Pitching a Book

on March 10, 2014 in Misc

“This isn’t a book to be tossed aside lightly.  It should be thrown with great force.”

So Dorothy Parker wrote in a book review.  But the kind of pitching I’m talking about is advertising.  As in how to talk up your own book.

Here’s my question:  If you could afford a good-sized advertisement in a publication, hard copy or electronic, what words would you use to pitch your book?

mad men

I’ve thought about how to advertise my latest manuscript / novel (which is in the still-trying-to-get-it-published-stage), and it ain’t easy. It’s like trying to write a fraction of a blurb.  The pitch should make readers cry out dramatically, “I MUST BUY THIS BOOK!” In this case, it’s my humorous historical novel, Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar.

Here’s what I came up with:

When Charity is good, she’s very very good. But when she’s bad she’s brilliant.

Thanks to Mae West for that slightly altered line. Then there’s this one:

Charity MacCay—a Gilded Age bad girl who keeps trying to be good. But being good in a bad world isn’t easy.

Not too original, that one—but is it still catchy?

Here’s the longest version:

Charity MacCay keeps trying to be a good girl.

Then she falls in love with a kind of bad man.

And she gets rich in a sort of bad way.

But when company men take her hard-earned money, she becomes very, very good at getting even.

I’m still working on these lines, and they make my books sound pretty lightweight.  In fact it’s an intelligent, fiercely researched book about the Gilded Age, Manhattan circa 1867-68, and America’s first corporate scandal.  But if I pitched it along these lines I’d sell maybe five, six copies.  And the fact is my novel is also a FUN read about an idealistic, impulsive young woman who rebels against the corset-tight rules of her times.

I’d really appreciate your feedback and tales of your own experiences.  How did you sum up your story in one or two attention-grabbing sentences?  Can it be done?

Have a great week.

11 Responses to “Pitching a Book”

  1. I can definitely see the humor in your pitches.
    I do better with one line, the logline, than I do trying to write the back cover blurb.

  2. Helena says:

    Alex – And your blurbs are good. Both blurb and logline are tough for me.

  3. Good luck! I’m trying desperately trying to write my own short lines. I’m practicing with the teasers on my blog – LOL

  4. Helena says:

    Carol – You were so great helping with my Charity blurb, no doubt your short lines / teasers will be brilliant.

  5. Asking me how to come up with a pitch or critique one is a comedy of errors. I’m a failure as an author in every aspect of the word. However, I do have fun when writing and the few fan mails I get really make me happy.

  6. Nas says:

    I’m learning how to pitch so your examples are a great help. Thanks. All the best!


  7. Helena says:

    Michael, my darling, you are so very much NOT a failure as an author! Why would you even say that? Because maybe you don’t have great sales? Oh please, you want crappy sales figures, I can beat you any day. And don’t forget I read SLIPSTREAM and really enjoyed it was impressed by it, and I’m looking forward to Oculus (sorry I’m so behind in my reading), and you’ve written short pieces too that I want to read. Hear that? People WANT TO READ YOUR WHAT YOU’VE WRITTEN! And that makes you a success as a writer. Period.

  8. Helena says:

    Nas – Aren’t pitching and queries so freakishly, grimly, awfully, terribly tough? Good luck with them.

  9. Old Kitty says:

    I vote for the Mae West tribute! I really do!! It’s already a catchy phrase and it’s familiar and it’s sassy and it says so much!! I’d ever go for Shakespeare! “To be bad or not to be bad, that is Charity’s question” or something like that!! “Pure as the driven snow? Hell no, not Charity!” :-)
    GOOD LUCK!!! Take care

  10. Maybe change girl to… I don’t know. That might be giving it the lighter feel. The last line is great about getting even. Hooked my attention.

  11. Helena says:

    Old Kitty – I love the Mae West line too. Did you know that she wrote the scripts for all her early movies? And To be bad or not… is a great idea!