Thursday, September 30, 2010


This weekend I attended the annual SCBWI Carolinas Fall Conference. I learned lots of amazing things and came away with a head full of new knowledge and a muse loaded with ideas. But there is one thing that has been nagging at me and I thought I’d like to share.

The amazingly talented marketing guru and writer, Shelli Johannes-Wells hosted a workshop Sunday morning called DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE M WORD. It was a very insightful lesson on the ins and outs of branding for authors. One thing she said that stuck with me was, “Know your pitch!” She said most people tend to zone out after the first ten words!

Wow, really? It got me thinking about the pitch for my novel, BLOOD TIES. This is my next “big” work. This is the piece of heart and soul that I hope to catch an agent with. And until Sunday, I wasn’t worried about my pitch. I had it. It was done. Heck you may have read it here on my blog. It was short (45 words), it was simple and to the point. So what was the problem? It didn’t seem natural. Shelli said your pitch should simply start like this: “My book is about. . .”

Instead, mine was more formal. It read much like a book flap or query letter. Take a gander:

His Dad is in jail, his mother is an alcoholic and his little brother is a pint-sized Goth freak. Life isn’t easy for Talon Cooley,
so when Dad calls from prison looking for another hand-out to save his worthless life, what's a guy to do?

Not bad. I mean, it didn’t suck and you got the gist. My problem was that it didn’t flow easily in conversation. If someone says to me, “So, what’s your book about?” I will look like a total dork if I suddenly turn on my James Earl Jones narrator voice and spout the above pitch. So I decided to make it more personal, more easily accessible and likely to hold up in conversation. Here’s my attempt:

My book is about . . . a teenage boy stuck in the shadow of his father’s jailhouse rep. So when neighborhood pets start
disappearing and an arson roams the area, fingers automatically point toward “that Cooey boy.” Talon’s struggle to clear
his name initiates a risky game with a dangerous drug dealer and leads to a discovery that just might give him a new outlook
on the man he calls Dad.

Whew! It went from 45 to 72 words. I’ve heard a pitch should never go above 150-200 words and I’ve managed to stay below that. Although it would never fit on Twitter. Does it still need work? Hell yeah. But my novel is still a work in progress and I’m thinking I might have a better handle on it once it is complete. In the meantime, It’ll still be rolling around my brain looking for improvement.

Now let’s talk about you. How’s your pitch? Is it formal like mine or can you tell me about it in casual conversation? Do you know it by heart? Will it fit on Twitter? (There are agents/editors who sometimes take pitches there and also sponsor contests.)

Let’s see what you’ve got. Pretend I’m Joan Q. Editor. We’re together at a social gathering and I look at you point blank and say, “So, what’s your book about?”

Share your best pitch in the comments section below.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


WriteOnCon, a FREE online conference for writers is over. If you missed it, you totally missed out on a great event. But have no fear, the founders, Jamie Harrington, Elana Johnson, Shannon Messenger, Jennifer Stayrook and Lisa and Laura Roecker have more up their sleeves.

The conference, which was held August 10-12, 2010 was attended by so many writers their server couldn't handle all the traffic. In order to host another epic event they'll need to pay for a better web hosting service. So, in order to finance this whole shebang, they have come up with the grand idea of giveaway promotions and will also be accepting donations. If you haven't done so already, please go check out the WriteOnCon website for details.

In addition to the giveaways listed on the WriteOnCon site, you will find additional giveaways on each of the founders websites/blogs. Casey McCormick is giving away an ARC of EXTRAORDINARY by Nancy Werlin and a hardcover of WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan. There will be two winners, one book to each.

Lisa & Laura Roecker are giving away an ARC and a sneak peek at the 1st chapter of their book LIAR SOCIETY and a 50 page manuscript critique.

Shannon Messenger is giving ways some much sought after autographed books. For you Rick Riordan fans she has THE LIGHTNING THIEF, THE ALCHEMIST signed by Michael Scott, MISTBORN signed by Brandon Sanderson, THE NAME OF THE WIND signed by Patrick Rothfuss and LEVIATHAN signed by Scott Westerfeld.

Elana Johnson is also donating autographed books for the cause. Sign up to win LOSING FAITH signed by Denise Jaden and BREAK signed by Hannah Moskowitz.

Author Jamie Harrington has some autographed goodies also. If you'd like a gander at PROM DATES FROM HELL signed by Rosemary Clement-Moore or GIL'S ALL FRIGHT DINER signed by A. Lee Martinez, Jamie's blog is the place to go.

So lets help these wonderful ladies help us. Sign up for giveaways and make donations to keep WriteOnCon on the web! And a special thank you goes out to the founders for their effort and commitment. Organizing anything is tough work and you've done it without any monetary benefit to yourselves. Please know, YOU ARE APPRECIATED!

-Niki Masse Schoenfeldt