Participants: Kathleen Marple Kalb, Gerald Hornsby, Chris Towndrow, Cheryl Whiting, Rik Lonsdale, Lynne Shelby, Deborah Klée.
Please introduce yourself by writing a pitch about you. It could be the headlines from your author bio. or a fun sell.
Gerald: After a decades-long career of dealing with difficult bosses, difficult co-workers, and difficult clients, I can now get my own back. No one knows who my victims are based on, except me. And I delight in taking my revenge.
Kathleen: Anchor/Author/Mom…not in that order! Kathleen’s a weekend radio news anchor, weekday suburban mom, and now series mystery author. She needs coffee. Now.
Chris: Multi-genre author, with seven self-published novels in comedy-drama, humour and speculative fiction/sci-fi. Also, a playwright, with 8 works performed to a total audience of over 5000. Penniless, but happy!
Deborah: Host of Friday Salon, presenter of Castaway Books, author of The Borrowed Boy and Just Bea. Love life by the sea.
Cheryl: Aspiring author and creative genius stuck inside the body of a hamster. Writing a book that’s been on the back burner for so long it’s positively frazzled. Hoping to breathe life into it – watch this space by some miracle it could be a ‘right riveting read’
Which of these are you most confident writing: elevator pitch, copyrighting (for ad.), blurb, or synopsis? Least confident? Why?
Gerald: Which of these are you most confident writing: elevator pitch, copyrighting (for ad.), blurb, or synopsis? Least confident? Why?
Kathleen: I’m fine with most of the actual writing, since I’m used to boiling stories down to headlines. BUT — I’m not nearly as good as targeting the pitch. What’s compelling to me isn’t always a great sell to the reader.
Deborah: I agree. I am fine with the synopsis but the pitch! Blurb really hard too.
Cheryl: My writing coach sets me such tasks Spending a lot of time reading book covers and inserts to get an idea and feel for what I should write in my bio. My life seems so ordinary in comparison, wondering where I can acquire such an exciting life.
Chris: Most: blurb, probably, due to experience having to do it for all my books. Least: synopsis, because it’s only for querying – which I’ve done little of – and there is a pressure for perfection, a good sell, etc
Deborah: I really struggle with the blurb. I have been driving myself crazy with my current one – night and day!
Chris: I was lucky enough with Tow Away Zone that I, after a couple of years running with my own blurb, I had an editor do a new one – which was then tweaked by an avid fan. Having someone else summarise is a real plus as it includes their perception of key points.
Kathleen: Another pair of eyes is a HUGE help!
Chris: I’m so much happier with the blurb since it had time to stew and the input from 2 readers. Writers are possibly sometimes too close to the MS to pitch it best. If an editor/beta is being used to refine the copy, then getting help with the ‘salesy bit’ is as important.
Rik: Good Question. Most confident: the dreaded synopsis, because I know the story inside out. Least: Anything to do with advertising, probably reflects my insecurity about the story’s audience.
Deborah: It is really tough. I try to think about individual readers I know and focus my messages on them.
Lynne: Least confident with blurb because I think it’s so important to get it right!
Deborah: Have you learnt tips from your publishers Lynne?
Lynne: Luckily for me, the publishers of my latest novels write the blurb for me, and I have noticed that they focus on the inciting incident in the plot, which I think works well.
Do you use an elevator pitch when pitching your story idea? When and how do you use this? Have you got one to share here?
Gerald: Part of my planning method includes bits of the Snowflake Method from Randy Ingermansen. That includes a single sentence summary and a two-sentence premise. Doing those at the start helps the focus of the writing afterwards, and are essentially Elevator Pitches.
Deborah: Have you got one to share?
Gerald: Two sentence premise: After the discovery of an old man’s corpse in a beach hut, the police call it the accidental death of a homeless old man. Can Jerry Sanders and his team discover who he is, and why he was locked in the hut?
Kathleen: I usually settle on one short pitch and tweak for different formats. Here’s my contemporary cozy: “I shot the snowman, but I did not kill the guy inside.” New York DJ Jaye Jordan’s new start in Vermont gets complicated, with moose, maple…and murder.
Deborah: Like it! I am already intrigued.
Kathleen: Thanks — it took forever to get there, with cutting out the reason for Jaye’s divorce, the new romance with the governor (the B mystery) and all kinds of other stuff!
Deborah: A good pitch looks effortless we forget that the author has had several attempts just as we would. I tend to think everyone else has it nailed but me.
Kathleen: It’s so true — all we see from other writers is the final product…not the four hours of false starts, and the three earlier versions they used until they hit the right one!
Rik: I think I’d begin with the question the book answers. For my WIP it’s ‘How will people survive after the flood?’ Then ramble a bit.
Deborah: That’s a really good take on it. I think it’s the question that originally inspired you to write the book.
Have you advertised on Amazon? If so, can you share your ad line? Any useful resources to share on how to write advertising copy? If not advertising how about #pitmad?
Chris: No luck with Amazon ads first time, but the book is a much better prospect now, so I might try again. Only one #pitmad so far – no luck, but I think the poor comp titles hamstrung it. Equally I haven’t distilled the perfect short pitch for that #WIP yet.
Gerald: I used this one last Christmas: There’s still time to treat yourself (or a loved one) to a dark cosy seaside mystery. Only £1.99 / €2.69 / $2.99 mybook.to/BodyOnTheBeach
Rik: After encouraging self-publishing and flooding the market, the great bookseller in the sky now invites you to pay to have your effort seen amongst the throng it has created.
Kathleen: I haven’t done Amazon ads…but I had to come up with a quick tagline for my historicals when I started doing #writerslifts on Twitter. That took forever, too! Having to cut to fit Twitter was a terrific exercise! You really boil down to the most compelling basics…and learn what works.
What makes a good blurb? Do you get help with writing your blurb? Are there any tips or resources you can share?
Kathleen: I’m trad pub, and my short Twitter pitch is actually a bit different from the book copy. I emphasize the MC and what makes her unique…. the publisher takes a somewhat longer view of setting and plot around her. Different audiences, different needs?
Rik: Just popped into my head to check out the blurbs on books I bought which I didn’t like. The blurb must have done something!
Deborah: A good blurb raises questions that you must have answered and so you are compelled to read.
What have you learnt about writing an effective synopsis? Common mistakes? Any tips or resources you can share?
Rik: I know nothing about ‘effective’ but there are resources I’ve looked at. Jericho Writers, TLC, the W&A yearbook all have suggestions about ‘how to’.
Kathleen: My synopsis starts as a writing tool to keep track of evidence and events (important in mysteries) and eventually evolves into a one-page wrapup of the story. I think that’s why I don’t hate it…it starts as something I liked and need.
Lynne: A tip another writer gave me was to think of a synopsis as outlining the main plot points of your story as you would if you were describing it to a friend.
Deborah: Another good tip. The language you would use to a friend hits the right note. I found this really helpful https://www.janefriedman.com/how-to-write-a-novel-synopsis/
A common mistake in writing a synopsis is to just write a string of events without the protagonist’ s reaction to them.
Rik: Yes, it’s tough getting the emotion of 300 pages into 500 words.