Thursday, September 06, 2012

Pitch to Win!

If you’re a writer who is serious about writing, you know that in order to be successful you have to be able to pitch your book—and no, I don’t mean throw it across the room in exasperation because “it’s just not working!” (Though that will likely happen, too.)

Since I was rejected—actually laughed at—in a pitch appointment once, I’ve let that experience keep me from pitching again. And it even has kept me from working on my writing as much as I should.

Don’t let this happen to you!

Aside from the fact that the person I pitched to was having a bad (and insensitive) day, why did my pitch fail? Simple. Because I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t practice, practice, practice. So, today let’s practice!

The elements of a successful pitch

Michael Korda, once editor-in-chief at Simon & Schuster, said: “If you can’t describe a book in one or two pithy sentences that would make you or your mother want to read it, then of course you can’t sell it.” That’s still a good description of a pitch. But there’s more.

Editors are looking for ideas they can sell—to their pub boards and to the public. And part of what they sell is you and your passion for your book. Can you describe it clearly and confidently? And are you the right person to write it? If so, why?

Prepare and then prepare some more 

Here’s where I made a major error. I did not know what my book was about. Oh sure, I wrote it—but I didn’t know it very well. I wasn’t even familiar with the genre I was writing in, or what a genre is. (See “To Thine Genre Be True” by Susan Miller in the October issue of ACFW Journal.)

I also was unfamiliar with terms such as: set-up, conflict, resolution, setting, plot, and characterization. Turns out I had them all in my manuscript, but I could not articulate them to the editor. And if I can’t relate them to an editor, why would the editor believe I have the ability to make them clear to an audience? Oh, and what’s an audience? Hint: Saying, “Everyone will want to read this” does not work.

One method 

Linda Rohrbough
As ACFW Journal columnist and author Linda Rohrbough has told me time and time again, “It’s an entirely different set of skills to talk about a book than to write a book.” And she is right. Linda’s three-step method for pitching a book makes sense to me:
  1. The First Log Line: This line contains the basic information of your manuscript:
    • The hero
    • The hero’s flaw
    • The life-changing event that start’s your story
    • The opponent
    • The ally
    • The battle/conflict
  2. The Second Log Line: This line amplifies the first by indicating:
    • The character who arcs/changes
    • What the arc/change is
  3. The Third Log Line: Here is where you add a sentence about theme. What does the character learn? How does he or she change?

An example 

Here’s how Rohrbough’s method looks in use, with an example from the movie 50 First Dates.

(Log Line 1) A womanizing veterinarian falls in love with a girl with short-term memory loss. (Log Line 2) His challenge is to win her heart anew every day. (Log Line 3) He learns that the fun, for him, is in the chase. 

Learn much more about this method on Linda’s website (http://www.lindarohrbough.us/). She even has her method in an iPhone app you can download.

Time to practice (and a contest!) 

Many of you will attend the ACFW Conference in Dallas TX in just a couple weeks, but if you’re not, participate anyway! You’ll be pitching a book somewhere, sometime, right? Post your pitch in the comments for the chance to win your choice of:
(Winner drawn from those who enter a pitch.)

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying his playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor/writer at WritingOnTheFineLine.com, where each Tuesday he takes a writer Into The Edit, pulling back the veil on the editing process. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.

69 comments:

Larry W. Timm said...

When a death-threat and a bloodied Muslim man appear in a pastor's office on the same morning, the pastor and the young man are cast into a struggle that may cost them everything--and everyone--they love. And both men will have to decide whether or not following Jesus is worth the cost.

Melinda S. Collins said...

My pitch is a little long by these standards, but I do have all the elements there. Making a note to work on tightening it a bit:

Avalyn Albright had it all: a wonderfully supportive husband, the dream home she’d always wanted, and a killer career as a best-selling novelist. But having it all can only last for so long. As Avalyn becomes ready to take the much-needed break she needs in order to start a family with Nick, she finds herself at a crossroads – alone and shattered.

Enter Ambrose D’Aubney – Tall, dark and handsome, doctor, wine connoisseur, and head of the most valuable – and powerful – Vampyre clan in the creature world.

What Ambrose offers Avalyn isn’t exactly what every woman dreams of…unless they dream of being the much-anticipated Foreseer, prophesized for bringing freedom and peace to the creatures of the world from The Eternal Council – a group of Original creatures who make it their business to see, know and control all, including the human race.

