The DigiWriting Team is excited to introduce our book marketing agency’s blog. Check back often for exclusive and unique content addressing issues that are important to independent authors and small publishers.
Now that you have written your book and your marketing plan is in place, it’s time to go to your first book signing! Follow our ongoing 6-part blog series where we’ll share tips to make your debut book signing an enjoyable and successful experience.
1) Bring extra books to each signing
The stores will have copies of your book on-site, but we also suggest keeping an extra few boxes of books in your car. It’s always a good idea to be prepared! Otherwise, you may miss out on some big sales.
2) Get a spot by the door
Most managers will set up your table in a location with heavy foot traffic, but if not, ask to move to another spot. Ideally, that means next to the front door. If there are a few entrances, observe areas where people frequent the most, and see if you can move your table accordingly.
3) Connect with passersby through intentional conversation
Being genuinely interested in every person you meet is especially beneficial at book signings. Through selling a book, you are also selling yourself. The people you speak to may not buy the book that day, but they may remember your conversation and purchase a copy afterwards. While conversations need to be limited so that not too much time is spent with one individual, genuine connections will help generate book sales.
4) Bookmarks can make an impression
A memorable bookmark should include a picture of your book cover and a concise review the book has received, preferably from a recognizable outlet. Have some bookmarks to place in each book you sign, and also leave a few extras at the store checkouts for other customers. Bookmarks are an effective—and generally affordable—promotion tool that go beyond the book signing and help readers to remember your title after the event.
5) Stay longer
Saturdays and Sundays are usually ideal days for sales. Ask the store when their best times are, but be prepared to stay longer if there is interest and the store is busy (if store management allows).
When I first attempted to write, I must have been one of the world’s worst “overwrites,” a term I’ve come to use often when coaching. When first writing, we have it in our heads that we must explain everything, so readers will get what we are seeking to tell them, using fifty words when twenty will do.
Then we learn to sharpen things, taking out extraneous text and getting to the point in a better way, but we miss problems that are harder to spot. Look at this:
Nancy was sure that she’d put it in her suitcase. She’d really tried hard to remember all the things that she needed and was sure she’d actually put it in. Now she was very angry with herself and literally threw the suitcase on the floor. Honestly, how stupid could she have been?
Can you see the problems?
Let’s take a look:
Nancy was sure that she’d put it in her suitcase. She’d really tried hard to remember all the things that she needed and was sure she’d actually put it in. Now she was very angry furious with herself and literally threw the suitcase on the floor. Honestly, how stupid could she have been?
Don’t Write As You Speak
The problem is those highlighted words—I nearly wrote “is that those words”—are ones we tend to use in conversation—how we would describe the scene if we were Nancy—and they end up on the page when we write. We’re comfortable using them in our everyday language, and they become part of us. How often do you see “literally” in Facebook posts?
While we might miss these words, they are obvious to our readers because they spoil our writing. Readers pick up on them after the first few instances and the bad words hit them between the eyes every time thereafter. They can even make people give up on a book because it’s too annoying.
Let’s look at a few more we should avoid:
There are more words I could list, but rather than doing that, I’ll say there is much advice on the internet on such matters. Check out Vivien Reis’ excellent video on YouTube: 29 Words to Cut from Your Novel.
If you notice such words appearing in your text, then you need to think about how much you need them, and the question to ask is whether or not you would convey the same meaning if you deleted them. It could well be that you’re better off retaining them, but generally it’s time to backspace.
I used to be—still am, as suggested above—a “that” addict, and I adapted the advice of Mark Twain for my own editing; he didn’t have MS Word’s find and replace in his day:
“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
Advice From Stephen King
No one says it better:
But what does he mean?
In his highly recommended book, On Writing, King refers to the redundancy of adverbs, but what I dislike about them most is that they often make our writing lazy and more tell than show. We’ve addressed the need to obliterate really, actually, and suddenly, but what else needs to go?
I’d say adverbs can have a place in your text, but not when you write such as:
“I can’t believe he did that,” said Joan angrily.
Can we see Joan is angry? No, we can’t, but can we here:
“I can’t believe he did that,” said Joan as she threw her plate into the sink.
