Wednesday

Fourth Floor Kitchenware, Loungewear, and Perfect Pitches. Going Up.

Imagine you're in the elevator at a conference and a brilliant children's editor (like say me) and her handler get in the elevator too. This brilliant, amazing editor (like me) turns to you and introduces herself and after learning you are an author asks you what you are working on now. What do you do, author? What. Do. You Do.

Why, you launch into your elevator pitch, of course.

An elevator pitch is almost identical to what a bookseller does when he/she handsells a book to a customer. It's a small paragraph that teases the potential reader whether it is an editor or a 12-year-old kid to want to read the book. This is not the same as a book's jacket copy. Again, this is much vaguer than a synopsis or jacket copy. Like a one-sentence pitch you still want to make sure that you tell what the genre and audience is, but that's where the similarities end. In this type of pitch you want interesting sentences that tell more about the beginning of the book rather than the overall plot. This is your chance to make your book sound as appealing as possible in the shortest amount of time. After all, you would only have around 15 seconds in an elevator ride.

Here's a sample of the difference between jacket copy and an elevator pitch:
Jacket copy for the Book of Nonsense:
The book is ancient, ravaged and full of utter nonsense. But the moment it enters Daphna and Dexter's lives, bizarre things begin to happen. Why is their father, who found the book, suddenly so distant? Is the old man who took it from him some kind of hypnotist? Why is a giant, red-eyed boy menacing them? And what does their thirteenth birthday have to do with all this? Daphna and Dexter can't stand each other, but they'll have to work together to learn the truth about the Book of Nonsense - before their lives come apart completely.

Elevator Pitch for the Book of Nonsense:
This is my newest midgrade fantasy book, The Book of Nonsense. In it, the father of a pair of twins discovers a book that can't be read because the words constantly move. It turns out the book is magical, and that an ancient man wants it so he can control the world. After he steals the book from their father, the twins have to get the book back and save their father from the old man's spell.

This is literally the pitch that I used on every librarian at TLA when giving out copies of the reader. It must of worked because very few gave me the reader back.

Despite the similarity in length, you can see the difference between the two. The first does not work as a pitch because of all of the questions and the level of detail. In the actual spoken pitch, all but the most major plot arcs are eliminated. There is industry jargon that is unnecessary for a jacket summary. We still don't name any characters or give details of place unless necessary. But we still have enough stuff to pique interest and intrigue the reader to want to hear or discuss in more detail.

Now. let's see you try to do elevator pitches. Since this is normally a verbal not a written pitch, be sure to read it out loud to yourself to make sure it sounds good. You don't want to use words you don't how to pronounce or that you will stumble over.

I would like to say I was very impressed with the pitches and comments the last time. I look forward to seeing the same level of quality on this set.

Thursday

One sentence pitch

We're going to start small with our pitching and work our way up to the big stuff. Fortunately, the smaller the pitch the more likely you are to use it. After all, most of the time you only have a few seconds or minutes with an editor, agent, or possible reader of your book. With the exception of pre-arranged appointments, you are rarely going to have 10 or 15 minutes to just sit back and chat. And if time is really short, you may have to try to pitch your book to someone in a single sentence. For example, you go to a conference to hear an editor speak. After the session there's a huge line to speak with the editor. By the time it's your turn, the editor's handler looks stressed and annoyed and the actual editor looks a bit harrassed and overwhelmed. This is not the time to go into a lengthy discussion of your book. Instead walk up and give the editor your one sentence pitch and ask permission to send the manuscript. The editor will say yes or no and give any pertinent information on how to submit if it wasn't already covered in the session, and both of you can now move on. And trust me, the editor is greatful that you were able to be so concise, clear, and professional.

But what exactly is a one sentence pitch? It's exactly what it sounds like. It's where you have to distill the very essence of your entire 60k work novel into one itty-bitty sentence. And I do mean a small sentence. This is not the time to try to write some convoluted complex-complex-compound-complex sentence. Come to think of it, there is never a time to write that kind of sentence. You want a simple, clear, oftentimes compound sentence that tells what kind of book you've written, the intended market, and a very brief synopsis of the plot. This is not the time to get into the characters or subplots or mention the riveting plot twist on page 239. Your sentence will need to be a bit general in some respects but still show how your work is different from all the other books on the market. Here are 2 examples of one sentence pitches:

The Emerald Tablet -- In this midgrade science fiction novel, a telepathic boy discovers that he is not really human but a whole different species and that he must save a sunken continent hidden under the ocean.

The Book of Nonsense -- In my new midgrade fnatasy novel, a pair of twins must reclaim from an ancient evil a powerful book which if read could be used to enslave the world.

