiggs describe her book THE LIGHTHOUSE as “Beauty and the Beast in a lighthouse.”
Now you find yours.
2. Why High Concept works. Any time you use a familiar theme/story/fairy tale, it comes ready made with emotion, memories, and images. By using fairy tales, myths, beloved movies and legends that everyone is familiar with, you compare and contrast your book setting an immediate mood. You don’t need to spend a lot of time on back story or other elements of your plot, because the moment you use an HC pitch, the editor knows exactly what your manuscript is all about.
If I were to say, “Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending,” you immediately know this is a story of star-crossed lovers from feuding families who don’t die at the end.
3. After the HC, what comes next? The body of the pitch tells the editor how you have spun a new take on a familiar story. A good pitch will create excitement about your story, reveal theme, entice readers with the conflict and convey the uniqueness of your story.
In essence what I’m describing are the elements of a back copy blurb (BCB). Take four or five books that are similar to what you write and study the back copy, paying particular attention to the use of language and structure. (Here are the BCBs for Six Impossible Things, Along Came a Duke, and Brazen Angel) One very important thing to remember: a BCB leaves you hanging as to story resolution, a good pitch won’t!
4. The real work begins. To start, divide a sheet of paper into three sections, heading one with the name of your heroine, the other, your hero, and the third, write in your HC line. (If you aren’t writing a romance, you can just use your main characters.)
Under each section, brainstorm at least twenty words that describe each of these headings. Try to avoid physical descriptions, rather think of words which get at the character’s essence. For the heroine of STEALING THE BRIDE, Lady Diana Fordham, I used: spinster, daring, resolute, determined, inventive, crafty, sensual, risk taker, concealed, audacious, etc. These words reveal her personality, her conflict, her goals, her story. When you are finished, you have a project orientated thesaurus from which to draft your pitch.
5. Drafting your pitch. In the first two paragraphs, outline the conflict and goals for your characters. Again, go look at the BCBs linked above and read the copy, or pull similar books from your shelves and begin reading the backs. The more you study, the more you read, the more you’ll see how great BCBs are crafted.
As you work:
• Try to draw out the theme, mood or quality of the story by using words from your thesaurus. If the story is suspense, the audience should feel the drama in your story. If it is a warm and fuzzy romance, the audience should go away feeling the need for a cozy blanket and cup of cocoa.
• Next, make sure you have demonstrated that your heroine and hero’s goals/conflict are opposing. Simply put, show how your story conflict is “two dogs, one bone,” that the character’s goals are in opposition. Show the editor that your story has depth and the hero and heroine are going to be battling from the first page to the resolution to have that bone.
• For what I call the collision paragraph, I try to demonstrate the romance of the story. Why these two people are so different or alike and why they will ultimately find love and romance. Again, this is a great place to draw your HC theme into the pitch, and look for language that will evoke the sexual tension/mood of your story.
• Finally, make sure your language includes your enthusiasm for your story. This is your 30 seconds of fame, make it the most memorable 30 seconds of your audience’s life. Leave them breathless to read your entire story.
6. Practice your pitch. Find someone who has never heard the elements of your story before and practice your pitch on them. Listen carefully to their questions, because these may well be the same questions an editor will ask, and you can either rework your pitch to fix the holes or have a ready answer with which to fill in the questions.
Anticipate as many questions as you can about conflict, motivation, plot devices and the resolution, and then think out or write out your answers.
When You Get There
7. During the appointment. Here is where you need to breathe. The appointment is just that, an appointment. The next 10 minutes will not make or break your life. Truly. So just breathe and do your thing.
In group appointments, listen to the questions the editor asks other authors. This will give you a good idea as to what the editor is looking for and what they don’t want to see. Refocus your pitch accordingly.
Don’t ever monopolize the conversation, comment on other pitches, or interrupt anyone else. Never.
Politely introduce yourself, offer your HC line, and then after taking another deep breath and therefore allowing your marvelous idea to set the mood, give your complete pitch and then close your mouth and smile. Answer questions from the editor with direct, concise answers. Thank them for their time and ask them if they would like to see the complete manuscript or sample chapters and a synopsis.
That’s it. Done. Kudos. Huzzah.