Here’s another one:
“We mustn’t be disturbed,” he said as he closed the window carefully.
What does the adverb add here? I’d suggest nothing, because you can either close a window or not. Do you understand precisely what I mean?
The events in your story will take place within a certain time period. It could be years or much shorter, but these are the things that require the details. However, there is likely to be a need to let your readers know about events that happened before, be they broader events that shape the whole story, or specific things that happened that shaped one of your primary characters. But when is this revealed?
One of the biggest mistake new writers make is to start their book with backstory. Have you read something that did that? Was it boring? Did you wish the author had provided a much more action driven and intriguing beginning to the main events in their story?
Your opening pages should only ever relate to that time period you’ll write about in detail; the biggest turnoff for a reader will be that, “Long, long ago…” cliche. Here’s Garth Stein, New York Times best-selling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain:
“Rushing the backstory is a terrible waste. Many writers try to get too much out too soon. If the earthquake is going to happen today, don’t start your story two days ago, even though something important happened to your protagonist two days ago. Start it with the earthquake. Then, the previous two days become the backstory that will inform our hero’s actions in the ‘now’—the fight he had with his wife, the fact that he has no gas in his car (or cash), or that his kids are stuck at summer camp and he has to get to them. Tension between what the reader knows and what the reader doesn’t know will then serve to propel your reader through your story.”
If you don’t provide essential backstory, you could leave your readers confused about things in your plot or about your characters. However, give them too much and you’ll probably turn them off, perhaps even to where they give up on your book.
Perhaps the longest way to deal with backstory is to have flashbacks. Here, you’ll write the details as you would for the “core” time when your plot takes place, but only use this potentially excessive detail when you really need to. If you must provide a lot of backstory, a flashback can be more entertaining and less likely to have readers urging you to get on with the main story.
Also, you need to be careful when you insert your flashback(s), and I would not recommend you do that close to the start. It is much better to grab your readers for the core time, then take them back in time to provide your historical details and events.
But if a flashback would be too much? Stick to what is essential. If you’re reading a book about a bank heist, you might need some information on the history of the bank in terms of who has safe deposit boxes, but you won’t need lots about how old the bank is and so on.
Your bank robbers have just arrived at the bank and they are under surveillance as they make their final preparations. As they get out of their vehicles, would now be the time to add the bank’s backstory? Of course not! That’s a real extreme, but there will always be times when backstory would work and when it would drive your readers nuts!
In simple terms, bring it in when it’s vital and only tell what’s vital.
I once edited a book, and it had a piece of dialogue that went something like this:
“That’s true darling, but we’ve been married for almost fourteen years now and we waited four years before we had the first of our children. Amy is ten now and Ben will be five soon.”
What husband or wife would talk like that? The point here is that you should never seek to tell your backstory via dialogue unless it’s simple conversation that is entirely relevant and feels natural to be part of a conversation.
Who can help?
There is a simple answer to this: your characters. If you’ve developed them fully (see part 2 of this series), you will know them like you know your best friend, so ask your characters. If character A needs to understand something about character B’s past before the plot can work, through your dialogue and narration, tell A what they need to know, but only that. Nothing more.
How to Craft Dialogue that Brings Your Story to Life
In part seven of this twelve-part blog series, founder of Books from Start to Finish Graham Schofield shares his thoughts on the dialogue in your story and how to “show” readers what is happening vs. simply telling them.
In part eight in the series, Graham will look at crafting backstory.
You’ve come up with a great plot, with fantastic characters that people will love, and now you want to bring it all to life on the page. How are you going to do that? How will you keep your readers turning the pages and not want to the put the book down? The answer is to make it all feel very real.
When we read, we form images in our heads, and the better that “visual stimulation” the more immersed we become in the story. Great characters we come to know and care for are vital, but so is showing the readers how they are behaving and feeling. If we show things to our readers they can see what is happening; if we only tell them, they can’t. It’s as simple as that.
Can The Camera See It?
If someone else has explained a theory perfectly, I always wonder why I should try and write something different myself. Author and editor Jeff Gerke offers the following advice for showing and telling from his excellent book The First 50 Pages.
