Hook ‘Em, Don’t Barf on ‘Em

I started blogging to share and record the journey to publication. This is part of the journey and it is *VITAL* See me leaning into the screen begggging writers to get this. In the past 3 years or so, I’ve spent countless hours researching agents and editors, stalking authors and everyone in the business, devouring every portion of information I can glean. I’ve attended six writers conferences and belong to the local guild. I listen and take notes. The following information comes from them. The experts and authorities in the business. They need repeated. Those are the grounds by which I bring you this information. The catalyst to writing this post is my dear friend who is also a book review blogger. She sends me the most horrible-awful-very bad “press releases”. Authors send these atrocities to her in hopes she will review their book on her site. *hangs head* They’re BAD. I read the entire thing and have no clue what they’re book is about. What I do *think* they’re saying it *might* be about sounds odd and unappealing. They have typos and bunny trails and extraneous information no one cares about. I’m normally left say WTH? And those get the trash can. You get one chance to make a first impression. It doesn’t matter how cliche. It’s plain old true. People will remember and avoid asking you about your writing in the future if you make them want to start day drinking when they ask you. This situation is so bad, I’m tossing the idea around of giving an online course in pitch writing. I like pitching. I think it’s fun, like a puzzle or a game. Some writers must not know, so I want to help. Here’s how it starts:

You MUST know what your book is about. You HAVE to. Must. Must. Must. If you don’t know what it’s about when an agent, editor, or potential reader asks you, then they aren’t going to read it. If you dribble on about the deep meaning behind your text, pontificate your mad skills, or bumble over the idea completely….you lost them. Period. Turned off. No thanks. Buh-bye.

Couple tips:

1. Know your genre. And while it is en vogue to combine genres in interesting new ways, make it concise. Limit your genre to two main ones when you are telling someone about it. Throw in too many and you sound like you don’t know what the heck you’re talking about. And cut the “with undertones of blah blah blah or ties to..” Just get to the point. The asking party doesn’t want a dissertation on genre definitions. It’s a YA – paranormal romance. A romantic suspense. An urban fantasy-thriller. Be as simple as possible when asked to explain yourself. Hook em, don’t barf on them.

2. Encapsulate your entire story in 30 words. Try it. After you get back up off the floor, give it a whirl. In 2 or 3 sentences, what is your book about? Find the vein, the pulse, the meat. WHAT is it about? Think of those voice overs on movie trailers. They sum it up and lure you in. Boom! Be succinct. You are a writer. You can do this.

3. After you can sum it up in 30 words, write a query style pitch. Get your head around a small paragraph of information. A teaser, like your query. Tell them enough to garner interest and leave it there. If they want to know more, they’ll ask. Continue to ONLY ANSWER the question THEY ASK. Keep them asking. Coy is your friend. Memorize and practice this so you aren’t tempted to spew random and unnecessary minutiae the next time you’re asked about your book.

Now, I’m going to make Stephenie Meyer die a little. I hope she never reads this post. (as if). But I know everyone knows her story Twilight.

What do you write Steph? She should say (in reference to Twilight) something short and sweet like, My book is Twilight. It’s a paranormal romance for teens.

She should not say: It’s a YA paranormal romance with suspense elements and ties to mythology including Indian legends and local folklore *deep breath in* PLUS there’s humor and action…history too…blah blah blah blah  -The asking party’s eyes just glazed over and they’re running through their shopping list now.

After she gave the short answer and is asked, what’s it about? A good option might be: It’s about a young girl falls in love with a vampire. He loves her too, but he also wants to kill her.

WHAT? Tell me more! You see how this goes?

Don’t info dump. Be succinct. Write your pitch like a back cover blurb. Read some of your favorite blurbs and consider what they tell and what they keep for the reader to discover on their own. Never give away how your story ends. Cut every single word that doesn’t help you in this conquest of hooking them in / capturing their attention.

And on behalf of every book reviewer on this planet, don’t send them your review request until you KNOW they read your genre. Of course, this comes with KNOWING your genre. So, get started!

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