“A Little Pitchy, Dawg”

Yesterday’s post made me realize I’ve reached an essential point in my development as a writer.

Now that I have an agent, and I’ve sold a book, I think I’ve finally figured out how to pitch. My career as a writer has taken on a kind of backwards Benjamin Button progression. I read over that post, and realized I’d done a decent job of making the book sound interesting in a fairly short description.

“Pitching” is the art of selling your book to an agent or editor. When I first started going to writers’ conferences, I signed up for a pitch appointment with an agent, then asked a successful published writer what the heck I was supposed to do.

“Find a way to describe your book in one or two sentences,” he said.

The writer was C.J. Box, and I’m still grateful to him for that. Thanks, Chuck! And for those who don’t know, the latest un-put-downable book on the shelves at B&N is his Three Weeks to Say Goodbye. I practically had a nervous breakdown reading it. And I mean that in a good way!

Sometimes, the most effective way to pitch is to compare your work to successful books or movies. For example, if you’ve written a book about a mentally challenged vampire, you might say it was “Twilight meets Forrest Gump.” If you’ve written a touching tearjerker about aging dinosaurs confronting their inevitable mortality, you might call it “Jurassic Park meets Tuesdays with Morrie.”  (These combinations are really fun to come up with–a great party game, if you’re a dweeby writer.)

Pitching is an important skill. It’s also a foolproof way to tell if your book is marketable. If your basic premise is too complex to cook down into a sentence or two, you probably don’t have a concept that will sell.

Sad, but true.

* (The title of this post is a quote from the inimitable Randy Jackson of American Idol, the uncrowned king of 21st century idiomatic colloquialisms.)