Monday, 12 March 2012

Pitch Pitch: two contemporary pitches

Another double pitch for your constructive criticism today. Remember, these are designed to be the paragraph within the covering letter in a UK query which describes and sells the book, hooking an agent or publisher. They need to be eloquent, focused, concrete,  and give a sense of the ending.

Please add your constructive comments below. As you know, I always try to add my thoughts after the pitches, but I just don't have time at the moment as I'm still off on a bookish tour.

New Beginnings – a contemporary romance by Johanna Nield
Newly single and just hitting her thirties, Tasha fears she’s falling in love with her married boss. Distracting herself with work, friends, and a persistent colleague, she pours her secret thoughts and desires into her on-line diary. Her blog also reveals life-changing events, heartache and happiness, and the uncertainty of an unfolding future. This is Tasha's story - a tale of love, loss, life and lots more - but don't be misled: you may laugh with her at times, but you'll also cry with and for her as she tries to make the best of what life throws her way.

Leverage (working title) - a light-hearted thriller/mystery/romp/chick lit novel by KC.
Nellie Pert is 40, single and chaotic. By day, and sometimes through the night, she earns a crust as a business intelligence consultant, dishing the dirt on philandering CEOs, spilling the beans on hostile takeover bids and generally making a nuisance of herself for a series of scheming corporate clients.
By night, and sometimes all day, money burns a hole in Nellie's purse. Every sou she earns is splashed on pino grigio, fine dining, net-a-porter and items of a spangly nature, much to the exasperation of her long-suffering creditors and the friends who bale her out between assignments.

Nellie knows a lot of secrets, and before long her chaotic lifestyle, shady acquaintances and tipsy indiscretions land her in a whole heap of trouble with some very powerful people. In the ensuing commotion, the reader is plunged into the murky undercover world of the corporate spy, as Nellie attempts to extricate herself from a dastardly plot to frame her for a heinous crime.

Comment away, people!


JO said...

These both look like great books.

New Beginnings: It's a personal thing, but I really don't like sentences right at the beginning of a pitch that begin with a subordinate clause. So I'd rather you began the 'Tasha fears she's falling in love with her boss' - that's punchier. The second sentence has the same structure, but it doesn't distract me so much there.
And then - I want to know what happens. This genre is full of books that tell of love, loss, life and lots more (tho what more is there than life? afterlife?) - what makes this book different?

Leverage: This looks great fun - but I just wonder how chaotic she can be if she manages all that making a nuisance of herself in the corporal world, as well as all the night-fun. She sounds as if she is simply juggling too many balls (this might be a nitpick - is she chaotic, or is it simply her lifestyle that is chaotic because she can't do everything?)
Having set that scene, I feel you rush the really interesting bit, that tells us what happens - the indiscretions and undercover world. This, for me, is where the story is - I'd like to know much more about that.

Well done, both of you - the best of luck with these.

beccabrown said...

Both these books sound good.

If I can comment on New Beginnings though, it seems to be more like a blurb or publicity shot than a pitch. If that's what you're going for then it does a good job at making the book seem fun and I'd read the first page definitely. But as a submission tool, I'd want to know a little bit more about what actually happens in the story. That's just my personal opinion of course and I certainly haven't been brave enough to put my own pitch up here yet!

Happy Odd Girl said...

I think the first one would come across better with more specifics and less generalities. Generalities just make the story sound like every other story of the kind. Show us what makes it unique.

The second one seems to dwell a lot on the character's "chaotic lifestyle", but say very little about the actual plot, which is only mentioned briefly at the end. Might it not be better to trim the "lifestyle" section a good deal, and put in more about the actual story?

Also, you do say at the beginning that a pitch should give "a sense of the ending", and it seems to me that neither of them really does this.

Hope all that doesn't sound too negative. :S I wish both writers the best of luck, and hope they get a good agent and sell their books. :)

Anonymous said...

I just want to comment on Leverage.
I think books can cross more than one genre but not too many - you risk confusing your readers and restricting your readership. For example, I do enjoy crime fiction but from your synopsis it seems that the majority of the book is about Nellie's lifestyle, so more chick lit than crime (and I don't want to pigeon-hole genres but they are useful shorthands).
In my view, the space in the synopsis should reflect the space in the book, so you may want to shorten the first part (chaotic lifestyle) and extend the second (heinous crime).
Also, i think you need to tell us more about the second part of the book. What happens when she tries to extricate herself from the heinous crime? Is her life in danger? How does she get out of it?
You may take a different approach and restructure your book (!) with a slightly different plot: instead of a heinous crime, there is a lesser crime involved, or she was being framed because of all the gossip, and everything works out fine in the end. This is a big change and it would remove the strictly crime fiction element but I have to admit as a reader of crime (and not of chick lit) I would find going through the first part of the book rather frustrating.
Finally, you have to be careful with spelling (pino grigio is a grey pine, Pinot Grigio is a wine - and a couple others).
I'd have a look at plots for similar books - I'm afraid I don't know any that might be similar, but you need to look at their plots and see how they are developed.

Hope it helps!

Hilary Hadley Wright said...