Through a journey of self-discovery, Avalyn learns to not only accept her fate and face it head on, but to trust in not only the new Vampyric man in her life, but the ancestors who have trusted her with the fate of their world.

NB said...

Macy Singleton loves teaching in a big city high school, but when she returns to small town Woodvale, South Carolina, to visit her elderly Aunt Poppy, Macy becomes a student in the school of life. As Poppy lies dying, she asks Macy to help surly ex-school-principal-turned-farmer, Sam Chason, start community literacy classes and she reluctantly agrees. But as Macy readies to return to her beloved city life, she discovers a scheme to secretly redraw boundary lines on her aunt’s property and sell it. Macy must decide if she will stay in Woodvale and reach a new point of beginning with Sam or return to her old life.

Ane Mulligan said...

Here's mine: While the rest of the world has been roaring through the 1920s, times are hardscrabble in rural Georgia. The South is still climbing out from the War of Northern Aggression, and widow Maggie Parker is doing her best to raise her young son alone. Then banks begin to fail, and her father-in-law threatens to take away her beloved little boy and sell off her livelihood - the grocery store her husband left her. But as things deteriorate, five Southern women use their wisdom and wiles to stop him.

Victoria Dixon said...

In a land where ghosts are guides and heroes are traitors, all one man longs for is a safe life with his family. Civil war will force him to sacrifice them or his country.

Michael Ehret said...

Larry, interesting. One suggestion: The last sentence sounds tacked on like, "oh yeah, I have to mention Jesus." I'd want to hear more.

Michael Ehret said...

Melinda, I agree it's too long. See if this retains the essentials (only you can determine that). Also, consider rewriting to leave the character names out.

A best-selling novelist with everything, finds herself alone and shattered just as she is ready to start her long-awaited family. Can the tall, dark, handsome--and powerful--head of the Vampyre clan teach her to trust her fate, to bring peace and freedom to the creatures of the world?

Michael Ehret said...

I feel a little lost in the details:

Macy Singleton loves teaching in the big city, but when a dying aunt's last wish calls her home to help a surly small-town ex-school-principal-turned-farmer start community literacy classes, she reluctantly agrees. Will a secret scheme to redraw boundary lines on her aunt’s property convince her to stay--or return to her beloved big city?

Michael Ehret said...

Nicely done! A little tightening, perhaps?

While the rest of the world has been roaring through the 1920s, times are hardscrabble in rural Georgia where folks are still climbing out from the War of Northern Aggression. Widow Maggie Parker is barely surviving while raising her young son alone. Then as the banks begin to fail, her father-in-law threatens to take her son and sell off her livelihood - the grocery store her husband left her. Can five Southern women band together, use their wisdom and wiles, and preserve their way of life?

Michael Ehret said...

I love the unexpected opposites in the opening line! I don't quite feel I know enough about the story to ask to see more, however. See if using Linda Rohrbough's three log line approach will expand this a little to further set the hook.

Aimee L. Salter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aimee L. Salter said...

When Stacy looks in the mirror she can see -- and talk to -- herself twelve years in the future. But her future self lies. A lot. And following her advice have might unwittingly cost Stacy the love of her life.

Stacy is determined to pursue everything (and everyone) her future self steered her away from, even if her future self is right, and Stacy is the one who will be hurt the most.

Michael Ehret said...

Aimee, I'm sitting her going "Oooooo...."

Clear out that mistakenly placed "have".

The first graf grips. The second graf loses me a little. I'm unclear on why Stacy would want to pursue the things her future self steers her away from (yes, I understand future Stacy lies) EVEN IF future Stacy is right and current Stacy is hurt.

I'm not saying that's not a valid stand for current Stacy to take, only that the issue addressed in the second graf is not as clear to me as the first graf.

I'm betting this is YA?

Michael Ehret said...

Grrrr... I'm sitting *here* .... Grrr.

Aimee L. Salter said...

Yes, it is YA. Do you want us to revise and re-comment, or are your excellent comments just for our betterment? :)

jesskeller said...

Okay...mine is officially too long and could benefit from your expert tweaking Michael! You know, help a #1K1Hour friend out. Here's the muddle I have now:


Gabby Creed considers herself normal, well, as normal as a girl with a drunk father and a dead mother can be. But when a bracelet appears on her arm and starts to glow she is sucked through time and lands in the middle of the Civil War.

