Tee Morris is my first guest post on the ‘Endless Possibilities Blog Tour.” He is an exciting ‘steampunk’ writer and a whiz at promotion.
“And Here’s the Pitch” by Tee Morris
As writers we all possess mad skills. (Those truly mad spell “skills” with a Z!)
We can write words together, we can edit and flow our words to weave gripping
stories and engaging characters, and we can easily make our heroes, villains,
antagonists, and protagonists all approachable no matter how frail the characters
may (or may not) appear.
But even with such intimate knowledge — can you pitch your book? Now when I say “Pitch your book… “ I do not mean “throw your book across a room at someone” because there are plenty of books that readers have been so motivated to do with anyway. When I say “Pitch your book… “ I mean to sell me your book within a minute. To anyone. An agent. An editor. A potential customer. You have roughly one minute on meeting any of the aforementioned to convince them that your book is the one they want to read; and I have watched with abject terror as authors blunder through five-to-ten minutes describing their books to potential readers, finishing their dissertation to a lackluster “That sounds interesting…” and then having the agent/editor/customer wander off.
This is something writers need to master — pitching. You need to keep it
clean, keep it concise, and keep it within one sentence. Yes — ONE sentence.
How can you do that? For the science fiction series The Ministry of Peculiar
Occurrences, my wife and I pitched the series as “The X-Files set in Victorian
London.” This quick approach is what is commonly known as “the elevator pitch.”
You’re in an elevator, an agent comes up to you and says “Pitch me your
latest novel. You have until the fifth floor. Go!” Some writers will snub
“reducing their work to pop culture references” but what you are really doing
is giving your work a connection between it and the potential reader. So find
something zippy. A pitch wraps your work up in a nice big bow and sells itself,
followed by what you hope will be three little words…
“Tell me more.”
After the elevator pitch, you can now afford details. Returning to the Ministry
of Peculiar Occurrences series, Pip and I offer more juicy tidbits about who
the people are on the cover and what shenanigans ensue within the pages.
“A brash, impulsive secret agent from New Zealand teams up with a
bumbling Archivist to solve the unsolved mysteries conspiring against
the throne of England.” We still keep it brief but give up enough details to let
people know what’s in store.
In my first decade as a professional author, when I was with both independent
presses and with larger corporate publishers, I heard authors sneer at writers
who sold their word and work. “That is someone else’s job…” I would hear
them say. Perhaps that was the way of the writer’s world back when Olivia
Newton-John, Oingo Boingo, the Cranberries and Oasis topped music charts
(yeah, that dates me!); but marketing —almost every aspect of it — has now
fallen to the writer. It is not only the responsibility of the writer to write the book
but to represent the book. It is your job to sum it up and make the sale.
So here’s the question — can you pitch a novel?
Here are just a few tips to find your perfect pitch with your book or work-in progress:
• Find pop culture references that work for your world, your characters,
your work. “It’s a Steampunk X-Files.” — The Ministry of Peculiar
• If pop culture references are not to your liking, go on and use literature
references, but give it your own spin. “The Lord of the Rings, if written
by Mickey Spillane.” — The Billibub Baddings Mysteries
• Tag lines also make for great pitches of books. “Not all are expendable.”
— John Scalzi’s Redshirts
• Find events or situations familiar to people and then build on that. “A
childhood friend prevents his best friend from joining a gang.” — A.B.
Westrick’s Brotherhood. (She used this pitch to sell her book to an agent.
The agent said, after reading the first three chapters, “You didn’t say
the gang was the Klu Klux Klan! Nevermind, send me the rest!” It
sold within that year to Penguin Publishing.)
The point of a pitch is to make a connection, a strong connection, with a potential
buyer. This is when the pressure is on, so there you are, with your latest labor of
love, blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of smart editing culminating into a book that
will captivate your readers.
Sell it to me. What’s your best pitch?
Tee Morris has been writing adventures in far-off lands and far-off worlds
since elementary school. Inspired by numerous Choose Your Own
Adventure titles and Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, he wrote not-so-short
short stories of his own, unaware that working on a typewriter when sickfrom-
school and, later, on a computer (which was a lot quieter…that meant
more time to write at night…) would pave a way for his writings.
Tee has now returned to writing fiction with The Ministry of Peculiar
Occurrences series, written with his wife, Pip Ballantine. Their first title
in the series, Phoenix Rising, won the 2011 Airship Award for Best in
Steampunk Literature, while both Phoenix Rising and The Janus Affair
were finalists in Goodreads Best in Science Fiction of 2011 and 2012. In
2013 Tee and Pip released Ministry Protocol, an original anthology of short
stories set in the Ministry universe. Now in 2014, following a Parsec win for
their companion podcast, Tales from the Archives, Tee and Pip celebrate
the arrival of their third book, Dawn’s Early Light. When Tee is not creating
something on his Macintosh, he enjoys a good run, a good swim, and
putting together new playlists to write by. His other hobbies include cigars
and scotch, which he regards the same way as anime and graphic novels:
“I don’t know everything about them, but I know what I like.” (And he likes
Avo and Arturo Fuente for his smoke, Highland Park for his scotch!) He
enjoys life in Virginia alongside Pip, his daughter, and three cats.