I’ll give you a little tool here that could revolutionize your understanding of showing and telling in fiction. I may not be the first person to talk about it in these terms, but I know I’ve never heard it before I thought it up. So at least I’m its co-inventor.
There’s a question you can ask of any passage you feel may be telling. Get the passage in front of you and ask this of it: Can the camera see it? There are exceptions, but Can the camera see it? is a terrific tool for helping you begin to see the telling in a manuscript. Let’s test it:
Urlandia was a peaceful realm. Peasants and nobles alike lived in harmony despite the occasional bout with famine or invaders from the neighboring kingdom of Dum. There were heroes and cads, pirates and tavern wenches, and in all, their lives were good.
Okay, aside from this being deadly dull, is it showing or telling? Let’s load up the testing gun and fire: Can the camera see it?
Your mind might have conjured up an image of a fantasy countryside with green meadows, vast forests, and castles with pennants flapping in the breeze, but how could you have seen “the occasional bouts with famine”? How could you see that their lives were good? You couldn’t. You weren’t shown any of this—you were simply told. And it probably left you feeling a little sleepy.
It would be quite possible to convert this telling to showing by depicting things before the camera’s lens that suggest each of these elements. But right now it’s unconverted telling.
Evoking The Scene
I’ll leave you to think about how you might “show” that Urlandia scene and give you some different comparison examples. When explaining this show vs tell concept to writers, I like to use the term “evoking” and so does This Itch of Writing blogger Emma Darwin.
Her excellent post on this writing discipline is something I have shared with many people who I have coached or whose books I have edited. In that, she provides some excellent contrasting examples:
The temperature had fallen overnight and the heavy frost reflected the sun’s rays brightly.
The morning air was bitter ice in her nose and mouth, and dazzling frost lay on every bud and branch.
The taller man was a carpenter, complete with the tools of his trade.
A saw and hammer dangled from his belt and an adze was hooked into it, one thumbnail was black, and when he bowed she saw several long wood-shavings caught in his curly hair.
They stood close and wrapped their arms round each other in a passionate embrace, so that she became aware that he had been riding, and then that he was as nervous as she was.
They gripped each other and the tweed of his jacket was rough under her cheek. His hand came up to stroke her hair; she smelled leather and horses on the skin of his wrist. He was trembling.
Using “As If”
I’ll close here with a great tip that almost forces you into writing showing and not just telling. You mustn’t use it too often, but consider this simple description:
When he heard the news, Frank looked very nervous.
Apart from using that terrible crutch word “very”–more on such evils in a later blog!–it’s pure telling. So let’s add some show and an “as if”:
When he heard the news, Frank licked his lips with a darting tongue and his eyes flitted madly, as if he was trying to watch flies.
Do you have a favourite piece of showing, perhaps something you’ve written or read? If so, please share some details below and tell us why you like that best. Alternatively, if there are other articles on the subject you’ve found helpful, we’d love to hear what that they are.
Shortly after this blog was posted, we were overwhelmed with the number of your comments! With many agreeing with our list, we also received more ideas on what authors need to stop doing on social media.
We reviewed your ideas and compiled them into the following list:
1) Posting Without a Content Strategy
A content strategy is like your “plan of attack” for your social media. It dictates everything from the type of content you post and when you will post it to how you interact with your followers. Not having a content strategy is like writing a book without any idea of the story, genre, setting, and characters.
2) Not Sharing Your Own Content
For most authors, the purpose of social media is to establish their author brand and create/maintain relationships with readers. It is not possible to do this if you are only sharing other people’s posts. While it is perfectly acceptable to share other people’s content, we recommend establishing a ratio so your posts are mostly yours i.e. 4:1.
3) Constantly Messaging People to Buy Your Book
It’s no secret that the fastest way to be blocked or unfriended by your followers is to constantly ask them to buy your book. Social media is not about an in-your-face approach to sales. Instead, social media should be used for cultivating meaningful relationships and creating value for your book(s).
4) Overusing Hashtags
It is unlikely that you will build a large following from stuffing as many hashtags as possible into your posts. You should always use hashtags that are relevant to your audience, posts, and book.
