I’ve been reading all the comments over the last couple of days and am completely depressed at all the great books that I’ll never have time to read. I’ve also been staying up late every night reading (when I was supposed to be blogging) so I could finish rereading Harry Potter #6.
I have to say I am incredibly impressed with the ending of this book. HP #6 breaks the pattern of the other books by NOT ending with a victory for Harry. The reason, of course, is to put Harry in a box and force an ending to the series. So the book ends in Xtreme disaster, in which much of what you thought certain is no longer certain. This is the first time I’ve read #6 since reading the 7th and final book in the series, and I noticed some clever things designed to mislead the reader. JK Rowling of course does clever things to mislead the reader in every book, but she usually clarifies them by the end of the book. Not so in Book #6. I’m looking forward to rereading #7.
One of my loyal blog readers recently emailed me to ask about pitching her novel at a forthcoming writing conference. She particularly wanted to know about “one-sheets.” I am not able to answer detailed questions like this in email anymore because I get so much email. However, I promised to address this on my blog. I’m thinking it’s time to discuss writing conferences again, since we’re in the middle of conference season, and I myself will be going to a couple in the next 10 weeks.
What is a “one-sheet?” Good question. It’s whatever you want it to be, as long as it’s one sheet of paper. A “one-sheet” tells a bit about you and your book, summarizing all the high points.
Do you need a “one-sheet” to sell your book? LOL, I have never made a one-sheet. I’m sure it’s handy for breaking the ice when meeting an editor or agent, but you can do that just as well yourself by . . . being yourself. And trust me, you are more interesting than a piece of paper.
When you meet an editor or an agent, you are really pitching two things simultaneously–your project and yourself. Let’s talk about those in order:
Your project: It’s handy to have a one-sentence summary for your project. We talked about this a couple of months ago. Remember, a one-sentence summary does not sell your book. Great writing sells your book. The one-sentence summary just saves time by letting the editor or agent know in 5 seconds whether or not they might be interested in it. The purpose of the one-sentence summary is to get the editor or agent to read your sample chapters. Those chapters will make or break the book. Period. Every editor I’ve ever heard comment on what makes them buy a book has said the same thing: “I’m looking for great writing.”
Yourself: It is a good idea to be clean and neat but there is no reason to go overboard on dressing up. However, there are exceptions to this rule. If your brand is “walking pig-sty” or something similar, then you should present that image. And if your brand is “super-stylish fashionista” then you better be dressed that way. My brand is something along the lines of “zany physicist” so it is expected that I’ll dress like a geek. It would (I believe) be a mistake for me to dress up for a meeting with an editor, because no zany physicist would be caught dead looking fashionable. So be yourself. The editor or agent is going to be asking, “How can I sell this writer?” If you are famous, fascinating, funny, beautiful, outrageous, or whatever–anything that will make you insanely more marketable than the next writer–then highlight that. If you are none of those (most writers, quite honestly, aren’t) then don’t worry about it too much. In that case, be neat and clean and highlight your writing.
So getting back to the tangent, do you need a one-sheet? The short answer is this: If you can make one in a day or two that will nicely summarize who you are and what you’re writing, then do. If you are going to spend three months obsessing about one lousy piece of paper, then don’t. Obsess on your sample chapters instead.
OK, it’s question time. What burning questions do you have about pitching yourself and your manuscript? Leave a comment here and I’ll work through them.