ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, narco smugglers, and human traffickers. His personal war stories include performing humanitarian operations over Bangladesh, being deployed to Afghanistan, and a near miss being cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. His fiction and non-fiction has been praised by USA Today, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Financial Times of London, and Publishers Weekly. The American Library Association labeled him one of the Major Horror Authors of the 21st Century. His work has also won the Bram Stoker Award, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won multiple New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series SEAL Team 666 has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war. Weston likes to be called a chaotic good paladin and challenges anyone to disagree. After all, no one can really stand a goody two-shoes lawful good character. They can be so annoying. It's so much more fun to be chaotic, even when you're striving to save the world. You can argue with him about this and other things online at Living Dangerously or on Facebook at Badasswriter. All content of this blog is copywrited by Weston Ochse.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pitch It So They Can Hit It!

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(Now with an example which can be found at this link)

Not to strain a metaphor, but most of you treat the batter as if he or she is your enemy. You prepare a pitch and sling it over the plate. Weighed down with too much blather, it’s like trying to hit a knuckle-ball laced with gerund slime. Remember this: you want the batter to hit your pitch. You want your batter to hit your pitch so damn hard it goes over the left field wall and becomes a mass market, best-selling book.

So now that I’ve decimated the metaphor, let me tell you what I’m really talking about. It’s your book pitch. It sucks. It’s way too long. It’s a chore to read. Editors and or agents are some of the busiest folks on Earth. They spend most of their day taking phone calls, working with the marketing departments, attending office meetings, and working with their top three authors. What’s left is a miniscule amount of time for them to read submissions in their slush pile or those they’ve asked for. So you got to have your pitch ready so they can hit it.

In the Army we have a saying called K.I.S.S. No, not the Detroit metal band. K.I.S.S. stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. Don’t go into any more detail than is necessary to convey these five things: The Beginning, the throughline, the subplot, the antagonist and the ending. Do not leave off the ending. If you do the reader is going to think you don’t know how it ends. And NO! You are not allowed to leave the reader hanging unless your name is Brisco County Junior.

Being interviewed on NPR
My fellow zombie author Chuck Wendig has a terrific article about the throughline here.  He calls the throughline the invisible thread that binds your story together. You might know it as the plot. I’ve also heard it called the base, the centerline and the arrow— whatever you want to call it, you need to represent it in such a way in your pitch that the person reading it knows what’s going on and why it’s going on and how it is resolved.

Now here’s the hairy part.

You have to do it in one, double-spaced, one-inched margin, twelve-pointed font page.
I heard that you potty mouth, but I feel your pain.

I’d be dropping WTFs all over the computer screen if I read that too.

But what about the 30 page chapter summary I have, you whine in a miserable little voice.

Ooh, I say. Do you really have one? How cool? Funky beans! Wowsa and all that smack. The chapter summary is great. You’re a little ahead of yourself, but there’s no punishment for working hard. Feel free to include that in any submission. If you don’t have it, they’ll ask for it if they like your idea. If you do have one, then they’ll move on from your pitch to the summary.

BUT THEY HAVE TO LIKE YOUR IDEA BEFORE THEY’LL EVEN COMMITT TO READING YOUR OUTLINE.

Sorry about the all cap shouting, but I saw a few of you shaking your heads like you thought I was speaking crazy talk.

Now here’s the last bit of knowledge about the Pitch I’m going to impart. In addition to the five elements and in addition to a single page, use active voice and present tense. It doesn’t matter if the book is going to be written in past tense, write in present tense for this single page. Why? Present tense makes it live. It makes those reading it think that it’s happening now, that whatever they are reading is perishable and that they must read it.

So go back and take a look at your pitch. Maybe the reason it’s not getting any love is because it’s just way too onerous a document to read. In this day of 140 character communications, everyone wants to read something shorter.

So give it to them.

Pitch it so they can hit it.

~     ~     ~
Weston Ochse is the internationally-published author of such novels as TOMES OF THE DEAD: EMPIRE OF SALT and Blood Ocean (Afterblight Chronicles). His novel Velvet Dogma is available as an original ebook, as well as an audio book. SEAL Team 666: A Novel, his latest novel about a military unit that protects America from supernatural attack, is coming from St. Martin’s Press in November 2012. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, likes long walks on the beach, and has a tattoo of Elvis Presley.

3 comments :

  1. Great advice. Can you point to some sharp examples?

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    1. Hi, I'm so super late with this. But here's an example-- http://weston-ochse.blogspot.com/2012/03/example-pitch-pitch-it-so-they-can-hit.html

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  2. Anonymous. I decided to come up with something on the spur. It's a Book Pitch for the Hobbit. I'll post it in a few minutes.

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