Tuesday, May 01, 2018

More on the pitch me your book posts

A recent email to me said:
The funny thing is, I swear I've heard you talk on your blog before about how you don't like Twitter pitch parties for exactly the reason that the pitches have to be so short. Something about how we drive ourselves bonkers and don't always succeed when we have 250 words, so 240 characters is absurd. So, change of heart?
well, sorta, no, not really?
How's that for definitive!

The Pitch Me Your Book post started when a reader asked what a good pitch looked like. I had a flash of deja vu all over again, cause that's how QueryShark got started: what does a good query look like. And pitching on Twitter is still absurd but being able to talk about your book at a party where agents and readers lurk is an essential.

I thought it would be fun to pitch for practice. Since the stakes are pretty low (you're not really pitching and you get feedback) I'm hoping the bonkers level is reduced.

And another email from Sarah
This isn't a complaint. I was one of the folks you picked. But once I posted my pitch:
Enchanted prince.
By her.
Now she’ll rescue him, whether he wants saving or not.
. . . .and read the others, I was SO embarrassed! Mine seemed horribly vague– and not a bit clever. I did, however, know that the last line was the strongest. I just didn't know what to do with the rest of it.

Anyways, I opened today's post fully prepared to see my pitch as an example of general failure. I'd pulled my big girl panties up to somewhere near my chin and was ready to accept a toothy lesson in what not to do.

Thing is, I think I need a lesson in what I did right. (I'd like to be able to get it right again, you see.) And based on the confusion in some of the comments, I'd say I'm not the only one who would like to know a bit more about how you picked the folks you picked. Or was this simply an example of how subjective this industry is?

Yes and no.

This industry is entirely subjective, but I don't think this was an example of that.

You yourself knew that last line was the best. And it is. What you didn't know (or do) is cut the other lines, and then build on that.
Enchanted prince.
By her.
Now she’ll rescue him, whether he wants saving or not.

It was fun to see what y'all are working on so I'd like to keep going with this for as long as it's manageable.

Manageable means not hundreds of entries and no one going postal in the comments section, or in emails to me.

Not hundreds of entries means let's NOT talk about this on Twitter or Facebook or other social media platforms (like Chum Bucket.) If we keep the pitching to folks who read the blog, we'll minimize the influx of johnnie-come-latelies, and also reduce the risk of people going postal.

Disagree with me all you want in the comments (bring it!! no REALLY! opinions are the foundation of this industry!) but civility is required. I may be wrong, but Mum does not wear Army boots even if she did march us with a cadence to the library.

And because of the email from Sarah, let's try a new wrinkle. Along with the 30 word pitch, include another paragraph, as in the first paragraph of your query. The paragraph is longer (about 100 words at most) but it gives information NOT in the pitch. That way, we can see what you left out, and perhaps, what you should have included.

So, for the next go round, let's try 30 words, listing the category, whether it's YA or adult, and your bonus content.  Your entry will look like this:

Category: Crime/sci fi/fantasy/dino porn

Adult or YA: YA

 Paragraph: (100 words or fewer)

Pitch: And we're off to the races.

The ONLY words that count for the pitch are what's in the pitch.

I'm figuring post the pitches on Saturday, comments from all y'all on Sunday, results on Monday.(like the flash fiction contests)

To keep the entries to a reasonable number I'm going to close comments at an arbitrary time.

Now, what questions have you got? I'd like to get those sorted out ahead of time.

I have a question. Why aren't you petting me?

PS Don't post pitches in the comment column of this blog post. I'll delete them. You gotta wait for the actual blog post.


Ashes said...

Like Sarah, I guess I'm confused by what you're looking for.

"...being able to talk about your book at a party where agents and readers lurk is an essential." This is kinda what I thought.

But then some of the pitches you liked (french sojourn, Luralee Kiesel), are not pitches you'd say in person. I don't disagree that they work, I think they work quite effectively as written pitches. But if you came up and spoke them to me, they'd sound sort of alien.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

To quote the one and only Arte Johnson, "Verrry interrrrresting,"
If you don't know Arte, you are young enough to be my grandchild. Now that's depressing.

