Did you ever wonder why someone’s book is immediately snapped up by an editor? What was it that appealed to that editor?
You’re in the store and you read a back cover blurb that grabs you and won’t let you put the book down, but what makes it more special than all the others? What catches your attention? Why does one book take off like a rocket and another one just sit there?
It’s the hook that grabs the editor’s attention, the same one that grabbed you. The author has put a fresh spin on her story and made her book more marketable.
Everyone has heard of the “what if” game. If you’re a writer, you probably play it all the time. So how exactly do you come up with a twist for your story that will make it stand out?
First, start with the basics. There are five elements in constructing a story pitch that pops: Captivating characters, Inciting incident (what happens to change their world), the potential for conflict, a great title, and the hook or twist that will give your story that extra zing.
A psychic and a skeptic are stuck in a vacant hotel with two sex-starved ghosts.
That’s from an older book of mine, Double Dating With The Dead, but it’s my favorite pitch. In that one line, I’ve used all the elements.
Captivating characters: notice I didn’t use names. Tags can identify the potential for conflict more easily, especially if the tags are in direct opposition with each other—like a psychic and a skeptic.
Inciting incident (what happens to change their world). They’re stuck in a vacant hotel.
Great title: Okay, mine kind of sucked. Double Dating With The Dead came from the fabulous Kate Duffy who was the title queen.
The potential for conflict: a psychic and a skeptic stuck in a vacant hotel—talk about opposites!
The hook/twist: with two sex-starved ghosts.
What was the worse thing that could happen? I already had two people who were stuck in a vacant hotel together. I could’ve left it at that, but by adding the two sex-starved ghosts I gave my story that extra twist I needed to make it stand out.
See how short and concise a pitch can be.
I use snarky comedy a lot. I also showed that element in my pitch. If you’re going for a darker element create a more sinister image.
Here’s one for my current release, The Wolf Prince.
A sexy shape-shifting prince from a faraway galaxy arrives on Earth to save a woman who doesn’t know she’s part alien because rogues are killing off the impures. But when she clobbers the prince over the head, he gets amnesia, and both their lives are in danger.
Okay, I actually wrote that a few minutes ago for this article so it’s a little rough. This series sold to Kate on the first book, The Jaguar Prince (the second book is The Falcon Prince), so I actually didn’t have a pitch for it until today. But using those five elements I was able to narrow down my story idea.
Captivating characters: Sexy shape-shifting prince and a female who doesn’t know she’s part alien.
Inciting incident: the prince arrives and she clobbers him. (Note, I used clobber and not hit because clobber sounds more comedic)
The potential for conflict: rogues are after her
A great title: The Wolf Prince—again not mine. I really do suck at titles.
The hook/twist: What was the worse thing that could happen in an already downward spiral? I gave my hero amnesia.
Take your plot, then turn the screws just a little bit and give it one more twist.
Karen Kelley became very adept at how things worked in the publishing world. You write a book, you mail it off, you get rejected, you write another book. She did this for six years until one day she talked her husband into mailing her manuscript for her. She couldn't take one more look of pity from the postal workers. Being the loving husband that he is, he mailed Bachelor Party to Hilary Sares at Kensington to be considered for the Precious Gem line on a Tuesday. On Friday of that same week, Hilary called to offer a contract.
Currently Karen writes for the Brava Imprint with Kensington Publishing and has the fabulous Kate Duffy for an editor. Karen writes full-time, and collects junk which she fondly calls antiques. Her husband can still be talked into mailing her manuscripts and also helping with her publicity. She has two grown children, one son-in-law and three grandchildren and a very spoiled Pekinese. She loves sitting on the patio on a warm spring day and procrastinating about her approaching deadline(s).
Check out the first chapter of the The Wolf Prince.