Kat: Judging a Book by It’s Cover – Part I

womenAs the ladies gear up for Nationals in NYC (in less than two weeks, eeeik!), schedules are already jammed with workshops, site-seeing, pitches, social events, receptions, keynote speeches, and even dances (yes, you read that right — at least two of our ladies will be attending events that feature dancing). I’m looking forward to taking part in everything the conference has to offer, save one thing. The dreaded editor/agent pitch.

This year, the agent and editor I’m scheduled to pitch are both high on my interest list. Which means I’m particularly stressed out. Interviews in general are high anxiety for me because I’m verbally challenged when it comes to tooting my own horn.  Last year, I literally had no voice, so I squeaked my way through my pitches. This year, I want to hit one out of the park which means extensive prep work, including developing a strong pitch that includes the GMC for the main conflict and the romance between Cheyenne and Reed. Last year I got nailed on this aspect (what’s keeping them apart, an editor wanted to know). This year, I want to relay the conflict that is keeping them apart in a crunchy way.

My challenge is to convey the guts of the main story line — Cheyenne & Hawk in a pitched battle over the family heritage — while depicting how the romance lives or dies by it (in other words, communicating how the land battle is keeping Cheyenne and Reed apart).  Given that my pitch is a mere ten minutes long, this won’t be an easy task.

Today, I’m focusing on the GMC for both the primary plot line and the romance, as well as playing with words and ideas:

Cheyenne (GMC): Cheyenne wants to sell the land she’s inherited from her biological mother to purchase her design idol’s home, but to do that, she must step into her mother’s shoes and live in her ramshackle house for sixty days.

Hawk (GMC): Hawk wants to pass down his family’s heritage to his granddaughter River. To him, that means ensuring that the family land is valued and preserved. He has no intention of allowing Cheyenne to sell it.

Reed (GMC): Reed wants to keep his promise to Rose (Cheyenne’s late mother) and help Cheyenne inherit the family homestead, but at the same time he must deal with Hawk — a man to which he’s indebted.

Okay that’s a rough sketch. Here’s a quick and dirty pitch:

Cheyenne Monroe is independent to a fault, but to win the home of her design idol Penny Morgan and put Dry Creek Arizona far behind her, she’s forced to reach out to single father, Reed McConnell, executor of her mother’s estate and a man who behaves like a cornered renegade who has given up his guns.

McConnell has made a promise to help Cheyenne win the land, but his father-in-law, Hawk has other ideas and intends to use blackmail if necessary to secure his loyalty. As Reed walks a tightrope he begins falling for Cheyenne — despite the fact that she’s as far from the motherly woman he’s been seeking as Hawk is. Worse, she has the spirit of a wild mustang, determined to run free, and he’s a hobbled quarter horse committed to putting his daughter before his own needs.

Okay, it’s obvious I need help, and unlike Cheyenne I’m not afraid to ask for it. How can I make the pitch above better (and more succinct?).

Riffing welcome.


8 thoughts on “Kat: Judging a Book by It’s Cover – Part I

  1. I’d just make sure that the agent/editor knows what the fight is about, which from what you have here, I’d say is the land. So I’d skip the second part altogether, the section that you labeled the “quick and dirty pitch.” I find that confusing, and I know what your book is about. I’d pitch your setup. These three people, this is what your book is about, and I’d phrase it something like this:

    Cheyenne (GMC): Cheyenne wants to sell the land she’s inherited from her biological mother to purchase her dream design idol’s home, but to do that, she must step into her mother’s shoes and live in her ramshackle house for sixty days.

    Hawk (GMC): Hawk wants to preserve that land, so he can pass it down and his family’s heritage down to his granddaughter River. He refuses to has no intention of allow ing Cheyenne to sell it.

    Reed (GMC): Reed is attracted to Cheyenne and wants to keep his promise to Rose(Cheyenne’s her late mother) and help Cheyenne inherit the family homestead, at the same time he must deal with Hawk — a man to which but he’s indebted to Hawk.

    Then I’d add something about the main crisis point (like “Cheyenne does X so Hank does Y. Reed is forced to do Z.”) And then “When Hank realizes A and Reed does B, then Cheyenne forgives their sorry butts and she and Reed live happily ever after.”

    I really think you need just one sentence about each character that shows what the conflict is, and then how it’s resolved. Lots of times, the agents and editors ask questions about what they want to know—they might not even give you a chance to give your prepared pitch, so I think you should just be grounded in what you want to say about your characters and your conflict. You’ll be fine. 🙂

    Sorry it’s so messy.

    • No, that’s terrific. Thank you (and let’s face it, this is a messy process).

      Should I mentioned the Native American element? Diversity seems to be a big issue these days.

      • I think the names – Cheyenne and Hawk – would suggest a Native American element. I’d keep it super-simple and be ready for questions.

        Last year I started by quickly telling the agent why I was pitching her – we chose our agent appointments carefully, didn’t just stick a pin in the list, and I thought it was worth saying so. Then I said one sentence about the kind of story I was pitching – sub-genre and setting – so she knew what kind of book it was. Then followed Kay’s plan (above) . It worked well for me, and I still had time to answer a few questions, so I’m planning to stick with that format.

        • Jilly has a good point about the names. You could add a “my story is contemporary women’s fiction with a strong romantic element set in Arizona.” Then following right after that is Cheyenne and Hawk adds to it. I guess I need to work on my pitch now.

  2. (-: I think it’s so cool that you still took away good advice to make your book stronger from last year’s pitch session. Practice does help make speaking to strangers a little more easy.

    You’ve gotten great advice about your content. I want to say, make sure you are in good condition. Have a little snack before you go in (a piece of very good chocolate, or a few almonds or something). Do the Cuddy power pose in the bathroom like Justine suggests. And take a few minutes to loosen up your facial muscles by blowing raspberries, doing a few hums to loosen up your vocal chords, and doing motor-boat lips (where you let your lips go loose and blow through them like a horse). You will be embarrassed, but I swear, my students speak English so much better after they do 30 seconds of these simple exercises.

    You both have common goals: to get good stories out to the readers.

    (-: I want to hear all about all of your pitches when you get back, guys!

  3. Pingback: Jilly: Lending a Hand | Eight Ladies Writing

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