Nathan Bransford, Author


Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Importance of the Pitch

Thanks very much to Janet Goldstein for recording this video at the San Miguel Writer's conference wherein I talk about the importance of the pitch and knowing the essence of your book:







72 comments:

Tracy said...

The sad thing is, if I was talking to Oprah I'm likely to be thinking "Oh my God, I'm on Oprah!". So, I still wouldn't know what my pitch was about. But you're definitely right about taking the time to figure out what you're book is about first.

I like this! You should do video posts more often.

A Paperback Writer said...

Hey, it's fun to hear you and watch you communicate after a couple of years of reading your blog.
Fun.
Thanks for including it.

Emily White said...

Side note: NOT what I thought you your voice would sound like. You look a lot like Luke Wilson, so I always hear his voice in my head whenever I read your posts. Yes, I do hear different voices in my head.

Anyway... this is something I've been really thinking about lately. After writing and rewriting my query about a thousand times, I think I've finally gotten it down to what the gist of my story is. And now that I have, I'm surprised at how obvious it should have been to me.

Thanks for sharing this!

Francis said...

Can't stop laughing at what Emilie White said in her first paragraph. I thought the EXACT...same...thing!

Great vid.

Anonymous said...

I agree. You don't sound anything like I would've imagined. I like your video. It was straight to the point like you expressed a pitch should be.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Make that three of us who thought the same thing. (You should have held up a map and smart phone :-P)

Sadly, I think I would also have Tracy's reaction to Oprah. Followed by nervous laughter and maybe an uncomfortable silence that would break somewhere after the cameras stopped rolling and they turned the lights off.

T. Anne said...

You are awesome! What a treat.

I'm pretty sure Oprah would love to discuss the ins and outs of my book for a half hour straight. ;) Other than that I thought you were spot on!

Thanx Nathan that was fun.

Candyland said...

SO TRUE! You have to be able to pitch your book quickly sometimes. Know what you're selling.

Bane of Anubis said...

I was hoping you'd give your pitch at the end, NB... Thanks for summarizing and for dealing w/ the camera, though I'll have to take away a point for the Oprah reference.

tswelti said...

Maybe it has to do with being a California native myself, but you sound exactly like I imagined. Is this a segway into a new vlog series? Hope so.

Tabitha Maine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
traceybaptiste said...

Must redeem myself after yesterday's e-gaffe...

First: love the video post.

Second: is 200 words the standard pitch/summary length?

Third: How do you craft a pitch without sounding like a used-car salesperson? I always feel like a fraud when I try to talk up my work.

Nathan Bransford said...

tracey-

I'd say for the purposes of a query 200 is a good ballpark for a summary. I'd really recommend though that writers come up with and know one sentence, one paragraph, 200 word, synopsis-length summaries. You're going to need them.

Best way to not sound like a used car salesman is to draw upon the voice of the work when constructing the pitch.

Josin L. McQuein said...

¡¡¡ʎɐp s,ןooɟ ןıɹdɐ ʎddɐɥ ˙˙˙ʇǝbɹoɟ ı ǝɹoɟǝq 'puɐ

Claire Dawn said...

ENCHILADAS! (You have forever corrupted my image of Mexico!)

At first writing a query was hard because it's hard to find the essence of your book. But it can help to practice. Make different length pitches and synopses for movies and books you know well. Soon you'll be a pitch pro!

prettyfascination said...

This was so timely for me! I just finished my "final" revision for my novel and need to start working on the plot synopsis and query letter.

Thanks for putting it all into perspective.

atsiko said...

First, to echo the comment about you sounding way different than I imagined. I've always imagined you as sounding more like Owen Wilson, or Matthew Mcconaughey.

Great advice and fun to see a video of you.

Browneyegirl145 said...

I liked the video...your right sometimes you have all of three seconds to let a reader know what it is about...for all those out there who don't know anything about marketing try writing a quick pitch for something you are drinking or eating...what would you say in 5 words? Just a little practice to help with pitching...

traceybaptiste said...

