Saturday, April 27, 2013

When someone asks, “What’s your book about?”, what do you tell them?



You spend a year or more writing a novel. It’s a good novel, so you start telling people about it. Then one day someone asks, “What’s your book about?”
The first time you hear that question, you smile because somebody is interested enough to ask. The first time someone asked me, this is what I told them.       
“Well … it’s about a cop who’s nearing retirement and he ain’t got no money to retire with and he has to chase this bad guy who kills a lot of girls and he has this new captain that doesn’t understand the old ways and wants to get rid of him and there’s a medical examiner.… No! Wait! TWO! TWO medical examiners, and this hot FBI agent chick who looks like a sexy librarian….”
Total implosion.                 
All this, and not one word about his cool car. Meantime the person who asked the question has dozed off, and you have to poke him awake just as you get to the good part.
That actually happened to me … except it was worse. Stumble and stutter and stammer … it wasn’t pretty. It finally dawned on me why the marketing director of Intrigue Publishing (the lovely B. Swangin Webster), said to me…. “Develop an elevator pitch. Make it two minutes or less, since that’s the average elevator ride. Open a dialogue and hit the high points to generate interest in your novel. Make sure you mention the title, hand them a business card, and try to leave them wondering.”
My elevator rides are one floor. Five seconds, so I have to talk fast. 
“HEY! You look like you can read! Wanna buy a book?”
There is nothing simple about delivering an elevator  pitch.  See for yourself. Try it on one of your family members. If they won’t sit still for 30 seconds or so, offer your dog a treat and run it by him. For the right snack, he’ll sit for almost anything.
OK, so now you know you need a brief synopsis of your novel, one you can deliver in the time it takes to pour a cup of coffee at the 7-11, or pump 20 gallons of gas into your tank. For that, you need to write an effective delivery, and you have to commit it to memory. You won’t have time to pull out a crib sheet, although writing it on your hand might work.
You’re the only one who can write it … for free, that is. You could pay someone, but not in copies. Cold hard cash. So, economically speaking, you should write it yourself. Besides … you’re a writer, are you not?
I spent hours, in the car, at work, at home, mulling over the pitch. Then more hours trying to find the right “tone,” if you will, and I’m sure if I read the damn thing again, I’ll change it again ... such is the lot of a writer.  For your review, here are the variations as they developed.

Chain of Evidence is the story of Moby Truax, an aging cop tracking a killer of women. But the diminished senses that come with age interfere, as does his young headstrong captain, and Truax must decide whether to follow orders and keep his job, or follow his gut and save lives.

Chain of Evidence is the tale of Moby Truax, an aging cop tracking a killer of women. Truax struggles with the toll the years have taken, and his young commander pairs him with a disobliging FBI agent. She rejects his theories in favor of her own, and works behind the scenes in an effort to sabotage his investigation. 

Chain of Evidence is the tale of Moby Truax, an aging cop working a case that could make a cop’s career. The problem is, his career is over. Seen as a dinosaur in the eyes of his new commander, Truax struggles with the toll the years have taken, and when his young captain pairs him with a rookie FBI agent to track a killer of women, she rejects his theories in favor of her own, and works behind the scenes in an effort to sabotage his investigation. 

This last iteration is the one I’m going with. You can see in the variations above, and in any writing, the words you use are paramount.

As Mark Twain said in a letter to George Bainton, 10/15/1888, “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Source: www.twainquotes.com
Let me know how you make out.

Happy Pitching.

DB


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