One Month Till National!

Okay, ladies, one month from today signals the first day of NATIONAL! In honor of this, I’ve planned a week-long “workshop” to help us perfect our “elevator pitches.” You know, when someone asks you what you write and you stumble all over yourself, like I did at the Emily conference? Well, we don’t want to do that!

So…I’ve asked some friends to submit pitches for critique, or as an example of a good pitch, and I want your feedback! And if you want to practice your pitch, send it to me, and I’ll put it up this week. If you want to send it anonymously, email it to me at mfechter @ gmail . com (without the spaces.)

Here are some articles to warm you up:

Ready, Aim…Pitch!

How to Pitch to an Agent/Editor

Alleviating the Symptoms of an Editor/Agent Pitch

Ready, Set, Pitch! (I really liked this one – give me fill in the blanks anyday!

Pitch Perfect

All agree you need to know what you write, how long it is, who you’re targeting.

They also agree the pitch needs to be no more than three sentences, and that clichés give a better picture in the short format. The articles suggest comparing your book to a movie or TV show, or better, comparing two pop culture events in a high concept.

I have no idea where these notes came from, but I came across them looking for the synopsis I wrote for Alex. Just know they’re not mine, and if I knew where to give credit, I would.

What makes your work stand out or be unique?

What are your strengths?

What risks are you taking?

Why do you believe in your story? How would you sell it? (Try
writing the back cover copy to answer these questions.)

Are there ways to “play with” story structure? Her examples largely related to POV, but her comment was broader.

What are the archetypes readers respond to? Why? Can you engraft those characteristics onto your hero and heroine? (She observed that “bride-baby-cowboy” is a perennially popular formula, but urged that writers use the emotional essence of these characters rather than repeating them.)

What is popular now in television and in the movies? She urged writers to see what’s selling and consider new lines being developed.

What is the next popular trend? (She observed that the H/S marketing dept has recently received feedback from 11,000 reader, but there was no consensus.)

Colleen Gleason mentions that you should have a short, one line pitch, and a longer but still concise version. She said it’s not only helpful for editors and agents, but once you’re published, readers.

Her one-liner high-concept pitch for The Rest Falls Away, coming in February 2007: Buffy the Vampire Slayer in Regency England.

The one-paragraph follow-up when they want to know more: Victoria Gardella learns that her family legacy is that of vampire hunters, and she's the one chosen from her generation to bear this responsibility. Up until now, she's been interested in beaux and balls, dance cards and gowns...but now her biggest problem is how is she going to get out on the streets at night--and where is she going to hide her stake?

Janet Mullany shared her pitch for her erotic novella based on Jane Eyre: "What if it was Mr. Rochester who was imprisoned in the attic?"

Cool, huh?

And she shared this, the infamous Wizard of Oz pitch, allegedly from TV Times:

"A woman visiting a strange land kills the first person she meets and joins three strangers to kill again."

Hmm, doesn’t have the same tone as the movie, huh?

Wow, this is long! Hope y'all are still with me!

So, I’m going to develop pitches for 5 of my stories: Hot Shot, Surface, DLB, Vanished and Alex (which I REALLY need a title for. I know it’s not done, but I have had editors ask me, “What are you working on now?”)

Any and all feedback is appreciated.

Hot Shot:

Peyton Michaels is a reporter who needs what makes a man want to be a hero after the death of her husband in the line of duty. She’s found the perfect subject in Hot Shot Gabe Cooper, who’s just a man doing a job. She has to show him how special he is, and he has to make her believe in herself so she can live again.

(Sappy, sappy, sappy!) The theme is expectations, I just realized yesterday when writing the synopsis. Hello, I’ve been working on this book 6 years and I just saw that??)

Don’t Look Back:

Seven years ago, Gerard Delaney rescued Liv Olney from an African warlord and then he disappeared, living in exile after a court-martial strips him of his career. Now she has to find him so the two of them can return to the country that stripped so much away from them to rescue her best friend, in the hands of the same warlord.

