Five Don’ts for Pitching Books and Manuscripts
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Apr 22 2011
Author Name: Krista Davis
Title of Book: The Diva Haunts the House
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Pub Date: Coming September 6th
Agent: Jessica Faust
Malice Domestic Convention (https://www.malicedomestic.org/)
Mystery authors are about to descend on Bethesda, Maryland, for the annual Malice Domestic Convention, which celebrates traditional and cozy mysteries. Right about now, everyone is practicing their elevator pitches for Malice Go Round. It’s their opportunity to sit at a table with readers and sell their books. But there’s a catch — they only have two minutes! There are twenty tables in the room with two authors seated at each table of readers. When the cue is given, each author has two minutes to talk about his or her books. Then the authors rise and switch tables. It’s exhausting but it’s also a lot of fun. I’m no pro, but I have picked up on a few mistakes that authors make. (I’ve made them, too!) Last year, when Jessica and I spoke about it, she noted that many are the same mistakes that writers make when sending her queries. Don’t let these happen to you.
1. Don’t bore them with structure.
“I based The Quintessential Murder on the hero’s journey.”
Are you bored yet? Me, too. If you’re a writer, you might enjoy discussing the structure of a book, but it doesn’t spark interest in a book for most people.
2. Don’t waste time with the obvious.
“My books are about the relationships between people and how they react to a murder in their midst.”
Doesn’t that apply to most mysteries? If you’re a New York Times Bestselling author, you could get away with this. Then again, your audience would be just as thrilled if you leaned toward them and asked if your mascara had smeared.
3. Don’t overload them with names.
“John and Mary have a complicated relationship. That’s because of Sam, who never liked his mother, Imelda, who is a difficult woman at best. So when Arthur and Hugo enter the picture . . . .”
Lost yet? Limit yourself to two or three names. Other people can be identified by tags, like “Sam’s mother,” to simplify things for the reader or listener. And be specific. How is the relationship complicated? How does that impact the plot? Who is the book about?
4. Don’t tell them the story behind the story.
“In this book I wanted to explore the dynamics of a troubled marriage in the computer age. There are so many changes in our lives now that we’re available 24/7. We’re never without our smart phones anymore.”
But what’s the story about?
5. Don’t digress to subplots.
“Amy Pierson’s sister disappears two days before her wedding. The window to her bedroom had been broken from the outside, and a red feather was left in the middle of the floor. Then Amy’s brother announces his engagement, but his fiancee is a ditz whom no one likes and she drives to Scranton to see her ex-husband who runs a video arcade.”
Wait, wait! This one starts out well, but slides right into a side plot. Stick to the primary story. What about the sister who disappeared? That’s far more interesting than the brother’s little problem. Whether you’re querying BookEnds or pitching under pressure at Malice Go Round, remember that it’s all about telling a great story. Good luck!
Krista Davis writes the Domestic Diva Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. Her first book, THE DIVA RUNS OUT OF THYME, was nominated for an Agatha. Krista’s most recent release is THE DIVA COOKS A GOOSE, and she’s looking forward to September 6th, when her Halloween-themed mystery, THE DIVA HAUNTS THE HOUSE, will be available.
Visit Krista at her website DivaMysteries.com. Krista blogs at MysteryLoversKitchen.com, where mystery writers cook up crime . . . and recipes, and at www.KillerCharacters.com, where the characters do the blogging!