When Gabby meets Michael Pace, he explains that human history is shaped by the Shifters and the Shades. Shifters are trying to protect humans, whereas Shades feed off of human despair. Gabby’s shocked to learn that she’s a Shifter, and if that wasn’t enough, she learns that all the Shifters have been waiting for her. They believe she’s special, but Gabby knows the truth, she’s nobody important. She’s untrained and has no clue how to save them, let alone herself.

Gabby is torn between Shifter training and her desire to return home to her father—her time. But the Shifters are in the middle of a war that is much bigger than they understand. Beyond that, the Shades are searching for her.

In the end, she must let go of her fears and her desire to return to her old life and embrace the calling she was born for.

Marji Laine said...

Love your article! I was actually working on my pitch today and happened upon it. How does this sound?

A small-town diner owner becomes the target of a madman when her former boyfriend gets on the wrong side of a drug cartel. In order to survive, she must trust the man who broke her heart, but the failure that lies between them seems so final.

Janice C Johnson said...

With great trepidation I submit...

"A hotel accountant fears for his security as relentless storms threaten the area’s tourism-dependent economy. He scoffs when a mysterious stranger offers to rescue the city by permanently clearing its skies, but then it actually happens. Business recovers and begins to flourish, so why are some of his friends warning him that all is not well? How long will he let his present advantages blind him to the escalating signs of danger?"

Joanne Huspek said...

I found this article very enlightening and easy to understand. Thanks!

My problem is too many words. I hope this is okay.

Due to the shame of a criminal trial and pain of a messy divorce, Maya Cooper whisks her sullen 14-year-old back to Michigan where they can lay low and lick their wounds in peace, while planning for a big comeback - someday. Unbeknownst to her mother, Amberly vows to make her way back to LA to reconnect with her father's family, even though her secret plan is slightly dangerous and definitely illegal. Once back in So Cal, Amberly discovers that home isn't so much a place, but where your heart resides.

PS. I hope I win. :-)

Michael Ehret said...

No need to revamp, but you are welcome to if you like. It will not affect the contest. :)

Michael Ehret said...

This sounds like it could be a lot of fun!

I hope there's a connection between the time travel and the shifters/shades issue ... because otherwise it seems a problematic combo of two genres. That said:

Even with a dead mother and drunk father, you can still feel normal. That is, until a bracelet you find sucks you back through time and you land in the Civil War. Worse yet, you find you're a Shifter--a protector of humans--and the Shades (who feed off human despair) are out to get you. What's a girl to do?

Michael Ehret said...

Marji, sounds like lots of opportunity for conflict. It's not bad, but a little too fact based, perhaps? What can you add to infuse more emotion?

Michael Ehret said...

I love supernaturals! Work with your word choice a little. A hotel accountant fearing for his security--what does that mean? Is he fearing for his life? His job? His salvation? I think you have too many elements in your pitch. How about this:

A hotel accountant fears for his job as relentless storms threaten tourist season. When a mysterious stranger offers to rescue the city by permanently clearing the skies, he scoffs--until it happens. With the economy rebounding and business now flourishing, how long will he ignore the signs all is not well?

Michael Ehret said...

Joanne, thanks for your kind words. It warms an editor's heart to hear that something he wrote is "easy to understand." One thing that's unclear here is who the main character is. I sense it's Amberly, the 14-year-old, but the way it's written it could be Maya. Clarify that by rewriting from the right character's point of view. As an example (I am probably all wrong, but...):

It's not enough her mother's a criminal? Does she also have to divorce Amberley's beloved father and move her to God-forsaken Michigan where her SoCal sun shines once every other month--if she's lucky? Her plan to return to L.A. and her father's loving arms doesn't go exactly as planned, however. Imagine that.

Janice C Johnson said...

Yes. His job. (After turning it in I kicked myself for using "security.")
This version is much better. How do you DO that??

jesskeller said...

There sure is Michael. Gotta love YA. It's the first in the "TimeShifters" series ;)

Thanks for the help!

Michael Ehret said...

Janice, you could improve on my pitch I have no doubt. It's often just the newness of one person's eyes over the author's. You've tooled that thing so often, you don't see it the same way I do.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

How fun! I do have a book out on submission (wish I could goto ACFW and meet those editors...), but here's a revamped hook from my previous novel, OTHERWORLD. It was too short at 50,000 words, but I'm still QUITE attached to the basic story.