5) Posting Low Quality Content
If your photos or videos are low quality and do not appear professional, you should not post them on social media. Not only will they receive little engagement, but they also can affect the perception of your book(s). Low quality content can easily be associated with a low quality book. Instead, focus on posting high-quality content to reflect your high-quality book!
5 Tips for Writing Attention-Grabbing Galley Letters
Would you like your next book reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus, or any of the major newspaper’s book review sections?
Well, of course you would!
Book reviews from major review publications can make or break a book, and are a central part of any author or publisher’s marketing plan. Given the sheer volume of books that major reviewers receive each year, you need to make your book stand out.
That’s where galleys, or advanced reader copies (ARCs), come into play. These are sent to major review publications 4-6 months before a book’s release date and continue to be an important part of the book review and promotion process.
An ARC is always accompanied by a galley letter. A galley letter is addressed to an editor (or whomever makes decisions regarding reviews) and provides a brief overview of the book while explaining why it is relevant and worthy of a review. The galley letter is like your book’s “first impression,” so you’ll want to put your best food forward.
By following these 5 tips from our book marketing experts, you’ll be well on your way to writing a galley letter that shines!
1) Keep Your Galley Letter Short and Sweet
An effective galley letter should be no longer than 4-5 paragraphs:
A paragraph about the book
A paragraph about what makes the book unique
A paragraph about the author (and what makes them special)
A closing with contact info
In general, it should not exceed one page. If you have any advance reviews from authors or well-known contacts, you can include those on a separate page.
2) Know Your Audience
The intent of a galley letter is to communicate important information about the book to an editor or reviewer. Book review editors (as well as bloggers) receive dozens and dozens of books for review each week so they do not have time to read a lengthy letter or content from your press release. A galley letter is not a press release, so you do not need to explain what you can discuss in an interview. You’ll want to highlight what makes your book unique and why it’s worthy of a review.
3) Use the Editor (or Reviewer’s) Name
A great way to get your book thrown into the “reject” pile (at your cost!) is to begin your galley letter with “Dear Publishers Weekly” or “Dear Book Reviews Editor.” This serves as an indication that you have not done your research. If possible, always begin with the name of the person to whom you are sending the ARC. This will drastically increase your odds of review!
Also, if you have an existing relationship with an editor or reviewer, note this in your galley letter (i.e. Thank you for your review of my first book ________________.”)
4) Make Sure To Include the Book’s Basic Information
Each review publication has their own criteria for galley letters, so you’ll want to review these before you drop your ARCs in the mail. In general, you’ll want to include the following basic information in each letter:
Subtitle (if applicable)
Brief Author Biography
Failing to include this basic information could get your book added to the “reject” pile.
5) Add a Professional and Personal Touch
Use a professionally designed letterhead when printing your galley letters. This will make your letter look crisp and adds credibility.
We also recommend personally signing each letter. A personal touch can go a long way.
5 Things Authors Should Stop Doing on Social Media
During the early stages of developing a book’s marketing plan, it’s not uncommon that an author is told that they need to get onto social media and build a following. Not only does this following help extend the reach of future promotions, but it also helps to develop an author brand and a connection with potential readers.
If you’re doing any of the following 5 things on social media, our book marketing experts recommend you stop immediately!
Many authors share content to support their fellow authors or to contribute to the writing community. However, it’s very easy to forget that your followers extend beyond the writing community and fellow authors. Your followers are also your readers and they do not want to be bombarded with a ton of this content! The same goes for other irrelevant posts like photos of your cat. As an author, you’re a public figure, so you should keep it professional but accessible.
2) Auto-Tweeting Your Facebook Posts
If your Facebook account is set up to automatically post to Twitter, you need to disable this feature immediately! While time saving, any lengthy Facebook post will be cut off on Twitter, resulting in poor engagement and disgruntled followers. You should always be taking the time to craft unique posts for both Facebook and Twitter.