Kitty said...

Pitches and hooks and queries, OH MY!
(Sorry...had to pull that rant from my head and share with y'all.)

Question #1: Does our entry have to be for something we've already written? Or can it be about something still in its infancy?

Question #2: What's the difference between a pitch and a hook?

Matt Adams said...

I just wanted to say you're awesome, Janet. This really is a great kindness.

Fun read, too. But mostly kind. When it seems like that's hard to find in the world, it's nice to be able to come here and see it on display almost daily. So thanks.

Kitty said...

What Matt said goes double for me.

Anonymous said...

I'm hoping the bonkers level is reduced.

Silly shark. I was most definitely chasing my tail trying to figure that puzzle out. Nothing reduces the bonkers level.

I also have a question: would you prefer we do a different story pitch (supposing we got to enter last time), or could we rehash the last one and try again?

(I'll bet that's a duh question, considering the rules of Query Shark, but might as well ask!)

Dena Pawling said...

You wrote "whether it's YA or adult." What about those of us who write younger?

Linda Strader said...

I would love to participate, but I will be in San Diego speaking about publishing traditionally to the San Diego Memoir Writers Association. I hope you do this again, Janet!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Wow. I love this. Your majesty. Thank you thank you.

Kregger said...

Just for giggles...I wrote a thirty-word pitch last night. The proverbial lightbulb exploded over my head.
I wish I had the foresight to do this sooner. Now I can reevaluate my latest query in light of this bare-boned pitch.

Thank you Ms.Reid for the slap to the back of my head...now, may I have another?


KariV said...

Off to the races! Let's get this rodent wheel spinning and start drafting pitches.

Thanks for doing this, Janet. Your feedback is so valuable.

PAH said...

If we're in the throes of editing one novel (with beta readers) and in the process of writing another, can we submit TWO or is that getting too BONKERS?

My biggest fears in life are 1) Fish Hooks, 2) Being that guy that is oblivious to the giant monster attacking the city, and 3) Being too bonkers.

(I missed the first pitch sesh, but it's been fun to read).

Aphra Pell said...

This is a fabulous idea, not just for the pitching practice but because anything that forces thinking about the book in a new way is useful. I clarified a couple of critical things about what is crucial in my plot and character development while wrangling with my 15 words.

[sprinkles crab claws in gratitude to the shark]

Megan V said...

Such a great opportunity. Thank you QOTKU for doing this. It's a lot of fun seeing what everyone is working on!

I don't know that I'll participate though...

All my queries are out for current MS so I'd be pitching one of the two WIPs I have that are at early stages. While I'd love the practice, I'm not sure I'm comfortable (or that it would be appropriate) pitching them (not unless we're counting pitching them into the revision rubbish). I don't want to take space from writers closer to the querying stage.

John Davis Frain said...

I have only one question before I go off to torment myself:

What was the deal you made with the devil that grants you 32 hours in a day when most of us mortals are limited to 24?

Oh, sharks don't sleep, do they? Okay, some things are beginning to make sense. I wish my pitch worked itself out so simply.

Craig F said...

I thought ADULT was a default setting. Should that spot not be blank unless it is something other than Adult?

At the end of the day I have become obsessed with writing. If I am ever going to be published, I have to understand enticing an Agent. This is another step in that direction.


P.S.- I hope this one works better.

Timothy Lowe said...

The generosity of some sharks is nothing short of amazing. I look forward to seeing everyone's pitches!

Mary L said...

I had the same response as Ashes above: I loved many of the pitches, but very few were written in conversational language. They almost seemed to need an online version followed by a spoken translation - unless I'm not understanding how people pitch in person? Does one sort of declaim like a Shakespearean actor and then fall back into regular conversation? (That's a real question, I have no clue what I should be doing in public basically ever.)

