Monday, 25 June 2012

Pitch paragraph - The Internet Revolutionary

Before I start my Crabbit Agony Aunt posts on Wednesday (and I already have several questions from you!), I have two pitches to offer you.

Today's is a self-published book from Beryl Kingston, who has previously had many books successfully published. She also has another publishing deal. But today we are looking at the pitch Beryl sent me.

The Internet Revolutionary by Beryl Kingston described by the author as "modern morality tale", which does not make me want to read it! Sorry... But that may not matter because all readers are different and many people would not be put off by this. I'm just saying what I thought. When we pitch a book, we need to think of our intended readers, not readers who wouldn't read our sort of book; however, it's worth considering that we might unnecessarily put some people off simply by the way we describe a book, and those people might otherwise have wanted to read it. A good book can lose readers if the pitch is wrong.

Beryl's pitch:
This is the fictionalised story of the first internet revolution which took place in 2003. The young man whose life and loves we follow is an idealistic teacher who works in a tough inner city comprehensive and knows what a devastating effect constant examinations are having on his pupils. He is also the great-great nephew of Octavia Smith, suffragette and educational pioneer, whose story is told in 'Octavia' and 'Octavia's War' and inherits her fire. But because he can't see what one person could do against such a heavily entrenched system, he goes on working and enduring it. Then two things happen that change his opinion and his life. First he inherits his great aunt's papers, which are eye-openers, then he discovers that his A-level results have been doctored. The stage is set for revolution.
My comments:
OK, I'm going to hold my hands up and say that, although there are some intriguing elements, I'm confused. The first sentence leaves me in a ball of ignorance as to what this is about and what sort of story it is. The second sentence contains a couple of phrases that feel a little clich├ęd ("life and loves" and "tough inner city comprehensive" - you might decide to keep them, but I think they could be improved) but my main crit is that the point about constant exams, while certainly interesting in real life, doesn't sound compelling as a driving force in this context: it lacks emotional power. The third sentence contains a punctuation error which renders the meaning ambiguous. I've no idea whether Octavia Smith is fictional or not. And by the end, I still don't know what kind of revolution this is going to be.

The final sentence reads oddly after the previous one, which is incongruously light compared to the word "revolution". And if the stage is set at the end, I find that confusing, too, in terms of telling me how this story arc works. I'd rather have the revolution in the book, not at the end. (Which is maybe what happens in fact - perhaps it's only the pitch which makes it sound as though that's the end.)

The Internet Revolutionary sounds like a complex book, rich with possibilities, and those are obviously harder books to pitch. Somehow, as writers of such books, we have to find a way to get at the core and make it clear.

Beryl is a multi-published writer, so I'm sure the story itself is powerful and well-written, but this pitch doesn't do it justice in that case, I feel. Maybe everyone will disagree with me, but I think that a better pitch would create even more sales.

Any helpful comments, anyone? Here is the link to the book on Amazon. And thank you, Beryl, for sending me your pitch for the blog.


Nick Green said...

I get from this pitch a sense that the author is trying very hard not to give too much away. But in trying to 'tease' she ends up not saying very much at all of interest (all the interesting bits are secret!).

I think it is a common problem; just as in writing fiction you sometimes have to 'murder your darlings', in a pitch you have to put them on display. There is no point in beating around the bush in the pitch; it's not a blurb, nor a movie trailer. You have to throw everything you've got at it... it may be your only chance.

Deborah Jay said...

I agree with both Nick and Nicola.
As I read this pitch I wondered when the story was ever going to get started. The vast majority is background and set up. Clearly we need to understand some of this, but I didn't actually feel that we got any of the main story until the last sentence.
As has so often been pointed out in this blog (I know, it happened to me too), a pitch is not a blurb, and should give us an outline and flavour of the story, including the ending.
This pitch gives the tiniest scrap of story and then stops! Frustrating, because I'd really like to know what happens.
Please tell us more, Beryl.