In both sentences, I did similiar things. I mentioned the genre (science fiction or fantasy) and the intended audience (midgrade). Had I been speaking to someone not familiar with industry terminology like a kid or parent or other potential reader, I would not have used midgrade but would have said something like "kid book" or "book for middle schoolers" or something like that. Remember to adapt your pitch to the person your pitching to. After that I gave a extremely brief synopsis. There are no character or place names. The words Benjamin and Lemuria (Emerald Tablet) or Daphne or Dexter (Book of Nonsense) did not appear. The person being pitched doesn't need to know the specifics right now. Save that for when you have more time or the person shows more interest.

Now, both of these sentences only take a moment to read, but they took forever to write. Do not get discouraged if yours also takes forever.

Now I think it is time to practice. This is not the pitch contest I was talking about earlier, just a little practice. Feel free to post your one sentence pitch and to comment on others. However, if you do comment, you MUST be kind and polite. We are all trying to help one another not show our own superiority. I will remove any comment that is rude, offensive, or just plain unkind. I look forward to seeing everyone's attempts.

Tuesday

Blockbuster Releases Coming Soon

I have gone through my TLA footage, and it is lackluster at best. It seems that the lens isn't as good on this camera. It doesn't have as wide of a range. So, although I contemplated not putting anything up, there is a priceless piece of footage with me and a plunger. I will not go into more details. I'm still editing the footage, and I hope to have it up tomorrow or Friday. You would think that less footage would mean faster editing, but no. Also I'm trying new software, and it goes poorly.

But enough about TLA. BEA is just around the corner. Time to start preparing for that. At BEA I'll be participating in a marathon pitch session where authors have 3 minutes to pitch their book to me. And unlike most conferences I attend, I will not be automatically accepting for submission anything that comes my way. I will be discerning. I will be discriminating. I will be difficult. Soooo, I thought that for the next few weeks, we could concentrate on the pitching aspect of selling books. After all, a book gets pitched many times during its life. You pitch to me, I pitch to my boss, we pitch to the chains and independents, and the booksellers pitch (or handsell) the books to the end reader. And then if a reader likes it they pitch (or recommend) it to their friends.

My plan for the next few weeks are simple. I'll talk about pitches. I'll coerce other people to talk about pitches. We'll all practice different types of pitches, and this will all culminate in a pitching contest where I'll allow the winning pitches to submit their manuscripts. I know that might sound like a lame prize, but keep in mind that Blooming Tree & CBAY no longer select unsolicited submissions from anyone except agents. Except for personally meeting us at a conference, there is no other way to get your manuscripts in front of our eager little eyes. So check back Thursday when I'm going to discuss the famous "Elevator Pitch."

Saturday

Back Again

I have finally gotten back to Austin after a day with the family in Dallas. I am utterly exhausted, so no movie tonight. We'll see what I manage to get up after work tomorrow.

Friday

End Days

We've come to the last day of TLA. I'm actually here in the convention center at the Maximum Ride Internet Room. Yep, that's right. Even something like the Texas Library Association manages to find corporate sponsorship for their stuff. No one is immune. I would like some corporate sponsorship for my corporation. It seems unlikely.

I was to tired to list the readers I was excited to get, but I've got a few moments until the exhibit hall opens, so I'll do it now.
  • Skulduggery Pleasant 2: Playing with Fire -- I'm not a big fan of sequels. I often love the first in a series only to be vaguely disappointed in the second book. Sometimes the third book redeems the series, sometimes it only makes it worse. However, in the case of Skulduggery 2, I liked it just as much as I liked the first book. The tone and voice are still just as witty and sarcastic. I actually found myself grinning on the train last night as I commuted back last night. I rarely make an expression while reading. And the story itself was still an exciting fun read. So, look for the book when it comes out. Atrocious new jacketing aside, it's going to be a fun book.
  • Hunger Games -- Collins Gregor the Underlander series (I forget the actual series title) would be an example of a series that fit the usual excellent first book/downhill from there series. Still, I know she can write a good first book, so I grabbed her new one, Hunger Games. Much to my glee, it's a science fiction real game story - kind of a survivor TV show with more violent outcomes. I read 80 pages on the train this morning, and now I don't want to man my booth but sit in a quiet little corner somewhere and finish the story.
  • Madapple -- This reader has been floating around for a while. It's apparently a brilliant but disturbing book that no one knows what to do with. I'm dying to read it.
Those are my top picks of readers, the ones I was most excited to find laying around for the taking.

But now it's back to Blooming Tree and our own books. This last day is only a half day, thank goodness, traditionally with a lot of last minute sales and networking. I have to say that contact-wise, this has been my most productive TLA yet. I met an author who is now going to work up a chapter book series proposal for me, and even some poetry that might be coming my way. I'm so pleased, that chills are running down my back. Or it's still just insanely cold in here.

