Pitching A Story by Guest Blogger Qwillia Rain
Writing is difficult. Very difficult. I'm not going to lie and say that anyone can write a book. They can't. To write a book you have to be willing to work hard. Very HARD. You have to be willing to take vicious criticism and write and rewrite and re-rewrite ad nauseum until the idea in your head is clear on the page. That kind of perseverance isn't easily cultivated. And it doesn't come naturally to many people.

How does this apply to pitching? The same perseverance needed for writing comes in handy when dealing with writing blurbs and pitches. If you aren't familiar with "pitching" I'm not talking about the skillful throwing of a baseball or softball across home plate in an effort to strike out another team's batter.

Pitching for an author is the presentation of a book idea to an editor, agent, or publisher. Most of the time and in many ways, it can be considered a verbalized query.  In my opinion though, every time a person skims the description of a book, either on-line or in a bookstore, they are reading a pitch. By creating a compelling "pitch", an author can pique the curiosity of another person and, with luck, make a potential sale.

So, how can you create a pitch?

Now, everyone does it differently, but this is my method.

You start with an interesting story. Not that all stories aren't interesting, but some are better than others. Once you have the story, then you can start paring it down. I know, I know, you're probably thinking, "but I just finished the darned thing!" It's okay, you don't have to cut anything out of the story. What you have to do is something I personally find more difficult than writing or editing the book — write the synopsis.

Yup, take those beautiful 100K (100,000) words and reduce it down to a 1,000 word summary of all the high points. Some authors write this before the story, some write it during, some write it after. Me, I'm an "after" if I really, really have to do it. If you know your story, it shouldn't take too long.
Here's where the pitching comes in. With the synopsis done, you now have to take that 1,000 words and reduce it down to 200.

Yes, I said 200 words. You're creating your long blurb. That neat description on the back of the book that makes the reader go "Hmmm? This sounds interesting." Just enough of a teaser to get the person reading it to want to know more. To ask why? And who is she? Or how did he know that?

Here's an example of a long blurb for my book, An Invitation: Ariel's Pet.
Ariel Valerian knew cooking techniques and recipes, but a Dominant like Dane Reese had her more hot and bothered than a dozen hours slaving in a steamy kitchen. And 'slaving' is just what she intends to teach her blond-haired, blue-eyed, oh so yummy surfer boy. He might be helping at the family café as a favor to her sister, but there was no way she was giving him an opportunity to play Dom with her.
For Dane Reese, Ariel Valerian is a full-figured pixie -- a life-size, blue-haired Tinkerbell in a chef's coat surrounded by the scent of chocolate and cinnamon and an aura of mind-blowing, sweaty sex. Too bad she's driving him insane with her determination to order him around. As a Dominant and half-owner of A Master's Gift, Dane has seen his share of Dommes and submissives, and, no matter how she might deny it, Ariel is destined to call him Master.
Two powerful personalities; a contest to determine who is more adept at control; and less than thirty days to discover if Ariel will bow to Dane's commands, or if Dane will become Ariel's Pet.
This long blurb is only 188 words. It gives the gist of the conflict in the story and the disposition of the hero and heroine. From these 188 words I made the short blurb.

The short blurb is best described as your elevator pitch. A quick two or three sentence description of the story that can initiate conversation. The short blurb is 200 characters — yes, I said characters and not words. What I mean by characters is letters, spaces, and punctuation marks.

This means you are going to really use your words wisely for this blurb. The short blurb is what is used on the publisher's website to give the reader a hint of what the story is about. It compels readers to click on the link to read the summary of the story.

Try not to repeat words or character names if you don't have to. Here's the short blurb for An Invitation: Ariel's Pet.
She knows flans, soufflés, and pastries; he has mastered ball-gags, floggers, and bondage. Ariel won't back down and Dane won't submit. Will she go to her knees for him, or will he become Ariel's Pet?
This short blurb was only 200 characters (including spaces) long. Note it doesn't go into detail, only presents the key conflict in the story — namely, the struggle for control between the main characters.
So, how can this help other authors?

As you work on your blurbs keep in mind the purpose of them. Blurbs or pitches are something you will always have to develop with each of your stories if you intend to pursue writing as a career. Remember, pitches and blurbs need to be as polished as the novels they represent. You need to know your story and characters so well that the pitch is an extension of the story and rolls off your tongue in conversation as easily as your own name.

Bouncing ideas off your critique partners or someone who's read your book is a great way to get help in condensing your story to 200 words or characters. Ironically, the 200 character elevator pitch is a snap once you have the 200 word pitch.

Personally, I like working on pitches/blurbs. It's like doing a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle or a crossword puzzle in pen. A challenge worth meeting.

If anyone has a pitch that's not quite to the 200 words stage, feel free to post it and I'll see if I can help with it. Then we can get it down to 200 characters so you're ready just in case you find yourself in an elevator with an agent, editor, or publisher.

Have a great day!

Thanks so much for being our guest today, Qwillia! Everyone, please check out Qwillia's new release, In a Lover's Silence!

Alaskan bill-collector Wynne Smith has a problem. Actually, she has two. The first is sexy, six-foot, Deputy US Marshal, Seth Vassar, fresh off the plane from Dallas, Texas and looking for answers to a five year old murder investigation. The by-the-book marshal doesn't take no for an answer any more than Wynne likes to let a puzzle go unsolved. 

Which leads to her second problem. A serial killer intent on making Wynne pay for destroying his next work of art.