3) Posting Without Editing Your Post
You would not want to send your book to anyone without having it properly edited. As an author, your social media is an extension of your writing abilities. Ensure that each social media post is reviewed for spelling and grammar. Plus, you will want to review each post’s tone so you’re sure it cannot be interpreted in a potentially damaging way.
4) Sharing Content About Controversial Topics
Unless your book is about topics such as religion, politics, and sex, you will want to avoid posting about these topics. As a public figure and a professional, the best way to alienate half your audience is to post content that may offend them. No matter your views on these topics, keep them off your social media.
5) Forgetting About Scheduled Social Media Posts
When horrific events such as mass shootings or powerful hurricanes happen, nobody is going to care about your book, your book tour, or your great reviews. While we recommend scheduling your posts ahead of time, establish set times in your content strategy so you remember to pull or reschedule messaging when it is not appropriate.
We have dialogue in our stories for lots of reasons, and it’s not just about adding realism and creating that ‘movie feel’ in readers’ heads. Dialogue is used to help portray and develop your characters, making them feel more real. It’s also vital in moving your story forward and revealing key elements in your plot.
Developing your story via narration is important, and your characters telling readers about the plot is even better, but beware of losing realism when you use dialogue to tell your backstory. I once read a husband and wife dialogue where they told each other how long they had been married and how many children they had!
Because it’s about conversations, good dialogue will allow you to ramp up the tension between characters as you seek to develop conflict in your story. It will also allow you to differentiate between your characters. Effective dialogue will be used, without going over the top, to help show the quirks and mannerisms of your characters.
Writing Dialogue Right
One of the most effective ways to pick up how people speak is to listen to conversations in a bar or a train or a coffee shop. I don’t just mean what people say; it’s also how they look as they speak about different things or portray emotions. All of these aspects need to be conveyed in your writing.
Then there are the tags we add. Look at this piece:
“I really hate it when you do that,” she said angrily.
Is that okay for you? Actually it’s not good, because it’s much better to show feelings and emotions in the words spoken—which happens here—so the ‘angrily’ is superfluous. So is the use of words such as ‘yelled,’ ‘screeched,’ ‘wailed,’ and so on.
As much as we can still read words when they are misspelled, the use of quotation marks flips our brains into dialogue mode, and if all that is there is ‘said’ we probably won’t even read it, allowing us to focus on the conversation and not get distracted. The only words I’d recommend apart from ‘said’ are those such as ‘asked’ or ‘replied.’
You don’t need a dialogue tag after every bit of speech, and when you do need them to prevent your readers from becoming lost over who is saying what, just keep them as simple as possible and show your emotions in the narration and dialogue words used.
If, for the above example, you wanted to show more you could have:
“I really hate it when you do that,” she said as she clenched her fists.
Good dialogue won’t resemble speech exactly, because we often umm and err and repeat half sentences, and the need for your writing is to keep it short and simple. Yes, your dialogue needs to be realistic, but don’t have too much preamble and avoid stating the obvious.
For example, if someone arrives at a house or for a meeting, avoid the mundane and don’t quote all the greetings and “how are you?” things we say. Just narrate that like this:
Joe showed Matt into the kitchen, and they sat down at the table once they had coffee.
“So, did you get what I need this time?” asked Matt.
Checking It’s Right
The best way to find out if your dialogue works well is to do the actor test and read it out loud. Could it be transferred effectively into a screenplay? Does it sound realistic? Does it sound like the character? Does it differentiate the character?
What you don’t want is someone who is supposed to be intelligent asking obvious questions, or someone who is supposed to be ignorant sounding like an expert. Also take note of to whom your character is speaking, since, for example, we would speak differently to a child than to a grandparent.
Good dialogue is sharp, short, and to the point, and it blends seamlessly, taking your story forward and developing the journey your characters have embarked upon. It is essential in making your writing a success, but remember, it’s not just about speech. I will leave the final words to Jerome Stern from his excellent book Making Shapely Fiction:
“Dialogue is not just quotation. It is grimaces, pauses, adjustments of blouse buttons, doodles on a napkin, and crossings of legs.”
Do you have a favourite piece of dialogue? If so, please share some details and tell us why you like it best. Alternatively, if there is a book where all dialogue is great, then we’d love to hear what that is.
