inktip #3: Pitch with power
Posted by inkpop on October 16, 2009
HarperCollins editor Rosemary Brosnan says Short and Full Pitches must “whet the appetite”
Rosemary Brosnan knows a thing or two about enticing readers. An executive editor for HarperCollins, she’s edited scores of books—and corresponding flap copy—including Out of the Ballpark by Alex Rodriguez, Fairest by Gail Carson Levine, and the forthcoming “amazing second novel” by Lauren Oliver.
As you probably guessed, Brosnan does more than add commas to manuscripts. Her job involves liaising with various HarperCollins departments to think about all aspects of a book. She helps to strategize book jackets, marketing plans, and potential new projects, and spends the majority of her in-office time answering e-mails from authors, agents, and coworkers. “All of my editing is done at home and occasionally on the train to and from work,” she says. “To edit, I need unbroken time in which I can think and be creative and sometimes even pace up and down!”
At press time, Brosnan was working on flap copy for an upcoming tween novel called Saving Sky by Diane Stanley. “It’s a dystopian novel that treats serious themes but contains much humor and hope. How much should we tell? How can we get across the idea that a novel about the U.S. under attack by terrorists is, ultimately, a hopeful book?”
Realizing the similarities between flap copy and inkpop Short and Full Pitches, we scored Brosnan’s expert tips …
Tease the reader
Story summarization is a make-or-break art for book-jacket copy and inkpop Short and Full Pitches. Jacket text is often the determining factor in whether a consumer buys a book. Similarly, inkpop Short and Full Pitches are the initial descriptions a potential reader sees before deciding whether to click on the “View Project” button.
“One danger is being too close to the story and wanting to tell too much plot,” Brosnan says. “The best flap copy teases the reader and is intriguing enough to make the reader desperately want to read the book.”
Whatever’s clever: How to write a solid Short Pitch
An inkpop Short Pitch is a sentence or tagline (no more than 25 words) that represents a project when it shows up in inkpop search results. Brosnan compares inkpop Short Pitches to the one- or two-line taglines found on book galleys and marketing materials.
The best Short Pitches are clever, short, and intriguing, and should whet the reader’s appetite, Brosnan says. Here are samples of Brosnan’s team’s work:
“She sees dead people—and they see her.” —from The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
“You don’t have to be alive to be awakened.” —from The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong
“The impossible hurts.” —from Bruiser by Neal Shusterman (to be published in summer 2010)
Don’t give away too much: How to write a Full Pitch
The Full Pitch is an inkpop author’s chance to sell a project to readers in 200 words max—think of it as a book’s back-cover blurb. The goal is to make the project sound as interesting and compelling as possible, and to set the scene for readers.
Brosnan suggests thinking of the Full Pitch not from the writer’s point of view, but from the advertiser’s point of view. “How will you entice people to read your work? You don’t want to write a plot summary,” she says. “It’s best to look at the work a little more objectively and pick out just what’s important for potential readers to know. Keep in mind where to break off, so that you don’t give too much away.”
As an example, here’s what Brosnan and her team wrote for the flap of The Reckoning (the final book of the Darkest Powers series; to be released in summer 2010) by Kelley Armstrong:
My name is Chloe Saunders, I’m fifteen, and I would love to be normal.
But normal is one thing I’m not.
For one thing, I’m having these feelings for a certain antisocial werewolf and his sweet-tempered brother—who just happens to be a sorcerer—but, between you and me, I’m leaning toward the werewolf. Not normal.
My friends and I are also on the run from an evil corporation that wants to get rid of us—permanently. Definitely not normal.
And finally, I’m a genetically altered necromancer who can raise the dead, rotting corpses and all, without even trying. As far away from normal as it gets.