Every writer has to learn to pitch. We’re always “selling” the next idea. Sometimes even before we’ve finished THIS idea, we have to start prepping the next. It’s an odd existence. Writers are working line edits from the publisher, writing against a deadline and fleshing out the next world so they can pitch it. Multi-tasking thy name is “writer.”
The art of the pitch is in knowing what will catch the interest. How do you frame your idea in such a way that the editor sits up straight and says, “Is that finished and when can you send it?”
Sometimes the pitch might even be about the author. Later this month we’re publishing an historical/period novel from a 90 year-old author. Yep. Not only is she 90, she’s completely comfortable in the computer age. It’s not often you get an email query from a sharp, savvy 90 year-old. Makes you sit up straight and ask “Is that finished and when can you send it?” Because isn’t it a rule that you have to read the submissions from all sharp, savvy 90 year-olds?
Some months back, I was sitting with a couple of writers I’d know for quite some time. We were catching up, passing the time before we had to leave for dinner. And then they mentioned their collaborative, humorous, cozy mystery series. About three minutes later I was sitting up straight and asking, “Is that finished and when can you send it?” Why would I do that? Let me just tell you the titles of the books in this series, which is now under contract to Bell Bridge Books.
Kitty Kitty Bang Bang
Seriously, wouldn’t you have sat up straight and said, “How many are finished and when can you send them?” (I’m about 99% certain the pseudonym of this clever duo will be Sparkle Abbey. Seriously.)
When you hear a good pitch, a well-thought-out plot, a strong concept…well, when that happens you just hold your breath. The writing has to support the pitch. I’ve been crushed more times than I could count because the reality just doesn’t approach the expectation when you sit down with the final manuscript.
As a reader, I’m captivated by back cover copy from time to time and JUST KNOW that the story is meant for me. Sometimes I’m right. Sometimes the pitch on the back of the book is better than the book by a factor of ten. But hope springs eternal because sometimes the pitch delivers. So I purchase the next book, read the next manuscript, listen to the next pitch.
All of this brings me to my real question: What makes good back cover copy? What do you want the back cover to do for you as a reader? What do you hate in cover copy? And how does that back cover browsing experience change in our new landscape of online book buying? The author photo won’t be a part of the pitch since we don’t actually see the back of the book online. Hmm…pitch in and give me some feedback!