Aurora has it all: beauty, brains, a loving husband and daughter, and a huge house. The only problem is that she only cares about the ghost next door. As the haunted Victorian mansion draws her into its web, Aurora has to choose between her family's love and the ghost that might very well commandeer her entire life.

Let me know what you think, Michael. I value your opinion. And I have miles to go before this book is ready to hit the proposal stage!

Heather Day Gilbert said...

(And I see I used "only" twice in one sentence. I could change that to "Only problem is, she can't stop fixating on the ghost next door.")

~sharyn said...

Hi, Michael! Thank you for this opportunity. Here's the pitch for my work-in-progress:

Three Colorado Springs friends find themselves over 40 without a wedding or even the hint of a proposal. When a 32-year-old friend starts dating the new Guy With Potential in their singles group, they come face-to-face with their disappointment. This leads them to not only question God’s plan for their lives and, specifically, for their singleness, but each has to deal with her own particular regrets while finding a way to embrace her hopes for the future.

A specific question about the pitch: This book has a lot of humor, even in the midst of the heartache, but I'm not sure that's really coming across here. Should I include that in the pitch &, if so, do you have any suggestions? For instance, should I just say it's funny or make the pitch itself humorous?

Thank you!

Michael Ehret said...

I do have a fondness for ghost stories. Hmmm. This feels on a little dangerous now. How about:

Aurora has it all: beauty, brains, a loving husband and daughter, a huge house--and a neighbor who's a ghost. As the haunted Victorian mansion lures her into its snare, Aurora must choose between her family's love and the ghost that is increasingly commandeering her life.

A few word changes (lures for draws and snare for web) add to the menacing tone. Try to avoid only -- because it's usually not true. Only limits the writer of fiction. We work outside of only.

Is the neighbor a male ghost? There could be some icky stuff to play with, if so. But be aware, if you're pitching to CBA, ghosts are hard to sell.

Michael Ehret said...

Grrr... "This feels *only* a little dangerous..."

Michael Ehret said...

Definitely include the humor! It makes the heartache more bearable and is a great selling point. Even though I live there, I'm not sure including the Springs is necessary in your pitch.

Three single friends over 40 question their lives--and God--when a younger friend begins dating the only GWP (Guy With Potential) in their singles group. What is God thinking? What about their Happily Ever After? Where is the "gift" in being single? After all, chocolate can only satisfy for so long. Disappointments and regrets surface as each stumbles to find a way to embrace her future.

I'm not thrilled to death with these suggestions, but only because I'm not familiar with the story.

d. w. fry said...

Okay ... I'm going to throw something into the fire here.

A reluctant rescuer runs from his supernatural gifting to pursue the girl of his youth. God resurrects and gifts a murderous thug from his past to bring him back, and the girl gets caught in a dire struggle. Stripped of his gifted ability, can Abel Card subdue his enemy, save the girl, and learn to trust his creator before lives are lost?

Michael Ehret said...

Lots of questions arise here that need answering--and one big huge content question if you're aiming for CBA:

What supernatural gifting? Presumably something that helps him do the rescuing he's reluctant to do? What rescuing? Why reluctant? Why is he then stripped of this ability (presumably by God who gave it to him and wants him to use it)? Abel Card? Abel, in the Bible, is killed by his brother. Do you want that allusion for this character? Maybe so.

Here's my big honkin' concern: "God resurrects and gifts a murderous thug..." When you bring God into your story as a character, you have to be careful that God acts in God-like ways, as established by the authority of Scripture. On the surface, God resurrecting a murderous thug AND giving him gifts to aid him seems out of character for the God I serve.

It is entirely possible that you have something going on here that's not reflected in your brief paragraph, but that piece--unexplained--would be a stickler for me. Being honest.

Incidentally, anyone writing from a Christian worldview has God as a character in his or her book. So this caution would apply to everyone. God has to act within His character, as established by Scripture.

Maybe a structure like this: Abel Card, who is a (insert gifting here) in order to rescue (who and why), turns from his calling to pursue the love of his life. In doing so, he is stripped of his ability just when a murderous thug from his past returns with evil intent. Can Abel subdue his enemy, save the girl, and learn to trust his creator before lives are lost?

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Thanks, Michael. Yes, the book was very Peretti-ish in its approach to the supernatural...that's about the most I can say w/out giving it all away. I would definitely elaborate on the ghost and his nefarious plans in the synopsis! Love the revamped version and thanks for the help!

