Pitch with Power: Pose Questions
From Dave Butler, Acquisitions Editor for WordFire Press and author (as D.J. Butler) of City of the Saints, and the Rock Band Fights Evil series
As Acquisitions Editor, I have frequent occasion to tell people that WordFire Press may not be the best fit for every writer, but is a great vehicle for a writer who wants a bigger, wider-ranging platform from which to sell books. This is because, among other things, WordFire travels constantly to conventions, where WordFire authors staff the booth.
Let’s talk about how to hand-sell books. Pitching a book to a reader really only has two rules:
- Be pithy.
- Leave them wanting to know more.
Pithiness means that you waste no words and use no lazy words. Pithiness comes with practice; your pitches will get tumbled like river rocks and get all the useless and weak words knocked off them. I think you’ll see pithiness in the pitches I offer in this series of blog posts; I want to focus on the second rule, and give you three techniques for constructing a hooky, leave-’em-begging-for-it pitches.
These techniques are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, a good pitch likely deploys at least two of them and may use all three.
Technique One: Pose Questions
Here’s a pitch for my book The Kidnap Plot:
This is Charlie. He reads a lot and is never allowed outside the house, until one day Charlie’s dad is kidnapped, and Charlie has to lead the rescue mission. The story is full of warrior pixies, heartbroken troll lawyers, and a hero with a secret even he doesn’t know.
First of all, the pitch is pithy, but it could be even pithier. Depending on the audience, I could use either the first half (through the word mission) or the second half on its own. Second, consider the questions this pitch poses and does not answer:
- Why is Charlie not allowed out of the house? And who stops him?
- Who kidnaps Charlie’s dad, and why?
- How is a kid going to lead a rescue mission, and who would follow him?
- What does a warrior pixie look like? What does a warrior pixie fight with? Whom does the pixie fight?
- How does a troll practice law? Who would break a troll’s heart?
- Who’s the hero in the last sentence—Charlie? And what’s his secret?
Your Homework: write three different question-posing pitches for your own stories.
Next post: Surprise with Awesomeness.