Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Pitch paragraph example - Shedworking by Alex Johnson

Here is the first of the pitch paragraph examples, as advertised in a recent post. If you would like to offer your own pitch, please do read that post as I won't repeat myself. I will, however, stress that there is a quid pro quo, as follows:

What I get: the ability to feature your pitch, and my comments, in my forthcoming book, Dear Agent, in order to help writers write good covering letters to go with their submissions. I will let you know if I'm using your pitch in the book and will give you the chance to veto my comments. (Though I am very careful not to embarrass anyone with undue negativity.)

What you get: two things. First, the chance to have your pitch improved (if, for example, your book is available on Amazon/anywhere and you'd like to think about making it even better). Second, the chance to pitch your book to potential readers. It's a fab opportunity, I believe, and I actually think you gain more than I do, so there.

My first example is a non-fiction pitch, for a published book.

Shedworking by Alex Johnson
(This is book is published by Frances Lincoln and, as I write this paragraph, my very own shed is currently being installed in my garden, in unremitting pouring rain.)

Alex’s pitch:
The traditional workplace is dying. Technology is killing the commute. In the 21st century hundreds of thousands of people across the planet are quietly forging a lifestyle revolution. They are going to work in garden offices. They are shedworkers. In the UK alone, latest research shows the shedworking economy will top £8 billion this year, up 25% from 2010. Writers, designers, lawyers, bankers, small businessmen and women in all areas of work are all following the lead of famous shedworkers such as Roald Dahl, Mozart, Walt Disney and motorbike pioneers William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson. Inspired by Shedworking (, the internationally popular blog which attracts more than 50,000 readers a month, Shedworking: The Alternative Workplace Revolution by Alex Johnson is the first book to document this seachange in how we work. A fully illustrated guide with superb photographs and real life case studies, it looks at every aspect of shedworking, from its long and distinguished history to how to build your own, and explains how anybody can join the growing army of people who have decided to swap the traffic jam for the 90 second commute.

My thoughts:
It’s pretty damn brilliant. But I can't just say that, can I? Where would my crabbit reputation be then??So, OK, for my taste, there’s a tiny bit too much info. After all, the submission for a non-fiction book will include a proposal which will give the facts and figures, and things like the examples of famous shedworkers. However, this would be perfect for a press release, and I do realise that Alex wasn't really writing this to acquire an agent or a deal, which he already has. I also know that he would have preferred to split it into two or three separate paragraphs, but he was being very good and doing exactly what I asked for… So, what would I leave out? I think Roald Dahl, Mozart and Walt Disney are sufficient examples, so I'd omit the others, especially as they require that extra phrase to describe them. As a copy-writing freak, I’d omit “across the planet”, as being unnecessary. I’d love to have an argument about that first sentence, too, but it should probably stay for its impact alone!

Excellent job, anyway. Nice and full, well-crafted, and does what it needs to do. Crucially for non-fiction, it specifices Alex's platform (the blog) and the facts which make this book fill a gap in the market. (By the way, the bit about platform could equally well go in the rest of the covering letters, but that's the subject of another chapter in my booky book.)

And it's a lovely book, too, a perfect present for anyone who works in an office in the garden.

Any comments, anyone?


sheilamcperry said...

I think he's right that it would have been quite a bit easier to read if it had been in the form of more than one paragraph, but I can see he was just abiding by the rules!
It sounds as if it would be an interesting book, especially if you're a shedworker yourself, but what I can't work out from the blurb is whether it's a kind of coffee-table book (the mention of illustrations, for instance) or a practical how to guide - shedworking for dummies or something. I suppose I'd have to read a sample or browse it in a bookshop to find that out.

Elizabeth Dunn said...

Great to read a pro pitch at work. Maybe if we're copy-write freaking,I'd cut the 'all' in 'all following' line 4.Have nothing else to say but congrats, Alex.

catdownunder said...

Shed culture fascinates me. It is a very male thing here Downunder. I don't know any woman who has a shed - but most men of my acquaintance do! My father says he would like to read the book based on that blurb.

alex johnson said...

Thanks for the kind - and pleasantly critical - comments. It's not the same pitch as my original (which I've lost somewhere) but it is quite similar. It's not a coffee table book, but there are lots of excellent illustrations. And catdownunder I'm sure your father would enjoy it!