Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Peek into The Editor's Mind

While I was at the Northwest Christian Writers' Renewal a week ago or so, I was struck, as I always am when in the company of writers, by the power of the right word used in the right way. On the first day of the conference, I had group meetings with the writers. This is where a group of writers come in, sit at a table together, and each takes a turn pitching his/her book to me to see if B & H Publishing Group would be interested in considering it for publication. I had six groups, each lasting a half hour, each with anywhere from 5-7 people each. So folks had a total of 3-5 minutes to engage me in their project.

How's that for pressure?

The cool thing is, a good number of those who came had such a strong understanding of their project, and of the market, that they were able to hook me in the first few words. Now that's doing your homework! For example, one woman told me right off the bat her book was romantic suspense, what the main story line was (in a sentence), and what the conflict and spiritual takeaway were. That took about 45 seconds of her 4 minutes, so from there I asked questions about the story and focus and she was able to relax and just talk. I ended up asking her to send me the proposal. Don't know if we'll pursue it--the writing is what tips the scales, of course. But I was impressed with her well chosen descriptions. And if I'm considering two manuscripts and all things are basically equal, I'll always go with an author who is, first and foremost, teachable, and then able to communicate the heart and soul of her story quickly and effectively.

So if you're a writer, spend some time thinking about the following:

What's the main theme (or themes) addressed in my story.
What's the nonfiction hook I could use to stir interest in media outlest (e.g. radio, where they generally don't have a clue what to do with novelists)
What genre is my book? Are there any best-sellers or movies that I can compare my book to that will position it quickly for ________ (fill in the blank. E.g., editor, reader, marketer, interviewer, retailer, reviewer)? For example, my book is Die Hard, Live Free meets Nancy Drew. (Okay, not a perfect example, but you get what I mean.)
Can I describe my book in:
* one sentence
*25 words
*50 words
*200 words
(At different stages in the process of seeking publication, you'll need to be able to do all of the above!)

That's enough to get you started. So hey, go for it! And if you want to try and pitch something to me here as a test, feel free. I'll let you know what I think.

Peace to you today.



C.J. Darlington said...

I love these sort of posts---learning about the ins and outs of the industry, especially from an editor's POV. Thanks for sharing.

Christina Berry said...

Well, my dear, I know how you love a bad guy. (I remember you saying that at OCW.)

Just so happens I'm trying my hand at romantic suspense. Unafraid opens with the kidnapping of a six-year-old girl, a feisty little thing who manages to get away without too much harm being done. But now, twenty years later, nearing the anniversary of the kidnapping, Cara's neighbor dies and a new guy moves in. A cute guy. A nice guy. Or is he?

When Cara goes missing, psychiatrist Donovan Freight investigates, prompted by his coworker--Cara's usual therapist--who's had a heart attack.

This book is all about facing our greatest fears so we can live the full and abundant life God means for us. The theme verse is Matthew 16:25/Mark 8:35/Luke 9:24/Luke 17:33 about he who tries to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for Jesus will save it.

Any interest in hearing more? I can honestly say that this is my first blog pitch ... and fun to do off the top of my head. :-)