Sunday, 20 May 2012

Pitching the novel

It seems pitching a book, or even summarising it is well nigh impossible for me. Yesterday we went to a wedding packed with lovely people I have know for many years, and yet when asked 'what's your book about?' I go blank. I find it difficult to summarise 100,000 well edited, honed words to a few sentences. 'It's about 16th century sorcery, the lengths people will go to to save a child, John Dee in Europe in 1585, being a non-person, the nature of death...' all of which is kind of true, but none of which would make me want to read it. After all that, people were still asking me if it was non-fiction (no, and I should have nailed that first) and was it for kids (also no).

I'm off to Newcastle soon to attend a workshop on how to pitch a book to agents and editors, and while I already have the agent, and she will hopefully pitch to the editors, it would still be helpful to know how to talk to these people. I can't imagine an event where I am less able to shine than a load of industry bigwigs crammed into a small space for two hours with a couple of dozen authors, all competing for attention. I'd much rather make the sandwiches.

So I thought I would prepare by reading up on it. Louisa Burton writes a mean column about it here, and I'm making my way back through the book to look for a fifty word pitch that sums up the conflict (no-one really wants to die? Seems a bit thin...) while still giving a hint of voice and two strands and five main characters...no, wait, six, seven,eight... It's still easier to write a whole book that all the peripheral stuff. Nicola Morgan recommends that a short pitch should focus only on the main character, show what is at risk, and include the main conflict - in 25 words. Back to the drawing board. I'll let you know how I get on.

4 comments:

  1. What's your book about?

    *shudder*

    Look forward to you reporting back.

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    1. I'm still struggling with it! It's so hard to summarise so many subplots and characters into a couple of sentences. I'm going to work on it today.

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  2. You're so right about trying to say what a book is about in a single sentence. Well, you end up leaving a whole bunch out. ;)
    Good luck!

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    1. Esactly Cathy, how can I say which sentence won't leave out something essential - like why someone would want to read the book! I only know why I wrote it....

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