Claire Bobrow said...

It's manuscript revision time Chez Bobrow, so I'll be sitting this one out. Good luck to everyone participating this weekend, and thank you, Janet, for all you do! I look forward to reading the pitches.

Unknown said...

Haha the first paragraph of my query is 35 words and I was planning on modifying that and using it as my pitch. So apparently I'm doing both wrong. Whoops.

Carrie Jo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie Weathers said...

I must be kind of slow today. I don't understand what the 100-word paragraph is.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Oh hi everyone, I have WiFi on the bus on my first stage of my long journey back to Europe (you were right yesterday, Cynthia Mc, it's even pretty good; only drops out every now and again).

I'm with Julie, I don't understand what the 100-word paragraph is.

Sherry Howard said...

No questions for JR, but to the group: Do you guys realize people pay a lot of money for this, travel over hills and dales, shake in their boots, offer bourbon, and still don’t get this kind of feedback?

Gayle said...

Missed the previous one, so would love to participate. The extra bits seem perfect to get some context and thus best help figure out the pitches. I find it really hard to encapsulate my book, so this will be a good exercise for me.

I've never gotten any interest from twitter pitches or from my queries for that matter, but I just won a chance for editing help in #RevPit so I'm hoping my query and 1st 5 will be in stellar shape after we finish.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

I've decided to sit this one out, too.

Otherwise, I will think of and do nothing else from now until Saturday and that's a lot of editing/polishing time. I really want to query before end of May. Yeah, these sharkly shenanigans get me over-excited.

Looking forward to reading the pitches, though. We Reiders are all so privileged to have Janet do this for us.

C. D. Monson said...

Can a pitch be given in the form of a question? For example, "What if..."

Bonnie Shaljean said...

I love this idea! Brilliant, informative, entertaining, educational - and has cats. What more (apart from boozy coffee) could you want?

I've always been flummoxed by pitches. It's taken me a lot of diligent querysharking to hone a decent query (which I think I finally have)*, but pitches (the same as loglines/straplines - yes/no?) defeat me. So I'm looking forward to learning a lot.

* A great side-benefit of QS is that getting a query into shape has helped me to see where the plot itself needs some hammering and pounding. Now to make the book as strong as the shark-pre-digested query...

french sojourn said...

My take is the 100 words is the start of your finished query, one paragraph. It's actually two paragraph for my query, so it will be amended to incorporate more information to cast light on the 30 logline.

Yowl reminds me of a greige monochromatic version of the pink panther.

The logline should be written to be oral, I just wanted to push the envelope, but ended outside the post office.


(Already working on this has just made me realise a major direction change for this m/s. It seems to me to be more of a story refining tool than a pitch tool, whatever works,)

Brenda said...

I won’t be greedy and enter again but I want to say that I feel like this exercise has clarified the whole query issue for me. Eureka and thankyou.

Jen said...

Thank you for doing this, Janet! It's so helpful (and eye-opening).

I take it MG is okay (and not just Adult and YA)?

Sarah said...

Alright then. Let's do this! Can't wait to see what everyone submits. Thank you, thank you for all you do here, Janet!

Julie Weathers said...


Yes, I got some coffee down and figured my way out of the fog.

Anonymous said...

Janet, this is so incredibly generous of you, giving us the thing we all want in the query process but can't figure out how to get: professional feedback. This will be instructive no matter whose entries you pick.

Man, I thought my query was tight at 130 words (it really was). Time to get brutal so I can use it for this.

As for confusion about terms, I think some of it comes from people using the terms "pitch" and "logline" to mean different things. And also maybe book people and movie people using the terms differently. Apparently, you can even pitch your story using a logline. So don't worry about the terms, just look at the examples in the last post and listen to what Janet is asking for.

I found a PDF that gives interesting examples, four different versions for the same story (including a tagline, which they call text for a movie poster, something else to muddy the issue). Just ignore the terms used for each one, which I found didn't fit *my* definitions, and study the differences between them. Here's the link: http://trnres.com/pitchandlogline.pdf (hope that works, my linkage skills are rusty.)