Now Wynne has to guard her heart against a man she knows is going to leave her while she tries to keep one step ahead of a maniac.

In a game this deadly, her only hope lies In A Lover's Silence.
20 Responses
  1. Qwillia Rain Says:

    I guess I should have mentioned I was giving away a copy of In A Lover's Silence when I wrote my post...


  2. Oh wow! Thanks Qwillia! I'll try to spread the word.


  3. Qwillia Rain Says:

    No problem, Vonda, I figure one commentor can have an electronic copy of In A Lover's Silence. I can pick the winner by tomorrow at noon, that way it'll give people an opportunity to comment overnight.


  4. derekd Says:

    Very good advice. Specific and on point. Thank you very much, and good luck with In A Lover's Silence


  5. Lovely cover, Qwillia! The first pitch I ever gave at a conference, I was a nervous wreck! I remember an agent saying once that she was as nervous as we were, so just pitch, and don't worry about it! I thought that was great advice.


  6. Lovely cover, Qwillia! The first pitch I ever gave at a conference, I was a nervous wreck! I remember an agent saying once that she was as nervous as we were, so just pitch, and don't worry about it! I thought that was great advice.


  7. Sarah Hoss Says:

    Hello Qwillia! Thanks for taking the time to work with us. Good luck on your book!

    You post today was very interesting. I took notes.

    BLURB!

    James Macpherson is second in command to the chielf on Clan Macpherson and when he uncovers a plot to murder the Chief and steal the Macpherson lands, he will stop at nothing to uncover the truth.

    Catriona McCleary witnessed her fathers murder. When the killer demands she spy on Clan Macpherson for him, she must agree or her mother and brother will meet the same fate.

    As James and Catriona work and sleep in the same castle, their love begins to grow and she is riddled with guilt. Will her betrayal thear them apart or can their love with stand the test of time?


  8. Qwillia Rain Says:

    Thank you, Derek. I'm hoping IALS (In A Lover's Silence) does well.
    As for my advice, I tend to write rather sparingly, so if I'm ever unclear, I need it pointed out to me. LOL.
    Have a great day.


  9. Qwillia Rain Says:

    Thank you, Terry. The cover is great, done by cover artist Lindsay Breen. I highly recommend her.
    And the information from the agent is good -- I've often heard them at conferences say the exact same thing.
    Have a great day!


  10. Qwillia Rain Says:

    Sarah, I like the blurb, but make sure to watch out for repetitive words and thoughts...
    James Macpherson is second in command to the chie(l)f on (do you mean "of" Clan Macpherson and when he uncovers a plot to murder the (Chief)(you could probably use the word "Laird" here since the chief of a clan was also considered the laird if I remember correctly) and steal the Macpherson lands, he will stop at nothing to uncover (I would change this to "discover" the truth.

    Catriona McCleary witnessed her fathers murder. When the killer demands she spy on Clan Macpherson for him, she must agree or her mother and brother will meet the same fate (the same fate as whom, Catriona or her father? This doesn't seem clear).

    As James and Catriona work and sleep in the same castle (are they working toward the same goal of discovering the bad guy or is Catriona thwarting James's attempts at detecting the truth?), their love begins to grow and she is riddled with guilt. Will her betrayal t(h)ear them apart or can their love with stand the test of time?

    This seems like a pretty tight long blurb. I'm guessing it's about 150 words, right?

    So, how about this for the short blurb:
    To save her family, Catriona McCleary must spy on James McPherson.
    To save his clan, James McPherson must uncover the truth behind a plot to kill his laird.
    Will his love withstand her betrayal?

    I know, sounds kinda hokey, but it works (189 characters including spaces, returns, and punctuation.)


  11. Hi Qwilla and Vonda! ***waving***

    Great blog post, and love your cover! I really enjoyed the example from your own book as well as how you'd change things around in Sarah's blurb. Very helpful advice.

    Do you offer a workshop on pitching and blurbs? If not, you should, I'd be very interested.


  12. Qwillia Rain Says:

    Thank you Marilyn,

    I've thought of creating a pitching class, I guess I'll have to think about it seriously. I'm working on a learning styles and its impact on writing and writers class that I will be practicing on a group of writers in December.

    Once I've perfected it, I'll probably start offering it as a paid, two-week class.

    Q


  13. Qwilla,
    I'm on that list for your learning style class. Have the diary you posted. I'm really looking forward to it.

    Yes, PLEASE seriously consider putting together a workshop on pitching.


  14. books4me Says:

    Good information for authors, Qwillia! I agree that not everyone can write a book.

    books4me67 at ymail dot com


  15. books4me Says:

    Qwillia, this is good information for authors!

    books4me67 at ymail.com


  16. Qwillia Rain Says:

    Thank you Books4me,

    I'm glad you liked the information.

    Marilyn,

    I will think seriously about the pitching class and maybe I'll be setting it up for next year.

    Q



  17. Great post Qwillia. Very well put with the example of the long and short pitch. Love the sound of your books.
    Best
    Cathleen Ross


  18. Qwillia Rain Says:

    Thank you Cathleen,
    Sorry I didn't respond earlier, I was arguing with my characters and cleaning house.

    Now...the winner of the book, In A Lover's Silence is...
    Marilyn~~wiggiemd

    Please contact me at my gmail to let me know which format you'd like, Kindle, epub, or pdf.

    Have a great day!
    Q


  19. OMGosh! YEAH!!! Thanks Q and Vonda!
    I'm so excited to win!

    hugs,
    Mare


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