So many books of old started that way, but it’s not quite relevant today, even in children’s stories. How you start your book is critically important, because you need to grab your reader from line one, and not let them go. Let’s look at one of my favourite openings; this is from Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock:
Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.
That one simple sentence just makes you want to read on because it poses so many questions: Who is Hale and why was he in Brighton? How did he know and why so quickly? Who wanted to murder him and why? What was he going to do about it?
If you get the start right and set the tone that will entice and keep readers with you, you’ve already won a big battle.
She did or I did?
Let’s now look at POV—point of view. There are no hard and fast rules and there is no right or wrong; it’s what suits your story best. If it’s all about one person’s struggle to achieve their goal, then you can create more intimacy with your readers by using the first person.
Alternatively, that’s not going to work as such in the kidnap story to which we’ve been referring, where you might write alternate scenes from the victim’s POV as well as those of the ransom payer, the detective, and the kidnappers. If it’s all written from the detective’s POV then first person would work. If your main character has very strong voice with such as sarcasm or humour, then again, first person might be a good option, allowing you to really get beneath their skin.
Finally, a word about mixing POVs. While it may be obvious that you shouldn’t switch between first and third, you do need to be mindful of mixing different POVs in the same scenes when writing in third person. You can certainly have focus on different characters in different scenes, where they see things from their perspective and you reflect their thoughts, but it can get very confusing for readers if you mix them up in the same scene.
She went or she goes?
Now this one is much harder to resolve. Most people—both writers and readers—would probably expect a story to be written in the past tense. After all, the idea is to relate—narrate—the story as it happened in the past, but present tense books do work, and one of the best times is when the word tense has its alternative meaning.
If your story is a real ‘edge of your seat’ drama, then telling the story as if the reader was watching it in a movie can be very powerful. As writing in the first person offers more intimacy, present tense offers more immediacy, and your reader is with your character every step of the way. If events drive a change in the character then the reader experiences that in real time.
A final word
While you may have perfect plot development and fully mapped out characters, you’ve still got to bring those things to life and that’s done, of course, by excellence in your narration. The POV and the tense relate to options and decisions about how you will write; then comes the hard part!
Some people prefer just to bash out their story from end to end and then go back and see what needs fixing; others prefer to write and perfect each scene before they move on. As I said in the blog on plotting, some people can just write without planning and see where it takes them, and the same applies here with end to end people.
However, what if you get to the final page and then decide it’s better in the present tense or first person POV? Once you find your right approach, then things can flow more easily, but I do suggest you do some trial and error writing to determine what you and your characters feel most comfortable with. Write the same scene in some different ways and then see what works best, and maybe test them out with someone.
Do you have a preference for POV or tense? If so, please share some details below and tell us why you like those best. Alternatively, is there an opening to a book where the narrator grabbed you from the first line? If so, we’d love to hear what that is.
Learn How to Craft Engaging and Thought-Provoking Pitches
#CanLitPit is under 1 week away so it’s time to write and refine your pitches! Creating an engaging and thought-provoking pitch while following the #CanLitPit guidelines will be a challenge. However, the entire team at DigiWriting and participating #CanLitPit publishers know that Canadian writers are up for the task! Plus, a refined and perfected pitch will increase your changes of receiving a like on pitch day.
To help you get started, we have put together the following blog full of pitch writing tips. Once you have crafted your pitches, post them in a special post on our Facebook page for feedback from your fellow writers. You may also receive feedback from Canadian editor Una Verdandi. Based in Toronto, Una is a substantive editor and author coach with plenty of experience helping writers craft effective pitches.
Don’t forget that any feedback you provide on another writer’s pitch(es) should be constructive with the intent to HELP them improve their pitch(es). Should anyone post a derogatory comment, it will be removed.
What is New for 2018?
Participating Canadian writers can now pitch in 280-characters as Twitter has increased the character count in the past year. These 280-characters must include your age/genre hashtag(s) and the hashtag #CanLitPit.
What Makes a Great Pitch?
Simply stated, a great pitch is a succinct summary of your manuscript that makes a reader want to know more.