8. After the appointment. Make sure you send the editor exactly what they requested promptly. Sadly, editors say that they hear wonderful story ideas all the time and then never see the manuscripts. I know!!
Have your requested materials headed for the editor’s Inbox as soon as you get home. Write “Requested Materials” in the subject line and remind the editor in the opening lines of your email that you met at the “XYZ” conference and the attached materials are what they requested, consider putting in a few lines from your pitch to remind them about your story and then let the magic happen.
Good luck and Happy Conferencing! Questions? Drop a line in the comments or send me a note on Twitter. Links in the sidebar.
Like this post? Here’s another popular post: The 21 Best Books on Writing
I’ve been on a reading binge–anything and everything. As you’ve probably noticed, I don’t read just one type of book, I read all over the place. I always have. And my July reads were no different as evidenced by these four very unique stories.
Looking for something new? Have you read:
Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
How is it that I missed this series the first time around? I should be pointing fingers at all my friends who didn’t insist that I READ the Kate Daniels series, starting with the first book, Magic Bites, but apparently now is my turn to dive into this fun and snarky and witty urban fantasy series about magical detective, Kate Daniels. The world building is fascinating, the characters sharp and well drawn, and Kate, well, Kate is just what you want in an urban fantasy–tough, hard as nails and wise-cracking. I adored her. Now I have an entire series to devour and kick ass through. Lucky me.
And hell yes, “Here, Kitty, Kitty.”
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
In Mary Robinette Kowal’s reimagined history of the space race, the earth has been hit by a huge meteor, giving the need to get off the planet a whole new urgency. But further than that, The Calculating Stars gives us a female heroine who will shake up the status quo and push toward a more inclusive vision for the future of space travel and society.
The Calculating Stars is a tour de force in both science and society, as Elma York, mathematical genius and pilot aiming for her spot in space, takes center stage in saving humanity. I can’t wait for the next one, The Fated Sky, which will be coming out in a few weeks.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
I went down to Denver to see a bunch of friends who were in town for Romance Writers of America, and what did we talk about? Why books, of course! And The Alice Network was mentioned several times.
So this amazing piece of historical fiction immediately got slipped to the top of the July mix. And, OMG, what an incredible read. I LOVED this book. The Alice Network is the story of two women, both involved in war time tragedies (World War I and II) and how their lives get entangled after WWII.
This book has all the great chills–adventure, suspense, a bit of romance and of course, the bonds of friendship. I could not put The Alice Network down and have been telling everyone to read it since I finished it, like yesterday.
Now I am telling you. Hint. Hint. Nudge. Nudge.
Dollybird by Anne Lazurko
Dollybird was recommended by several people I met at the Western Writers Association conference in Montana in June. Intrigued, I ordered it. The story centers around the story of a young woman from Eastern Canada who finds herself unwed and pregnant and sent by her family to Saskatchewan to have her baby far from prying eyes. But after a series of mishaps and the loss of her money, she ends up a “dollybird”, the hired housekeeper of a man trying to make it on a rough claim in the middle of the prairie. I wanted to love this book, and I liked a lot about it, but I do wish that it had more depth. I wanted that next emotional layer that seemed to be missing. But all in all, I would recommend it because it is a wonderful examination of life at the turn of the century when there was still a lot of wild country left to be settled.
This week I finally got the time to sit down and read. My reading time is so precious, and I don’t get enough of it. Sadly, I hear this lament from many writers. But no complaints this week, because I scored the perfect book.
Susanna Kearsley’s new book, Bellewether, is all that and more. It helped that I was in Canada last week and was able to pick up a hard copy of the book–Sorry, US readers, our edition doesn’t come out until August 7th.
US Edition, August 2018
I’ve come to the realization that I am not an ebook person. I just can’t get into a book on a screen. I really need to have pages, and print, and paper. So I was thrilled that I could get an “early” edition by crossing the border. Shout out to Chapters in Victoria, BC!
I will freely admit that I love Susanna’s books, (OK, adore them immensely) and Bellewether is no exception. I love the way Susanna builds a slow burn of a romance. Oh, and she makes me horribly jealous at how she leaves the reader wondering right up until the end whether this is going to end happily. She really is that good. Even when you KNOW everything will turn out okay, you still read madly because she has you utterly convinced that it might not happen.
