Monday, September 20, 2010

Tell Me About Your Book by James R. Tate

I’ve recently been confronted with one of the most difficult tasks in my somewhat young writing career; coming up with a PITCH for my novel. When first given this enormous task, with what was surely a look of complete confusion on my face, I blubbered, “How can I possibly whittle my ninety-thousand word novel down to a few paragraphs?”

What really scared me the most is the realization that the industry is changing, and you'd better be prepared to sell your book with a pitch. It very well may be the only chance you get to impress an editor or agent.

So, I took a deep breath and did what any sensible person of the twenty-first century would do. I Googled it. And like so many things on the internet, there were many opinions but few examples. You noticed I said ‘few’ examples. On one site I noticed a highlighted section proclaiming, “look here for samples.” Ahhh! Jackpot! But oh, not so fast. The first one was a pitch for an eighteenth century romance. Not much help for my murder mystery. The next was a WWI docudrama. Again, not much help. On the third sample I hit the mother lode; a who-done-it recently published. I quickly read through the pitch and scribbled down notes on layout, tone, and style. I got this!


The next site I looked at had more examples. Examples that looked totally different from the ones I'd just looked at. What in the name of Stephen King’s millions was going on here? Where was the sample of the murder mystery just like mine that I could insert my character names in the place of theirs and fill in the blanks with my plot points? I never did find it.

But seriously, I DID pick up many, many actual paper books and read the back cover--even those not in my genre--and I studied them, finally coming up with something that resembled a BLURB designed to get the attention of the BIG DOGS.

The next step was to let my work simmer, pick it up a few days later, and read it to myself, asking the question, “Does this make me want to read this book?” How the heck should I know. I’ve looked at this book every way but sideways for three year now! One day it’s the best thing I’ve ever written, the next, I’m offering the pages to my neighbor to line his birdcage with. How can I possibly be subjective? But according to several articles on the internet, this is a normal thing for a writer. I should know, I Googled it.

Next week I’ll be headed to New York City with my polished Pitch. I pray that I don’t come home and have to line the birdcage with it.

James R. Tate is the author of Hot Rod Jones & the Mystery of Gut Shot Creek. He's published in print magazines, and is currently marketing his first full length adult novel while writing his second. His goal is the top of the heap, not the top of the slush pile.


  1. I can't wait to hear all the details about your NY Pitch and Shop conference.

    Was it all you thought it would be? Were editors and agents nice or hateful? You were on their turf--how did it feel? Details! Details!If you had to do it all over again, would you?

  2. We're rootin' for you. Good luck & best wishes for a great experience.

  3. Best of luck to you, James. I don't know if we've been officially introduced, but I certainly hope you get your spot at the top of that heap.