New Beginnings: Some good stuff here, but I find the first half of the pitch much more effective than the second. After 'This is Tasha's tale' I find it slides in to vagueness and, though I hate to say, it, cliche. I'm reminded of my aunt who, when told in America to 'have a nice day!' retorted 'don't you tell me what to do!' It's up to me whether I laugh or cry. If the story is well-written, I just might, but I think the second half of the query would be more compelling if it gave us more specific information about the story.

Leverage: I think Nellie is intriguing, and I want to know more. I also agree with Jo: too much set-up about Nellie, not enough about what happens to her.
Then there's the question of tonal consistency. The opening para, with its tales of drinking and overspending, hints at a light, frivolous tale, whereas the second para plunges her into a threatening, murky world. I see you're trying to hedge your bets in the header with the list of genres you mention, but I think the pitch needs to demonstrate you know exactly what the tone of your novel is.
Finally--and this is completely subjective, I know--I don't find her name very alluring. It almost sounds like a parody name. 'Nellie' sounds old-fashioned, Victorian, and 'Pert' is a surname Thackeray could have chosen right along with 'Sharp'.

I think there's great potential in both of these. Very best of luck!

Johanna Nield said...

I'm ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I submitted the wrong document for this exercise: what you see here is my attempt at a blurb, not the page-long pitch that I'd carefully crafted. I'd blame the Lemsip, but really there's no excuse.

Jo - I prefer your punchier opening suggestion. Thank you.
Beccabrown - I'm glad it reads more like a blurb, because that's what it is (see above). Thank you. The book isn't really a fun read, though, so I clearly need to rethink the tone of it.
Happy Odd Girl - You're absolutely right. Thank you.
Hilary - You make some excellent points about vagueness and cliche, and I especially your aunt's comment with regards to being told what to do. I'll take them all on board when rewriting. Thank you.

Johanna Nield said...

Leverage sounds like a fun read, and the "light-hearted thriller/mystery/romp/chick lit" description appeals to me as someone who's not often attracted to thrillers or mysteries. I had to Google a few of the terms, but I'm sure they're familiar to your target audience and overall the pitch sets the scene very well. I'd want to know who is framing her, though, and why - is it revenge, or to gain information, or to harm a competitor? - and you might want to be a bit more specific about the heinous crime.
I wish you well with this, KC, and hope it's on the shelves soon :)

E.Maree said...

Happy Odd Girl's comments hit the nail on the head.

New Beginnings - I'm not getting a clear idea of the conflict here. What's keeping your reader turning the pages? Is her boss returning her affection? Is the boss' wife a friend/a mum/a generally nice person? What are the life-changing events, heartaches and happiness?

Love that she's a blogger!

Also, this is completely personal taste, but I *hate* being told 'you will feel x and y and z'. From reading a few agent blogs (like the fantastic Queryshark) it seems like agents would rather you used this space to tell us about the story.

Leverage - Don't call it 'chick lit', the term is out of fashion. I thiiiiink women's fiction is the appropriate term these days. You should definitely pick two genres at most to categorise this as when querying, but I wouldn't worry about rewriting your plot to fit genre norms. The mix of genres could work well, but that's hard to tell from a pitch alone.

Really nice voice in this, it's wonderful - I'd pick it up based on the voice alone.

I don't know what a "sou" is, and I had to google "net-a-porter" (maybe rephrase to 'shoes/dresses from net-a-porter'?).

The second paragraph seems really vague. I'd like to know what the heinous crime is, the whole heap of trouble, what her indiscretions were, and who the powerful people are. It's hard to get an idea of the dangers and risks when I don't really know what's happened.

Deborah Jay said...

I also agree that Happy Odd Girl has it right.
Both pitches have possibilities, but they both need work. Ok so now we know that New Beginnings is not the pitch, but the blurb. Even so, I'd like to know what is different in this book, to distinguish it from every other book in this genre: it seems to have pretty standard ingredients, aside from the blog, which I liked.
Leverage (good title) is too much about the character, and not enough about the plot. I also think it needs to be more targeted: publishers want to pigeon-hole books for the purpose of packaging and publicity; you can't be this vague on genre in you approach, and your pitch must reflect your genre in tone. At the moment it reflects the lack of clarity evident in the mixed genres you cite.
From experience (my pitch was worked over a couple of weeks ago) I'd say you are both still failing to give enough details of how your books END. This is not a blurb: the ending should not just be hinted at, but laid out more clearly for an agent to see.
Good luck and go for it!

Johanna Nield said...

E.Maree and Deborah Jay - your thought-provoking observations and questions have given me plenty to work with when rewriting my blurb and in terms of ensuring that my pitch is much clearer. Thank you!

KC said...

Thank you all for your very constructive comments. Leverage is very much a work in progress and, as several of you pointed out, the character development is more advanced than the plot - which I now realise is reflected in the unbalanced pitch. Lots still to do, but I'm encouraged by your response to the concept. Many thanks.

Best of luck with your book, too, Johanna!

E.Maree said...

Good luck, Johanna and KC! I hope it all goes well. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm a crime fiction fan but after reading both of these synopsis I'd be tempted to go out and buy New Beginings. I think the synopsis is a chance to sell your book as well as to explain it, bit of a pain to write, but still an opportunity. What makes a good one? I'd say New Beginings is good enough to sell to me. Best of luck to both books by the way - hope we'll be seeing them in print.
Love the blog too.
Ger H