Canadian Edition Available Now
The historical half of Bellewether is set during the Seven Year’s War in the mid 1700s, and I found both the time period and the setting (Long Island, NY) fascinating. And of course her characters just pulled me in. I could go into way more detail, but you know me–I hate any kind of spoilers and I want you to have a great time reading this book. So get it ordered, or if you are lucky enough to live or be in Canada, grab a copy with this lovely yellow cover.
BTW, which cover do you appear? I can’t make up my mind which one I like more.
Next up, I hit the library, or rather the library hit me. I got an ILL book in that I’d been hunting around for: Beyond Schoolmarms and Madams: Montana Women’s Lives.
I’d seen a reference to this book and then made a request via our library’s Interlibrary Loan. When I can get my hands on books via Interlibrary loan, it just makes my researching heart go pitter-patter. Can’t wait to see what little gems and nuggets are in this book.
But on the other hand, I saw an excerpt for Roar by Cora Carmack, recently and tagged it in my Library app to read later. Magic, power, secrets. Bad ass girl power. Right up my alley. So when I was in the library picking up the previous book, I wondered if they had Roar on hand. Which they did, to my delight and surprise.
So my reading for the rest of the weekend is set, and I am one happy girl.
What are you reading this weekend?
You know we’ll need new recommendations for the weekend after this. And the one after that. . .
There are all kinds of ways to find authors and books, but there are two new ones out there that have me filling up my TBR, and I thought I should share with you. Because, I’m nice that way. And I like enabling other people in their bookish habits. *Cue fiendish music……*
If you are on Instagram, then you want to make sure you are following RomanceLibrary and her #romancestagram hashtag because each week she and a number of other bloggers and readers (and of course, you can as well) are posting books from their favorite historical romance tropes.
So for example in June, fans, readers and authors will be posting the following categories (with some examples from my bookshelf):
June 4-10 Relationship of Convenience
(No Marriage of Convenience, “Something Borrowed” from Four Weddings and a Sixpence, Mad About the Major)
June 11-17 Epistolary Romances
(Love Letters from a Duke, And the Miss Ran Away With the Rake)
June 18-24 Enemies to Lovers
(Have You Any Rogues, And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake)
June 25-July 1 Second Chance Romance
(Brazen Temptress, Memoirs of a Scandalous Red Dress, Have You Any Rogues)
Here’s a fun post I put together last month for “Ladies in Pants”.
You don’t have to go all Pinterest Flat lay to play, just snap a pick of your favorite book from the weekly theme and post it on Instagram. Just don’t forget to use the #romancestagram hashtag. Don’t feel like posting? Then just follow along and see if you can find a new favorite. (And if you are on Instagram, make sure and follow me at ElizBoyle.)
Summer Reading Bingo
The Ripped Bodice bookstore is sponsoring their 2nd Annual Summer Romance Bingo. You can find a downloadable Bingo board here and all the rules here.
And just in case you were looking for some books to fill those first few squares with, I have a few suggestions . . .
Fairy Tale Retelling? How about Cynders & Ashe or The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane.
Forced Proximity? Try Have You Any Rogues or This Rake of Mine.
Enemies to Lovers? (Popular, eh?!) Have You Any Rogues or And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake.
Hero Named Harry (Okay, I’m going to fudge this a bit and say, Heroine Named Harry!) If Wishes Were Earls
So make sure to post your board on Instagram (#rippedbodicebingo) or your book suggestions or great finds to help others fill up their boards…and discover new favorites.
After all, isn’t that what we are all looking for? Our new favorite romance?!
**This Contest Is Closed**
Thanks for entering. Winner is posted on my FB page.
As I promised my newsletter subscribers, I won’t leave you out of this fun just because you don’t do Facebook–go ahead and enter to win my contest by commenting below: Let me know who you would want to sit with at the Royal Wedding.
And if that isn’t enough, here are the particulars for the rest of the Facebook Hop if you want to enter for the grand prize or just find some new-to-you authors. Best of luck.
Welcome to the ROYAL WEDDING Facebook Hop!
