Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Synopsis Pitch

Week of March 4, 2012: Batter Up!
Tuesday, March 6, 2012: A Synopsis Pitch

How appropriate that we’re discussing pitches during baseball spring training. There are many kinds of pitches a big-league pitcher can use—four-seam fastball, forkball, curveball, slider, screwball, changeup, and more. Each pitch requires a different hold on the ball and a different release, and each has its own trajectory. But all of these pitches have one objective . . . STRIKE!

Similarly, there are different kinds of pitches used by picture book authors—the elevator pitch (a quick description of a piece of writing that you’re ready to share at the drop of a hat), the Twitter pitch (as shared by Heather in a comment yesterday . . . where we pitch a book with no more than the characters allowed in a Twitter message), and various forms of pitches used in cover letters. And like the big-league pitcher, we have one objective . . . SELL!

Joyce Sweeney and Jamie Morris lead many workshops in their THE NEXT LEVEL: Craft Intensives for Dedicated Writers series. When I attended their marketing workshop, Jamie told us that the pitch in a cover letter should be a synopsis. According to Jamie: “For the purposes of your [cover] letter, the synopsis is only a paragraph. Writing in third person/present tense, use this section to introduce your main characters, what they want, why they want it, and what stands in their way of getting it. Make sure your synopsis includes the resolution to your story, including what your main characters learn during the journey.”

This pitch approach is a step beyond the PLOT PITCH APPORACH discussed yesterday. This approach asks you to summarize the story, so it’s going to require (and allow) you to fill in a basic storyline from start to finish.

A great way to practice this kind of pitch is to take any book (picture book or other) that you know well, and summarize it in a paragraph. Let me try writing a synopsis pitch for the The Night Before Christmas.

The night before Christmas, the house was quiet and the family sound asleep. Dreams of Christmas fill each head, when suddenly there’s a ruckus on the lawn. Pa jumps from his bed and discovers a sleigh, eight tiny reindeer, and a driver (who must be St. Nick). In an instant, the sleigh flies to the roof and St. Nick comes sliding down the chimney. He’s a jolly ole fellow with rosy cheeks, twinkling eyes, and a suit covered with soot. St. Nick pulls gifts from the pack he carries and fills the stockings one by one. Then he turns, places a finger on his nose, gives a nod, and up the chimney he goes. St. Nick springs to his sled, whistles to the reindeer, and flies away calling, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!”

It’s Your Turn!1. Choose a favorite book and write your own synopsis pitch. Don’t worry or fret—the book you are pitching has already sold!

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