Wednesday

TLA (Throughly Local Awkwardness)

Today the festivities began. The exhibitor hall at TLA (Texas Library Assoc. conference) officially opened and the attendees flooded in to visit the booths and snag as much free stuff as they could carry in their 4-9 canvas bags. Actually, they more trickled than flooded. The mass surge witnessed in last years TLA vlog was singularly lacking. In fact TLA has been in all honesty a wee bit dull this year. Of course constantly repeating the spiel: "These are our free readers for this season. On this side is our midgrade fantasy, and on this side our midgrade science fiction. Both will come out in October. We do picture books all the way through young adult. Here is a copy of our 2008 list. The full catalog can be found online." -- becomes soul sucking after a while. But I do that every year when I man a booth whether it's at TLA, the Texas Book Festival, or somewhere else. That's the nature of the beast. No, this year there just aren't all that many exciting readers to grab from the other houses, and the attendee enthusiasm seems to be lacking as well. Maybe they're all just tired before they wander to our booth, or maybe it's Dallas sucking the life out of them. It's hard to tell.

But the result of all this (and my lack of sleep -- those books didn't come until 8:15 last night) means that the footage I got for my blog is less than stellar. I think I can safely call it blah. So, in the hopes of getting better stuff in the next few days, I've decided that I'm going to do a composite video of my whole experience instead of a day by day account. Trust me. This will be better for us all.

Tomorrow instead of a video, I'm going to chat about the readers I am excited to have grabbed.

And speaking of grabbed ARCs, over 400 Emerald Tablets, all I brought in fact, were grabbed today, and all but 40 of the Book of Nonsense (I brought over 500 of those) were snatched up. We think that sets a Blooming Tree record for first day TLA. Great job PJ and David! I'm so excited that people are showing interest!

Tuesday

101 Best Websites for Writers

So my friend Chuck just sent me the funniest email in the world. Apparently in the most recent Writers Digest magazine, they list, in their opinion, the top writing websites, and this little blog is listed -- as an agent. So, needless to say I'm tickled pink that someone over there (not Chuck) thought my blog worthy of mention. BUT, I am over the moon at the thought that this person didn't pick up on the fact that I'm an editor, not an agent. I was so excited, that I had to read the email to my husband. He did not see the humor.

"Aren't they basically the same thing?" he asked.

Sigh. Some people can just be so naive.

Personally, I would have thought that my screen name, Buried EDITOR, would have been a dead giveaway, but what do I know. And since submitting to an agent is almost exactly the same as submitting to an editor, all the same rules apply. If you're stumbling on to this blog thinking you would be reading an agent's musings on writing, then I hope that you still find something of use.

And if you want to see the sites Writers' Digest chose last year, click here. I have it on great authority that this year's sites won't be put up for a few weeks. I wonder if my site will still be on it, and if so, where it will be placed. Any gueses?

On the Road Again

That's right guys and gals, it's that time of year again. The one, the only, exciting TLA begins again today. The other Blooming Tree folks are already in Dallas unloading and setting up our booth, but I'm still here in Austin waiting for the Emerald Tablet ARCs to arrive so I can chuck them in my car and leave. Then I'll be on my way to the big-D-little-A-double-L-A-S. And in case you were wondering, I will be documenting this again this year with a less than exciting video montage. Stay tuned. The Buried Editor is going multi-media.

Monday

Another One Bites the Dust

Wow, a whole month has gone by since I've last had a chance to post. I can't believe it went by so quickly. April seems to be just cruising by too. I can't seem to catch up!!

But I have been busy and productive. I haven't been slacking off these past weeks. I'm crazy excited because the second CBAY book, The Emerald Tablet, by P J Hoover will be coming back from the printers at the end of this week. There was a minor crisis this morning when they discovered an extra dash in the ISBN. However, no one I know actually types any dashes when entering an ISBN, so I made the executive decision that all was well. This way, I still get them in time for TLA.

Speaking of which, TLA is now around the corner. If you're going to be in Dallas next week, get an exhibitor area pass and come see me at the Blooming Tree booth. We'll be giving away lots of CBAY readers and selling the BTP books dirt cheap. Also, a panel of our crafty writers will be speaking on multiculturalism. I hear it's going to be a good time had by all.

Finally, I'm in the works on a new exciting project that I can't talk about until I have the details finalized with my co-conspirator. But as part of that project, I will need to write a book proposal. Now I realize that book proposals are relatively rare in the children's fiction side of publishing that I normally focus on, but they are common in adult writing, especially the non-fiction market. So, should you ever find yourself in need of a book proposal, I have compiled a handy-dandy checklist of things you should include. Since I don't pretend to be an expert at all things book proposals, I used the handy book Bestselling Book Proposals by Rick Frishman and Robyn Freedman Spizman as a reference. The book was a simple, clear how-to guide. If you ever need to produce a book proposal, I highly recommend reading their book.

And once you have that proposal all ready, head on over to the bestest guy ever, Chuck's blog, and learn how to find yourself an agent to represent it.

Well, I have an editorial meeting that I must go prepare for. It's also the last night for one of my editors. They all grow up and leave the nest so soon . . .