Patchi said...

I hope I didn't miss the deadline. Here is mine:

David and Catrine are more than friends and schoolmates – they are a team. At least until the day he discovers she is next in line for a throne that should not exist on their academic planet. He thinks his skills can be better employed bringing peace to the turmoil brewing at the other end of the galaxy, but how long can he evade those who are determined to lure him home?

Denise Parton said...

A wrong turn and a broken down vehicle lands Bronwyn in the peculiar town of Moonshine. Is she crazy or is there an eerie similarity of the residents of this bizarre town to characters she created in a tragic story years ago? Could what she wrote in the past be a reality that extends far beyond her imagination? Something quite disturbing is at play in this peculiar town; something secretive and mystifying lurking beyond the borders of the woods. Secrets the town has kept hidden for over six-hundred years.

Joanne Huspek said...

Thanks for the quick pitch, and you're right, this is about Amberly. Like I said, I'm full of words. :-)

d. w. fry said...

ACK! I wholeheartedly concur with the concerns and this is why we need editors like you to point out the danger of our words! Context can be murdered by brevity and that is why I struggle with loglines.

In an effort to be "concise" with a logline, I used "God" in an ethereal sense, it would be more appropriate to say that God "allows" something, which is really the intent. Not that God is acting out of character because that is certainly NOT what I'm aiming for or attempting to convey in any sense whatsoever.

Here's my challenge. How do I convey that the gifting is "supernatural" - as in coming from God ... when there's not necessarily a qualifying name for the gift? Abel "rescues" people who are slipping into death. He is given a sign, arrives on the scene and intervenes. I don't know what that would be called.

This story is in effect a variation of the Jonah & the Big Fish (whale) story. Running from God - with consequences.

I use the term "rescuer" but that just doesn't really have any punch to it. I like your logline structure, I just don't know what to put in the (insert gifting here) space.

ACK!

Now the questions: What supernatural gifting? What rescuing? Why reluctant? - Do those have to be answered in the logline? I was thinking the vagueness would lend to mystery to hook the reader.

See, I need all kinds of help! :-) Including and especially God's!

chriskellywriter said...

Wow, what great comments and blog. I'm linking this to my little blog. Thanks so much.

And here's the pitch:


MusicMaker
When Philly outsider Roiseen packs her three identical pairs of cowboy boots and goes to Ireland to track her missing dad, the sixteen-year-old is sucked into a supernatural world linked to young Irish gods and goddesses who abandoned their mythic land to live as mortals. A teen god who considers them heretics has captured Roiseen's musician father to prevent him from repairing a powerful harp the young gods must soon return. Saving her father and her new friends from the "The Burner" and the wrath of the harp's powerful owner means Roiseen must confront a mythical world on track to destroy her own—and any chance for a normal life.


Michael Ehret said...

d.w.

The answer to your question is in your story. Since it's an alternate reality story, you name the gift in a way that appropriately identifies it. (See the pitch above that identifies people as Shifters and Shades. Those are made up words for what these people do, but that's OK.)

How to indicate that the gifting comes from God? Have Abel talk to Him, pray to Him, before the anointing falls on him. Then when Abel turns his back on his gifting to pursue love, he's turned away from God so when the gifting no longer appears and Abel's prayers don't appear to do more than reach the ceiling, it's something all can relate to. When we move away from God's call on our lives, it's us who move away not God. But His silence is a sign we've moved away.

As to how to answer the questions: It's up to you to identify the gifting and what a "rescue" entails. Just bear in mind that God does the eternal rescuing, so make the lines clear on what Abel can do (with God's help) and what he can't. What only God can do.

Does that help?

Michael Ehret said...

I think this needs more specificity. Pitches should be general, of course. One can't give the entire plot outline, but there seems to be a lot missing here. How are they a team? What do they do together that makes them a team and that would make his discovery about her be a bad thing? What do you mean by "academic planet"? Why shouldn't there be a throne there? If he's dedicated to academia, what skills does he have that he thinks would better be employed elsewhere? What turmoil? He's not a home now? If not, why not and why would people try to lure him home? And why would he evade them? Most people are eager to return home.

As is, the pitch feels too vague to me. I'm having trouble engaging with it.

Michael Ehret said...

Denise ... Oooooo... again I'm intrigued.