How is Pitching like a Job Interview?
Perhaps the best analogy for participating in a Twitter pitch event is when you are applying for a job and you’re asked for your elevator pitch. Typically lasting only 30 seconds, this is your opportunity to tell someone about yourself and why you are the best candidate for the job. With #CanLitPit, the same principle applies, but to your manuscript. Through your 280-character pitch, you need to present something that will pique the interest of a publisher or literary agent. #CanLitPit is like a job interview for your manuscript, and as its writer, it’s up to you to make it shine!
Of course, as with job interviews, there is more than one way to make your manuscript stand out among the competition. Below, we have briefly outlined a number of techniques that you can leverage when crafting your pitches. Where possible, we have also provided examples from past #CanLitPit events.
Helpful Pitching Techniques
State your main conflict.
In the majority of fiction stories, there is a central conflict pushing the narrative forward. Driven by a compelling protagonist, the conflict is what is standing in their way and preventing them from achieving their goal.
In your pitches, you may choose to clearly define your manuscript’s central conflict to stand out. Here are some great examples:
She might flirt with a playboy billionaire if it means saving her nonprofit. But will her secret derail a chance at romance? #CanLitPit #R #SFF
When a kidnapper threatens her adoption of 5yo Kady, Sofia turns to an old flame to help save her new family & her heart. #CanLitPit #A #RS
Reference the Timely Nature of Your Manuscript.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that publishers and literary agents want to sign manuscripts that address a current trend or hot topic. Right now, an example would be anything on Donald Trump, LGBTQ issues, the environment, etc.
Here are a few examples that leverage this technique:
Juliet, daughter of a Democrat. Romeo, son of a Tea Partier. Watch tragedy be retold under the backdrop of American politics #YA #R #CanLitPit
Compare Your Manuscript to Similar Books, Television Shows, or Movies.
By comparing your manuscript to similar books, television shows, or movies, you are giving your reader a mental reference point for your manuscript.
Be warned that, if you choose to use this technique, you should be able to clearly state what makes your manuscript different and unique from that to which you are comparing it.
Here are a few examples that leverage this technique:
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK+BREAKFAST CLUB. Suicidal teen didn’t expect to make great friends in hospital or mourn one post release #YA #CanLitPit
Power of Five meets Breakfast Club w/a Joy Division soundtrack, as a telepath hunts for his brother in a world below Edinburgh #CanLitPit #YA
#YA meets LOST when reality splits for Fiona & Miles and they face life threatening challenges in Berlin & a deserted island #CanLitPit
Leave Your Pitch Open-Ended.
By leaving your pitch open-ended, you are placing more questions into the mind of a publisher or literary agent. Therefore, if your story is engaging and unique, they will likely want to know more via a submission.
Here are a few examples that leverage this technique:
Just before their 16th birthday, a dark faery returns Evie’s stolen twin to her doorstep. But she’s not the same girl… #CanLitPit #YA #F
They’ve found a cure for cancer, but it’s hidden. Expose their secret experiment. Easy. Until you find you’re part of it. #CanLitPit #YA #SF
Crafting Pitches with a Goal, Conflict, and Stakes (GCS Method)
If the techniques listed above do not get your creative juices flowing, there is another method that can put you on the path to success. We like to call this the GCS method or the GOAL, CONFLICT, and STAKES method.
While we could provide you with a long, detailed description of how it works, we figured it would be best to show you through a sample scenario:
You are an emerging Canadian writer who recently finished your first full manuscript. With a rough title of “The Hunger Games,” it has just been edited by a professional editor and you are now looking to give your manuscript a home with a Canadian publisher or literary agent. Your manuscript is a young adult, science-fiction (dystopian) story.
(Note that we are aware of the fact that The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is not a Canadian title. However, given many writers are familiar with this book, it will make our example easier to follow.)
To employ the GCS method of pitch writing, you need to be able to clearly state:
What is the main goal of your main protagonist?
What is the central conflict your main protagonist must overcome?
What is at stake should the main protagonist fails to overcome the central conflict?