Bonnie Shaljean said...

Thanks so much KD - the item surfaced on my screen like a dream and I’ve now got it saved and filed. Much appreciated!

Brittany said...

If we missed the short version contest, would it be okay to include two versions of your pitch (one under 15 words, one up to 30)?

I'll have to set myself a reminder for this one so I don't come across it too late in my Feedly!

Anonymous said...

UGH. Now I regret posting that link, as that site appears to be less than legitimate. Not like "give you a virus" but more like "steal something and don't give credit" type of thing. IDK, maybe it's fine. I really need to delve further before passing things on. And I can't edit/delete my comment because I'm logged in with WP. ARRGH

Anyway, here's a legitimate site with an audio of Blake Snyder (of Save the Cat fame) teaching a class and discussing the difference between pitch and logline and WHY they're different. He even talks about the example of Granny, which the sketchy site references. The discussion is all movie-related, for screenwriters, and he uses the terms in the exact opposite way I would (no doubt because I'm WRONG), but the talk is awesome (40 mins):

So skip the above link and go here instead: http://www.savethecat.com/tools/save-the-cat-podcast-blake-snyder-on-your-pitch-and-logline

Unknown said...

Lotsa chum in the Pacific Ocean as well. Y'know, out west, three hours later? O mighty Sharkstress, could a Puget Sound herring prevail on you to start feeding at a time when we might be awake 'n' swimming out here? :-)

Steve Forti said...

Damn. I really wanna partake, but first world problems. I'm at Disney with the family and can't. Eager to see the submissions, though.

John Davis Frain said...

FORTIssimo is at Disney! Quick as a flash--make a contest. Somebody else might actually win the Steve Forti Clever Use of Prompt Words trophy.

Never mind, he'd probably write one during the slow part of Splash Mountain and put us all to shame.

Back to my WIP...

Emma said...

I'm also really grateful for this opportunity to learn how to pitch. Or just how to talk about my MS fruitfully. Thank you for investing all this time, Janet.

I wrote my 30-word pitch, and it felt like driving a cadillac compared to the 15-word torment - so much elbow room! Excited to see what everyone will do.

Marie McKay said...

That sounds fantastic. Thanks, Janet.I found the pitches/comments and your feedback so helpful. Look forward to learning a whole lot more with this one.

LynnRodz said...

Thank you so much for doing this, Janet. You're not only QOTKU, but the unknown and multiverse as well.

I've tried for ages to write a query, but my story is character driven so the stakes aren't as obvious as one that is plot driven. I'm hoping this exercise will help me see things more clearly.

Morgan Hazelwood said...

REMINDER TO SELF: Check this blog on the weekends. No, really. That's when all the fun stuff happens.

Stop leaving your flash fiction to rot in draft folders cause you keep forgetting to log in on Saturdays!

C. Dan Castro said...

This is very kind, Janet. Thank you.

I'm still reading through the query blog archive--made it to 2013!!!--so I'm not ready to write a query or the 100-word paragraph (I could half-ass it, but I'd rather follow Homer's wisdom and use "my whole ass.") May I still submit a 30-word pitch and hope for feedback?

AJ Blythe said...

It's been a rocky week so very late to the party, but glad I made it. I bow to your greatness, my Queen. Thank you for the amazing things you do here for us.

Anonymous said...

Serial lurker trying to pluck up the courage to take part... and to not look like a "Johnnie-come-lately!"

ngcornett said...

Pitch Submission

Category: Memoir

Adult or YA: Adult

Paragraph: Faye Presley is an Appalachian woman who, in her later years, is staring over the edge and wondering if what her children are offering her is a hand or a fist. Offspring far away, husband gone, the coal industry which shaped her life gone, all that remains is her modest coal camp house and her friends and neighbors. Now her children are trying to take that away.

Pitch: An Appalachian King Lear without the armies.