Thanks Nathan

JTShea said...

Admit it, Nathan! You PRACTICED saying JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW fast! And check out the 'text only' version on You-Tube. A Nathan made up entirely of letters looks oddly appropriate.

Nikki Hootman said...

1) You are so cute. :-)

2) I watched this with my 3 month old son on my lap and he talked to you the entire video. You have a fan!

Nathan Bransford said...

jthsea-

Oh, I've said the title enough now that I could probably get it in under 0.5 seconds.

And yes, watching it in letter version plus turning on the (wildly inaccurate) closed captioning is an experience in psychedelia.

E. McD. said...

You're really real! I like the video blogs - more please! With LOST ending, we're all going to need something to watch.

Lydia Sharp said...

200 is a good target. I recently filled out my first query "form" for an agent, which only allows a max of 250 words for the actual pitch part of it. Mine came in at 220.

Nice video, Nathan. I've been considering doing some of my blog posts in video form via YouTube. I think it has a more personal feel to it, which is beneficial for certain topics. But then I couldn't post in my pj's which I may or may not do on a regular basis. May not be worth it to get dressed, do my hair, put on make-up...

Yeah. Never mind.

Elaine AM Smith said...

I'd really recommend though that writers come up with and know one sentence, one paragraph, 200 word, synopsis-length summaries. You're going to need them.

This response was so useful Nathan, can you put it at the top of the post? I'd hate to have missed it.

Thanks

D. G. Hudson said...

Thanks, Nathan, it's almost like a quick chat with you about pitching. Great idea!

It's tough but like you said, you have to make yourself do it. For one of the writing courses I took, the instructor required a synopsis of two pages. During the creating of the synopsis, I also created part of the query and somewhat of a pitch line (needs refining).

Thanks for all you do for your loyal readers/commenters.

Ann Marie Wraight said...

Concise, succint and to the point.

Please do more video posts.
Hearing a voice and seeing body language make a HUGE difference.

Thanks.

Kristi said...

Nathan, you have amazing timing. I'm doing my first live pitch to an agent in a few weeks -- because I somehow reasoned that a one-on-one pitch would be less intimidating than starting the query process. I must have been on crack at the time, because now I'm thinking that after surviving the pitch, the query process won't seem so bad! Thanks for doing this. :)

M Clement Hall said...

One more addition to Nathan's blog and a very good teaching tool.
Is a pitch the same as a summary?
I like the expression, "elevator pitch." If you can't say in that short period of time what your book is about -- then possibly you don't know.

Mira said...

How fun is that! Love the video. You're such a cool person, Nathan.

Josin - How did you do that??

Yes, they've been talking lately in school about getting your elevator pitch down. In other words, what can you say as the elevator moves from the 1st floor to the 3rd floor to grab and keep their attention?

You might wonder why it's called an elevator pitch? Well, I figured it out.

It's because people who want to hire you, or people who want to publish your books, spend all day riding up and down elevators hoping someone will ambush and give them a sales talk while they are held captive in a small moving box.

It's only logical.

Thanks for the video, Nathan. Totally fun.

Mira said...

Oh, and who is this Janet Goldstein person? People go into business to develop authors? I'd like to be developed.

In fact, I need alot of development. Boy, someone could really develop me, what a satisfying project that would be.

If anyone wants to develop me, let me know. I'm totally up for that.

Donna Hole said...

A lot of blogs right now are focusing on pitch in 25 words or less and honing the story concept to a one liner. You reinforced what others are saying. It's always nice to hear and agent's opinion.

I've been working on mine as diligently as I worked on the query. I think the query was easier.

Thanks for sharing this.

.......dhole

JTShea said...

I watched the closed captioned version of the letter version several times. Talk about literary subtext! What is it that 'Cochrane does quintessential to the book'? Zefram Cochrane maybe? The guy who invented the Star Trek warp drive? You also mention 'Data'. The Trek android? But I thought you preferred Star Wars?
I agree with you 'on issues beating as well as an opera'. I think... And about 'time forces'. But what exactly is 'the most hopeful thing to think about women'? And what has a bucket got to do with it? But I will 'keep fighting'!