Let’s apply these questions to our example scenario. Please note that while many have analyzed The Hunger Games, the following examples are one interpretation we are using for the purpose of creating an example pitch using the GCS method:
Katniss Everdeen’s main goal is to survive the post-apocalyptic Hunger Games and return to her family after she volunteers herself as tribute.
The central conflict in the book is caused by the evil Capitol and a conniving President Snow who relishes in controlling the Districts and its residences – especially Katniss’ home District 12.
If Katniss does not survive the Hunger Games, the stakes include her death, her sister’s death, and the possibility of the destruction of her entire District.
Now that you have determined your GOAL, CONFLICT, and STAKES, you can begin to write your pitches. Remember, this is only our interpretation – there are many ways you could be writing your pitches. Also, don’t worry if it takes a few tries – this is the tough part.
Pitch Attempt #1: In a post-apocalyptic world, heroine Katniss Everdeen protects her sister by volunteering herself as tribute to participate in The Hunger Games. With the evil Capitol and its President looking to cause as much destruction as possible, if Katniss does not survive, her family and District are in great danger.
Notes on Attempt #1:
It is too long and over the 280-character limit.
It is a bit too “wordy” and needs further refining to hook a reader.
The mandatory hashtag of #CanLitPit and your manuscript’s age and genre hashtags still need to be included.
Pitch Attempt #2: Katniss Everdeen volunteers for her sister in the deadly Hunger Games. But with the Capitol’s vengeful leader in control, her survival is unlikely.
Notes on Attempt #2:
It is much stronger and offers a reader a better hook than attempt #1.
The manuscript’s GOAL, CONFLICT, and STAKES are clearly addressed.
The pitch is within the 280-character limit but does not include the mandatory #CanLitPit hashtag.
Pitch Attempt #3: Katniss volunteers for her sister in deadly Games & when she fights back, the vengeful Capitol threatens her survival #YA #SF #CanLitPit
Notes on Attempt #3:
This is a near perfect pitch!
This pitch includes the event hashtags, fits the 280-character criteria, and addresses a goal, a conflict, and stakes. Most importantly, it also grabs your attention and leads to more questions in the reader’s mind such as:
Who is Katniss?
What are the “Games”?
What is the Capitol?
If a publisher or literary agent have these questions as they read your pitch, they may “like” (favourite) it, as they want to know more!
The next steps are to follow this same process to create 2-4 unique pitches that can be posted throughout #CanLitPit. Remember: Do not spam during the event. Publishers are less likely to like your pitches if you do. As a rule, we recommend posting once every two—three hours.
General Pitch Writing Tips
Now that we have demonstrated a pitch writing method and provided you with a few techniques to use, we want to leave you with the following brief tips:
Try and craft 2-4 unique pitches to post during the event. While this may seem like more than what’s required, having more than one pitch will demonstrate the complexity of your manuscript and your skill as a writer.
If possible, avoid using last names of your characters. These names only use up valuable characters.
Avoid spoilers in your pitches!
Do not be vague in your wording. Try and get to the point as quickly as possible.
DO NOT FORGET TO USE THE HASHTAG #CanLitPit and your age and genre hashtags. Age and genre hashtags can be found below:
Age Group Hashtags
#PB = Picture Book
#C = Children’s
#CL = Children’s Literature
#MG = Middle Grade
#YA = Young Adult
#NA = New Adult
#A = Adult
#CON = Contemporary
#E = Erotica
#ER = Erotic Romance
#ES = Erotic Suspense
#GN = Graphic Novel
#H = Horror
#HF = Historical Fiction
#HR = Historical Romance
#MR = Magical Realism
#M = Mystery
#Mem = Memoir
#LGBT = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transsexual
#LF = Literary Fiction
#NF = Non-fiction
#P = Poetry
#R = Romance
#PNR = Paranormal Romance
#RS = Romantic Suspense
#SFF = SciFi/Fantasy
#S = Suspense
#T = Thriller
#W = Westerns
#WF = Woman’s Fiction
Don’t forget to post your pitch(es) to the official #CanLitPit Facebook post for feedback from your fellow writers and Canadian editor Una Verdandi. Find the post at the top of our Facebook page!