There are 27 hop stops today! And TONS of giveaways totaling more than $1,000—and culminating with our Grand Prize giveaway of a Kindle Fire HD8, 32 GB, and loaded with our books, plus a surprise Amazon gift card. We hope you’ll visit all 26 romance authors and one blogger all of whom love historicals as much as you do! Lastly, don’t forget to visit our RW Group where today there will be author-made videos from Windsor Castle plus live posts during the wedding! It’s going to be great fun!
HOW THE HOP WORKS:
1) Check out my giveaway below and ENTER to #WIN.
2) Then follow the link in this post to the next hop stop.
3) And so on until you circle back to where you started.
4) Then follow the link to our Grand Prize Giveaway, and good luck!
Let the Wedding revelries commence!
Today I’m giving away a bounty I’m calling: Time for Tea. Tea, goodies, a small teapot, cups and saucers, treats and an autographed hardback copy of Four Weddings and a Sixpence. And just so you know—this copy is signed by all four authors, including Julia Quinn. [Sorry, but USA shipping only.]
To enter here, just comment below, or to enter on FB, go to my Facebook author page, then tag a friend (below in the comments) who you would like share this tea party with. That’s it. Tag a friend and you are entered.
The next stop on our hop is author Christina Britton!
Visit her page to see what goodies she’s giving away by clicking on this LINK.
In case of a broken link within the hop, visit Romance Readers Guide’s website for a full list!
Once you’ve hopped through us all, DON’T FORGET to visit the Romance Readers Guides website to enter the GRAND PRIZE giveaway!
Have a great time Royal Wedding hopping, and I hope when you are done, you might stop by my website and check out my books. Might I suggest my own ginger-haired heart breaker, Julien d’Artier from BRAZEN TEMPTRESS. Meghean would approve, I’m certain.
★ ★ ★ ★ Royal Rules and Regulations ★ ★ ★ ★
Giveaways open for entries from May 18, 2018, 6 am EDT until May 20, 2018, 12:00 midnight PDT USA. Winners will be chosen at random. Open to adults, age 18 and older. Void where prohibited by law. Some prizes have physical mailing restrictions, see above. No purchase needed to win. Final eligibility for the award of any prize is subject to eligibility verification. Winner notification: fanpage winners will be publicly posted on the corresponding Facebook author page plus on the Royal Wedding Facebook Group, as will the Grand Prize Winner, no later than 5/23/18. I’ll post the winner of my prize here and on my Facebook page. Thank you for participating in the Hop.
Earlier this week, I was in Cimarron, New Mexico and spent some time at the St. James Hotel, walking in the footsteps of some of the West’s most notable figures, including the Earp Brothers, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill Cody, Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson, Billy the Kid, Jesse James, the artist Frederick Remington, and author Zane Grey, just to name a few.
All of them passed through the same door I used, and checked in at this desk. I have to confess, I was a bit giddy over all this history.
The St. James Hotel, or as it was known in its early days, Lambert’s Place, was an infamous fixture on the Sante Fe Trail, known as much for its good food and fine rooms, as it was its wild goings-on and gunfights.
Lots of gunfights.
The original owner, Henri Lambert, had anticipated that trouble might find its way to his large first floor saloon, so he had the builder install a double thick hardwood floor for the rooms above so that no guests would be accidently killed by the unruly rabble below. The tin ceiling still sports a number of those original bullet holes.
And while my current project is set in Wyoming, nearly 30 years forward from the wild days of Cimarron, I have to admit that being someplace with this much history within its walls had my Muse singing like a hallelujah chorus.
After inspecting all the old rooms, prowling the hallways (sadly, no ghost sightings) and taking in all the wonderful old photos displayed, I decided that the real experience of the St. James is bellying up to the bar, ordering a drink and wondering who I might have found next to me, if it was, say a hundred and forty years ago…
More information about the St. James Hotel, as well as how to make reservations, can be found on their website. You might find yourself in the company of Annie Oakley or Jesse James. Or me.
With Royal Wedding mania running mad, get in on the fun by joining a pack of Historical Romance authors gone wild in a fun-fill Royal Wedding Facebook Hop. Prizes, wedding chatter, and all things tea and scones can be yours.
Besides all the fun pre-wedding chatter, come the wedding weekend (May 18-20) there will be lots of ways to enter and win, so join the official Royal Wedding Facebook Hop page so you don’t miss a moment of the fun. The grand prize drawing is for a new loaded Kindle–now that’s a wedding present!