Matt Ryan said...

Yo, Yo, Check it. Yo. Nathan, you know I'm a fan, right Dawg?

Listen, your pitch on pitching was a little pitchy. Not your best performance. I would've loved to see some more movement on stage.

But on the bright side, Yo that jacket is HOT!

Happy first of April everyone.

Nathan Bransford said...

lol, thanks, Randy.

Kimberly Kincaid said...

Okay, first of all, you're a Real Guy!

Now that my idiocy is totally out of the way...

This is very timely for me, so thank you x10. I am already thinking ahead to RWA's national conference over the summer, and don't want to just spout what's in my query. At first I thought it was a bit weird to talk about my characters as if they're actual people, but honestly, part of that is the essence of the book. I have to *know* them in order to pitch them. So, yeah. Gotta take a tiny side trip to crazyville for that, I guess!

Oh, and you can be rest assured that if I ever end up on Oprah, my idiocy *will* rear its ugly head :) You've been forewarned!

Terry Stonecrop said...

Thanks. I particularly liked this quote:

"Best way to not sound like a used car salesman is to draw upon the voice of the work when constructing the pitch."

And the idea of telling it at cocktail parties. Yes, you need to be succinct there or you'll lose them real fast.

Grimmster24 said...

Thank you, Nathan! I'm a LITTLE closer to being done with my WIP, having done Editing Round #1, so this is going to help keep my focus when it comes time to pitch my novel.

I gotta agree with Emily White, too, lol. You DO look like Luke Wilson. Who is a handsome man and someone I think is really cool. So, you know, you're in good company. :)

Stephanie said...

Hey Nathan-
Janet is my editor! I love her and now I love you :-)

The most helpful part of this is when you suggested we think about a pitch as what we would say if asked at a cocktail party.

I really liked the video. It felt really warm and personal.
Love your blog. Thanks for taking the time to write it (or shoot it in this case)!

ryan field said...

This one simple video can apply to other areas, too. Like writing blurbs for other authors, or writing back cover copy.

Anonymous said...

I've always read your posts with an English accent in my head. After viewing the clip, I re-read today's post. And that wonderful accent was gone. Can't get it back.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Great advice. It helps to tell people about your book. I'd rather hide behind my keyboard, but forcing myself to tell somebody about my book has taught me how to get to the essence of the plot.

nicole antoinette said...

Wonderfully to the point advice, as always. So fun to get it in video form too!

Josin L. McQuein said...

LoL, Mira.

I used a "reverse text" generator. You type or paste in what you want to say and it spits out code for blogs, web pages, etc. The only thing it won't do is capital letters.

Josin L. McQuein said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christi Goddard said...

I'm sure you get this all the time, but OMG... you look so young. I always thought that side picture of you was a few years old. In fact, you look younger than you do in your picture. Your aging backwards, Nathan!

It's the curious case of Nathan Bradsford!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I guess I wonder why people don't know what their book's about even before they start. That's kind of where I start.
I've learned it's mostly about being in touch with SELF first...

And aww, you seem as sweet and friendly in person as you do here.

Karen said...

That was really helpful! Thanks.

Oh, and that bright pink name tag goes great with your outfit.

Anonymous said...

This is not professional at all, but I think you're super cute. Can't hurt your blog stats, is all I'm sayin'.

It IS April Fool's Day, though, so I'll leave it up to you to figure out the seriousness of this message.

Kate Evangelista said...

Video posts are always good for the visual and auditory learners out there.

jongibbs said...

Another great post!

Thanks, Nathan. I've added this link to my favorites :)

Mira said...

Josin, that's awesome. !EMOSEWA s'ti yas I dluohs ro. How did I live without this??

Anon, creative does not equal unprofessional.

Dara said...