When a wrong turn and a broken down vehicle lands Bronwyn in the town of Moonshine, she feels she's stumbled into the middle of a tragic story she wrote years ago. But how can this be? Is she crazy? Could what she wrote be a reality that extends far beyond her imagination? Something disturbing is at play in Moonshine--something secretive and mystifying. If she wrote this story, why doesn't she know how it ends?

I'd read this.

Denise Parton said...

Ahh great revision! Thanks Michael!

Michael Ehret said...

Goodness, there's a lot going on here. I'm intrigued by the idea that her three identical pairs of cowboy boots are important enough to mention in the first sentence! There must be something going on there.

But there's a contradiction that I can't quite explain: How is it she finds herself in a supernatural world (i.e., not Earth) peopled by gods and goddesses who abandoned that supernatural world to live on earth as mortals? If they are living as mortals on earth, how does she find them in the supernatural world they've left behind? It feels like a "chicken or egg" type problem.

Roiseen's musician dad is missing. When she packs her three identical pairs of cowboy boots, leaves Philadelphia, and heads to Ireland to search for him, she finds herself in a mystical in-between world where young Irish gods and goddesses have abandoned their mythic land to live as mortals. There she learns that one teen god, who considers his compatriots heretics, has captured her father to prevent him from repairing a powerful harp the young gods need. To save her father and her new friends, Roiseen must confront a mythical world that seeks to destroy her world--and her way of life.

Patchi said...

Maybe I'm trying to get too much in such a short pitch... I called it a "school-planet" before, but that seemed confusing too. How about:

David and Catrine were the top two governance students at the Academy of Demia. They were also best friends until he discovers she is next in line for a hereditary throne that should not exist on a planet that values merit, not birthright. David is sure his own accomplishments will count for naught when the next ruler is “chosen.” Will his leadership skills be better employed bringing peace to the turmoil brewing at the other end of the galaxy or should he try to fix Demia with Catrine's help?


Is this better?

Ane Mulligan said...

Only one correction: there are TWO things that land her in Moonshine, so change "lands" to "land".

d. w. fry said...

Absolutely it helps!

I'm twisting like a torn windsock on this thing. But, the discussion is solidifying my perspective.

Thank you so much.

Michelle said...

Here's my pitch if I'm not too late

Caught between two worlds where getting punched out by a bully can hurt just as much as a misguided spell, cell phones can be cursed and houses can kidnap you, Jonah and Brandon Thomas must learn to control their wild magic, before a sinister organization finds them.

chriskellywriter said...

Excellent point, Michael. It's really supernatural events she encounters in the real world. Too much tweaking of my original "she encounters young gods and goddesses etc." Eventually she hits up against the mythic world.

Thanks so much for taking the time to edit this and the others! I'm learning so much.....

Michael Ehret said...

"We are not worthy! We are not worthy! We are not worthy!" Thanks Queenie. Good eye.

Michael Ehret said...

Yes, much better and clearer.

David and Catrine shared top student honors at the Academy of Demia and were best friends--that is until he discovers she is next in line for a hereditary throne, one that should not even exist on a planet that values merit over birthright. Will his accomplishments count for naught when the next ruler is chosen? Should he, instead, use his skills to bring peace to the turmoil at the other end of the galaxy? Can Catrine fix Demia without him?

Don't know if this is better or just different, since I don't know the story. What do you think?

Michael Ehret said...

Delete "that is" in the first line.

Ane Mulligan said...

That's a pet peeve of mine. That and using I when you should use me. ;o)

Catherine Lawrence said...

A Scottish baron falls in love with the romance-writing cousin of the earl he's vowed to kill - the great-niece of Scott's Bride of Lammermour. When he discovers she is spying for Jacobites and plotting to overthrow the Prime Minister, he must foil the conspiracy without betraying her confidence, even as their mutual desire grows. Will they trust one another enough to share their secrets as well as their passions, and find a way to defy her family's ancestral curse?

Michael, thanks so much for considering these pitches. I've marveled at your ability to transform them so handily!

Michael Ehret said...

My caution is this sounds like an early draft of the Harry Potter books. Be sure, as you revise, to emphasize what makes your story different--NOT what makes it like HP.

In a world of wild magic, being punched out by a bully can hurt just as much as a misguided spell, cell phones can be cursed, and houses can kidnap. Can twin brothers Jonah and Brandon Thomas learn to control their impulses before an organization of sinister (warlocks? wizards? what are they?) finds them and bends their abilities to evil?

