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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015



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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

What I learned about making a pitch

Well, I'm going to put parts of this behind a cut because it is likely to get rather long as I'm going to post examples of phrases and pitches that I created last night. But here is what I learned about making a pitch. The speaker was Kay Morison, a writer and psychology instructor. She has several books to her name, both fiction and non-fiction. She quoted a lot from a book by Maas.

In brief, create a 1-minute pitch and build it around the core of the story. The pitch should include the setting, the hero/protagonist, main problem to be overcome (conflict), and where the novel fits in the market place.

"Security and Exchange is a mystery in which Dag Hamar, a computer forensics detective, battles between his desire to find an old friend and his failing heart." Not very exciting, but got some basics down.

"Dag Hamar is a computer forensics detective with an office in a converted pier on the Seattle waterfront. Dag races against his failing heart to find his missing friend and rival with only the man's laptop for a clue. Security & Exchange is a first person noir detective mystery in which bits and computer code prove as dangerous as dark alleys and guns." I especially liked the last sentence in this one. DW has mentioned that she thinks that there is too much emphasis on the racing the heart thing and that I should save that for the hook.

A second series of expectations for the pitch was suggested that says there are five things that the agent is looking for when they meet with you.
  1. Precision: Do you know your market/genre, can you describe who you are writing for?

  2. Intelligence: Have you done your research and legwork? Do you know your stuff?

  3. Tale: Do you have a good narrative and a sense of why things happen in your story?

  4. Characters: Do you have good, sympathetic characters that people will care about?

  5. Hook: What is your angle for marketing (both the book and the manuscript)?

Some agents, we are told, will want to know the outcome. Others just want to verify that you can end the story. Follow the agent's lead. Maintain a conversational tone.

So then we took a shot at just crafting individual sentences and getting them out there.

  1. Leaving his safe computer lab and chasing Simon to Chicago and Atlanta nearly costs Dag his life, but the closing danger is in the Seattle penthouse that looks down on his waterfront office.

  2. Deb Riley, Dag's partner, is a master of disguise with slightly less regard for the law than Dag and a secret of her own.

  3. Each crisis Dag faces plunges him deeper into the memories of his past; each memory enlightens another portion of the mystery.

  4. Dag's one-time best friend and current husband of his ex-wife, Simon, is missing, taking with him the keys to a billion dollar fortune.

  5. Succumbing to the lure of the old friendship may cost Dag or Simon their lives, but the charismatic Simon has always been able to cominate Dag's will.

So, there in a nutshell is what I learned last night. Other hints that we were given were to have your ideas for what comes next (do you have an idea for a sequel?), know the word-count, illustrate if appropriate, have at least a raw manuscript with you (rare to be asked to read or asked for the manuscript, but it happens). Consider having it on a CD as well. Check out DawBooks.com for writer's guidelines on manuscript submissions.

Now there is a lot of work to do to get my pitch polished by July 24!


> Dag races against his failing heart to find his missing friend ...

"Failing heart" is ambiguous as to whether it's emotionally or physically failing. I'd suggest "Dag races against his terminal heart condition to find his missing friend ..." I'm guessing you get fewer points for being lyrical in a pitch than you do for being explicit.