Thanks for the video post! Very helpful as always :) Keeping the pitch concise is very important; I'm always afraid that I'd end up rambling like I do when I'm nervous.

mariblaser said...

Thanks Nathan, for another excellent post. The video thing was a great idea!

This is the first time I see concrete information on how to actually draw up a good pitch, besides the general advice of concision and a killing idea well put. *shrugs*

No wonder you're called agent super star, heh. By the way, I so loved your interview on Kristi's blog How Did You Get There. I literally laughed out loud, and even clapped hands by the end. She's something, isn't she? heh ;)

Malia Sutton said...

Smart advice for all authors.

You're probably tired of hearing this all the time. But you look so darn CUTE, too:)

Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado said...

I met Nathan at the San Miguel Writers Conference and also Janet Goldstein who took the video... All followers of this blog who see Nathan as extremely professional, knowledgable and generous are right on. (Janet is the same kind of person by the way) As an aside, The San Miguel Writers' Conference is an excellent option for both experienced and novice writers. Thank you Nathan for sharing the good information and bringing back happy memories.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Nice! Short, to the point, and we got to match a voice to the face. Thanks! (And I like the vlog thing.)

Anonymous said...

When telling your pitch to a publishing professional do they want to know the ending?

Other Lisa said...

I have actually directed people to my website to read the pitch there because I'm too embarrassed to recite it.

I guess I'd better start reciting.

Chuck H. said...

Just thought I'd let you know, Bransford, I don't think you're that cute. You give great advice but you ain't that cute.

Nathan Bransford said...

lol, thanks Chuck. I'll take that tradeoff any day.

Ee Leen Lee said...

Talking to Oprah? well that is better than the other advice I heard of, which is pretend you're talking to a room full of suits

Sissy said...

Totally have to agree with the Luke Wilson comments! It is fun to hear what you sound like in real life and hear you talk about books. Very fun!

Wm. Luke Everest said...

"Draw upon the voice of the work when constructing the pitch." Great advice. I'll remember that. I've often wondered about that point, as my "voice" alters (I like to think) with my POV character.

On the advice of my mentors (Scott Bradfield and Paul McAuley) I've practised the craft by writing short fiction. I've come to realise that, as craft skill develops, the problems of writing a good synopsis or querry letter kind of solve themselves. Stories become increasingly focussed, such that most good short fiction can be described in a sentence or two, and most novels can certainly be boiled down to a couple hundred words.

Rather than attempting to simplify a complex process, the question becomes how to evocatively elucidate the story's central premise, which should be integral to the POV character anyway. For those interested, Robert Silverberg writes brilliantly about this in his essay "Common Time: With All of Love", published in Science Fiction 101.

Dwacon® said...

Dude, you got that young Scott Bakula vibe going. Not that I'm gay for you or anything. I'm just saying.

Not that there's anything wrong with that... but I was a Quantum Leap and Enterprise fan...

Wait a minute, what was I commenting about?

Malia Sutton said...

I'm sticking with smart and cute :)

Kia Abdullah said...

Oh my, you're so Cali!

Kia Abdullah said...

On a more productive note, I think this is really good advice. I recently shared a session at a book festival with a wonderful literray agent who's been in the business for nearly 25 years, and she said exactly the same thing: construct a brief killer synopsis so that when people say "What's your book about?" you can impress immediately.

As an aside, I usually hate video embeds but this is great. We want more!

blackwatertown said...

Good advice. Aim for an "elevator pitch" I suppose.

John said...

I met Nathan a couple years ago here in Atlanta and he sounds like Thurston Howell III. I think he probably just changed his voice for this video so you guys wouldn't think he was all uppity.

K. E. Richards said...

The force is strong in you, young one. 200 words, mmmm I better get back to the drawing board.

Meghan Ward said...

I am a HUGE fan of video blogs! Thanks for this. It was really useful, and I'd love to see more videos on this blog. By the way, 200 words seems long for an elevator pitch. I always feel like I need to summarize my book in a sentence or two when people ask me what it's about.

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