Michael Ehret said...

Hmmm...the "romance-writing" part feels like a tack-on, but I suspect it has more to do with the plot or you wouldn't lead with it. Can you redraft in such a way to indicate that? Or, if it is inconsequential, take it out.

A Scottish baron. A romance-writing cousin of the enemy he's vowed to kill. A passionate affair. When he discovers she is a spy for the Jacobites and helping to plot the overthrow of the Prime Minister, he must foil the conspiracy without betraying her confidence--or losing her love. Can true love overcome their unspoken secrets and defy her family's ancestral curse?

Marji Laine said...

I tried to put this aside and think about it later, but your suggestion keeps haunting me. How about this one?

The owner of a small-town diner becomes the target of a hit man when her former boyfriend incurs revenge from an enraged drug lord. Despite her broken heart, she must trust the man who abandoned her while avoiding the attempts of a murderer.

Thanks so much for your expertise!

Stephanie said...

A party-boy bull rider, a teetotaling barmaid who saves his life and the attraction they both fight. Sean must decide to change his ways in order to keep Cat's love. Rodeo doesn't have to include drinking and has room for a normal life.

Melinda S. Collins said...

Michael,

Yes! That retains the essentials and leaves just enough to the imagination. Thank you for showing me how to tighten my pitch! MUCH appreciated!!! :)))

Catherine Lawrence said...

Hey, that's neat! Thanks for recasting it in this interesting way.

Michael Ehret said...

Stephanie,

This sounds like a recitation of the facts of the story, not something designed to pull an editor in and make him or her ask to see more. Can you recast this and bring some of the emotion of the story into the pitch?

Sean, a party-boy bull rider running from (something) and Cat, the teetotaling barmaid who saves his life. Could they be more wrong for each other? There's no room for true love or a normal life in the hard-drinking, hard-hitting world of the rodeo--or so Sean believes. Is Cat's love enough to change his mind?

I don't know enough about the story to know if this works, but try to dig down into the emotion of their situation and add some life into this pitch.

Patchi said...

I really like how you phrased the questions, but the beginning still doesn't sound right. Here is another version:

David and Catrine are the best students who ever graduated from the Academy of Demia. They were also best friends -- until he discovers she is next in line for a hereditary throne, one that should not even exist on a planet that valued merit over birthright. Will his own accomplishments count for naught when the next ruler is chosen? Should he, instead, use his leadership skills to bring peace to the turmoil at the other end of the galaxy? Can Demia prosper without him?

Thanks for all your help!

Michael Ehret said...

Better. How about changing it to: David and Catrine are the top graduates ever from the Academy of Demia.

For me that says more than the best students who ever graduated...and it's fewer words. :) I like your closing question better than mine because it subtly hints that it can't. Nice.

Catherine Lawrence said...

Hello, again. I'm ever revising. For your interest here's my latest.

A rakish Lowland baron vies with an aristocratic British cavalry commander for the affections of an Edinburgh heiress.

When he discovers she is a Jacobite spy plotting to overthrow the Prime Minister, he risks betraying her confidence to foil the conspiracy; and when she uncovers scandalous affairs in their families’ past, she must decide whether she trusts him not to seek retribution.

Passion binds them together; politics may tear them apart, or can true love overcome dangerous secrets and defy a clan’s ancestral curse?

Patchi said...

I like it. And by using the word graduates, it also implies that the book is not YA. Thank you very much for your help!

Michelle said...

Thanks so much for your feedback.
I'd love another go, if it's not too much to ask.

When an ominous cloud comes searching for them, Jonah and Brandon Thomas’ mysterious Auntie Mischief’s concerns are confirmed. Like her, the brothers have wild magic and now they must juggle real world problems like bullies and homework with cursed cell phones, kidnapping houses, nightmare creatures and misguided spells. Can the brothers learn to master their power before it does real damage to friends and family and before a sinister organization finds them? If not, these Hatless Men will take control of the wild magic for themselves and for Jonah and Brandon that could spell the end of their freedom, their freewill and even their lives.

Thanks so much for you help.

~sharyn said...

Actually, this is fairly close for some general thoughts. And the women use the acronym so I'm glad just saying it outright works. I'll fiddle with this a bit and see if I can make the humor pop.

Thank you!