Beneath the Surface:

(Can you believe I forgot their last name? I had to go look it up. Dang!) Archaeologist Adrian Reeves has found something important in the Caribbean off the coast of Central America. The only person he trusts to help him is the woman who walked away from him two years ago, his wife, archaeologist and ancient language specialist Mallory Reeves. But Mallory is ready to move on with her life after their divorce, unwilling to play second fiddle to his work any longer. Can he convince her she still loves him, and the work they do together?


Tess McCartney and her young son have been missing for two months. Everyone gives up hope, except her twin brother Danny and her best friend Gabrielle. The two decide to work together despite their lifelong rivalry for Tess’s attention, and their need to be in control.

Alex (seriously, need a title!):

When woman-wary Ranger Chief Alex Shepard leads a team against a suspected terrorist’s compound in Central America, he comes up empty-handed, except for the sexy as hell woman who begs for his help, and wields a secret to make sure she gets it. Isabella Canales must get to her son in the United States, but she has to convince the handsome Ranger he can trust her – when he trusts no one else.

Okay, fire away!

I think I'm gonna need this.

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Peggy said...

I'm not going to the Nationals, which is probably a good thing because the thought of agent/editor pitching scares the crap out of me!

MJFredrick said...

Peggy, it gets easier with practice. Heck, my last editor appt was with Shannon Godwin in Dallas, and it was a blast! It gave me confidence to meet with Pam Harty, who said, "It's no coincidence Hot Shot finalled in the Golden Heart twice." She rejected it, but still.

Now, my first few pitches had me in tears.

Mostly, I don't want to stutter if someone in the elevator asks me about my book ;)

Stacy Dawn said...

What a great idea Mary!

Kelly Boyce said...

Oiy...Heeellllooooo Gerry....

Pitches. Yikes. I had to do one with the documentary camera on me last year and I thought I was going to hyperventilate, which I'm sure will show up when it airs. The other two went okay, but the hot cameras and the fact that it was my dream editor - Kelly Harms at Avon (who was actually really nice) just sent me into a bit of a tailspin for the first few minutes when I started reading my pitch. Yup I read it, couldn't lift my eyeballs from the cue cards if I tried...

Colleen Gleason said...

Thanks, Mary, for the pic of Gerry (hey, I'm a poet this morning!) and for sharing my ideas.

This is a great blog idea, and I must confess, I will be watching it with interest. It's always been hard for me to come up with pitches, and I end up stumbling over my words anyway.

My CPs and I are usually sitting at lunches or in our hotel room during conference trying to figure out our pitches for our appointments.

April said...

Mary, great idea! And even better, after making me feel overwhelmed, you rewarded us with a little eye candy!! Thanks! Can't wait for the other posts!

KATZ said...

Sorry for getting here late! You should have seen me at my first RWA meeting. Sandra K. Moore asked me what my ms was about, and I did the furious blushing and mumbling that went no where...*sigh*. :)

My comments on your pitches would be...
DLB, I think it used too many pronouns - he, she, them - got a little distracting all in one sentence.

I think Surface is the best one - seemed to have some energy and more snappy.

I think it was a class on the PRO loop where the speaker talked about using descriptive words - can't think of the proper name - like "Frustrated archeologist" or "estranged wife", to give more depth to the pitch without adding a lot of words...

Great job, Mary!! I haven't really put much thought into my strengths and weaknesses before.

MJFredrick said...

Okay, I'm going to go back and rework DLB. There is a lot going on in that book, and it's hard to boil down.

Sarah, that was EXACTLY my experience when Ann, I think, asked me what I wrote. She just gave me this look and said, "Honey, you need to get that blurb down."

Colleen, I've done the last minute pitch thing before, too. Never comes out right.

Kelly, ON CAMERA???? AHHHHH!!! That's like going to a pitch session in your underwear!!! That has to be the grandmother of all nightmare pitch stories.


M.J. Fredrick's books on Goodreads
Breaking DaylightBreaking Daylight
ratings: 11 (avg rating 3.33)

Beneath the SurfaceBeneath the Surface
ratings: 11 (avg rating 4.00)

Hot ShotHot Shot (Samhain)
reviews: 2
ratings: 10 (avg rating 4.00)

Where There's SmokeWhere There's Smoke
ratings: 6 (avg rating 4.00)

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