Every publisher is different in what they look for in a book proposal, but generally speaking a novel pitch is the same no matter what conference you go to.
- A good handshake
- An elevator pitch
- A brief synopsis
- Sample chapter
- The real you
When you find us for your appointment (wherever we are), we want to shake your hand. We want you to look us in the eye. Pitching is scary and intimidating, but we aren’t. I promise.
Handshakes mean a lot to me personally. I can’t speak for the other ladies on the team, but if you shake my hand and look me in the eye, you’ll have my instant respect.
Regardless of your appointment time, there will be two of us at the table. Refer to our bios if you want more info on the Crosshair Press ladies. I’ll give you a hint. At least one of us will be named Amy. 😉
We already care about you and want to be an encouragement and a blessing to you, so don’t let the pre-pitching jitters get to you.
And here’s something that might encourage you too. All three of us are extreme introverts. We’re not shy, but talking to people we don’t know can be challenging. So, ironically, it’s very likely that we’re more scared of you than you are of us. Keep that in mind if you start getting worried about what we think about you, all right?
Here’s a handy-dandy list for what to bring to your appointment!
Your elevator pitch
What the heck is an elevator pitch? If you’ve been writing and attending conferences for a while, you probably know. But in case you haven’t and this is your first rodeo (which would be awesome by the way), let me explain.
Imagine that you have to pitch your novel to an editor while you’re riding in an elevator. And your time is limited to the duration of that elevator ride. It’s probably less than 30 seconds. Maybe more like 15 seconds. Can you summarize what matters about your story and why we should care in 15 seconds?
That’s an elevator pitch. You have 15 seconds to convince us to ask you more about your novel.
You don’t have to explain your plot. You don’t have to introduce your characters (not necessarily). You don’t have to give away your ending. The goal of an elevator pitch is to intrigue us. Make us curious. Tell us the one thing about your novel that you think makes it different from anything else that we could be reading.
Xander is trapped in a universe that has forgotten God when God is all she can remember.
That’s the elevator pitch for our very first release, Nameless: The Destiny Trilogy, Part One.
That blurb doesn’t tell you much. It doesn’t tell you where the book is set, where the characters come from, or what happens. But it does communicate the main point of the story (Xander has amnesia and is a Christian in a universe full of darkness). And we care because we can identify with that feeling.
So, take your story and condense it down to its most basic purpose. Yes, it should have complicated plots and subplots and detailed setting and awesome characters. But none of that really needs to show up in your elevator pitch.
The goal of your elevator pitch is to make us want to read your synopsis.
Confession time. I despise synopses.
I’ve never been good at them. But what I’ve learned from most of the other writers I know is that 1) nobody is good at them, and 2) nobody likes writing them.
So, honestly? What we want in a synopsis is just a more detailed version of your elevator pitch. We want your character names. We want the plot points. We want the setting. We want the surprise twists.
But you’ve got to do it all on one page. And it needs to be engaging. Don’t just slap an outline together and throw it at us. Write it down. Tell us a story. Summarize your novel for us on one page.
Make it interesting, but don’t stress about it. Because the point of your synopsis is to make us want to read your first chapter.
Your first chapter
Bring your first chapter for us to read. Just your first chapter. Not your eighth chapter where the action really picks up. Not your fortieth chapter where the big twist happens. We want your first chapter.
Now…. this doesn’t mean bring your prologue. You can bring your prologue if you want to, but we want to read your first real chapter.
You can tell a lot about an author by their first chapter. Many times, three paragraphs into that first chapter, you can tell what kind of book you’re going to be reading.
You’ve got 250 words to hook us deeply enough to get us to the next 250 words. Those next 250 words? You guessed it. They need to be enough to get us to the 250 words after that.
Are you catching the theme here?
Writing a book is done one word at a time, one sentence at a time, one page at a time. You can’t sell a novel in an elevator pitch, not really. You can’t sell it with a synopsis or a chapter outline or a sample chapter. But you can intrigue us with a pitch that we haven’t heard before. You can get us interested by sharing a summary of your novel that makes us want to read that first chapter. And your first chapter can make us want to read the second, and the third, and the fourth, and so on and so on until we’re at the end and we desperately want the sequel (Morgan Busse, you sly fox, you).
That’s how you pitch a novel. You show up as yourself. Don’t put on airs. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
Tell us your story one step at a time. Hook us one word at a time. Who knows? When you finish your pitch appointment, we may be emailing you every day asking when you’ll get the sequel done.
Next week? The Key To Impressing Us