This week I’ve been reading books from two different series. What is it about a good series that keeps you coming back for MORE? I think it is great characters (of course) and sometimes it’s just the sheer joy of being in that story world again.
And with some series, it is both. Then you know you’ve hit gold.
The books I’ve been reading this week are both YA fantasy series. I always find it funny when adults sort of whisper and confess that they read YA, like there is some line in the sand that once you cross into adulthood you can’t read those stories. Bunk, I say. Read what sings to you. And I love the adventurous fantasy stories that the YA world is publishing.
Never apologize for reading a great story.
So with all the fanfare and trumpets I can muster, I am going to tell you to go out and read these two series. They are fabulous.
Rebel of the Sands
Alwyn Hamilton’s series, Rebel of the Sands, is a glorious and fun take on Arabian Nights with an Old West feel, all wrapped around a gun slinging heroine with a biting humor and a lot of attitude.
Amani, our heroine from a dead end town in the middle of nowhere, ends up joining a revolution and discovering who she really is–and in the process finds friends, family and how to trust herself and her instincts. It isn’t about who everyone thinks you are or where you come from–it is about what you make of your life and the gifts you’ve been given.
You can clearly see why I would love these books.
Start with Rebel of Sands, then read Traitor to the Throne, and finally, finish it off with the new one, Hero at the Fall.
Normally I am always skeptical of the last book for fear it will fall flat–but Hero at the Fall is a wonderful conclusion to the series and I loved every page. Again, if you like adventure and folk tales and great characters, this is the series for you.
What series are you in love with right now? What book has you fidgeting with impatience for it to come out?
And BTW, all these books are fabulous!
In my family, we never arrive or leave each other’s homes empty handed. If it isn’t being used, or you can’t use it up, you share it. Sharing is just part of being in my family. Books. Recipes. Food. Magazines.
My grandmother was infamous for always having some bit of advice she’d “clipped out of the paper just for you.”
And what is my favorite thing to share?
Books, of course.
As an avid reader, I end up with stacks of novels. (Yes, I still read paper. I just am not an electronic fan.) So before they get stacked so high they threaten to topple over and cause bodily harm, these wonderful stories go to friends. To family. Acquaintances. The gal at the grocery store.
To be read and loved and shared some more.
Because here is a radical thought: books were meant to be read.
When I see books on a shelf, I feel sorry for them. Trapped there, gathering dust, not living out their purpose. And what is a book’s purpose? To be read. Over and over and over, until the pages fall out and the cover drops off. That is when you know a book has been loved. Lived a good life.
One of the Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood. What a wonderful way to share books.
Sometimes these offerings I’ve sent out into the world come back. I was at a scout meeting the other night and a mother handed me a book I’d given her over a year ago. I’d completely forgotten I had given it to her. She’d read it, her daughters had read it, and then it had made the rounds in her office.
Last night I sent it–along with a bunch of others–off with another friend. I know her mother will read them. Her sister. Her co-workers. I have a sneaking suspicion that in their journeys each of these books will entice new fans for their authors. And in turn, more books will end up out there engaging readers.
It’s actually my secret plan for world domination through reading, but that is our little secret. And if you would like to help, share a book with someone. And then share another.
What books have you shared recently? Who do you share your books with?
When I travel (which I will be this coming week) I inevitably take three books with me. One for the outbound flight. One for the return flight. And a backup book in case Book A or Book B is, well, a dud.
I think sometimes I spend more time picking my three books than I do all the other things that go into planning a trip–booking everything, making arrangements, packing, et al.
Those three books get A LOT of consideration.
But here is my dilemma with this lot.
Egads, what to read first? This is like the gold strike of romance novels.
I know one certain thing: None of these will be a dud.
Laura Lee Guhrke? (The Trouble with True Love) I know the characters will wrench at my heart!
Loretta Chase? (A Duke in Shining Armor) Always fills me with laughter and good cheer.
Lorraine Heath. (Beyond Scandal and Desire) I, mean, come on. It’s Lorraine Heath. Need I say more?
No. I don’t think I need to.
I think I am more excited about the reading material than I am the trip. So tell me, what three books are you in a dither over right now?