Here Comes The Pitch!

Today more than ever authors are like small business owners, needing to pitch and sell their products. I can easily talk about someone else’s book, but it’s hard for me to talk about my own. I can share my good news with friends and family, but when it comes to selling my work to strangers, I feel uncomfortable and a little shy.

Mochi Queen and book 2 of the Jasmine Toguchi series will be coming out in May of next year. It kind of feels like it’s too early to start talking about my books, so I haven’t had much practice. A few months ago, at a friend’s book launch I was caught unprepared. The friend introduced me to a family member and told him that I had a children’s book coming out. The family member kindly asked me what my book was about. I froze. Then, I babbled incoherently. Epic fail.

For years I’ve kept a reading list, writing up every book I read with a short synopsis. When I read 75 – 100 books a year, it’s hard to remember what every single book is about, especially after a year or more has passed. I’ve had good practice summarizing a book into a paragraph, but not a lot of practice winnowing book summaries down to a succinct 1 – 2 sentence pitch. So, last year, I made myself write up 1 – 2 sentence pitches of every book I read and I posted them on my reading blog. A couple of examples:

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon – Housebound teen “bubble girl” falls in love with neighbor boy.

Princess Juniper of the Hourglass by Ammi-Joan Paquette – On her 13th nameday, Princess Juniper asks her father for her own (small) kingdom of kids to rule for practice.

This was very good practice. But writing a pitch, even my own, was not too difficult. I am a writer. Talking about my book is so much harder. Plus, just reciting my written pitch to someone felt rehearsed and stiff.

The next step was practicing talking about Mochi Queen to my friends and family. The more I practiced, the more comfortable I became. But, would I be able to talk about my book to a stranger?

The test came sooner than I expected.

A few weeks ago I was at an independent bookstore. A bookseller approached me and asked if she could help me with anything. I told her I was just checking out the new chapter books. She told me she wanted to expand the section and find new and exciting chapter books to add to the shelves. I hesitated. Normally, I would just smile and nod and say nothing. But, it was as if the Universe was giving me an opportunity.

I took a deep breath for courage and told her, somewhat hesitantly, that I had a chapter book series coming out next year. She asked me what it was about. And it rolled right off my tongue – “Mochi Queen is about a third grade Japanese-American girl named Jasmine who lives in Los Angeles. She wants to take part in a Japanese tradition of making mochi.” Pause. “Do you know what mochi is?” She shook her head. “It’s a sweet Japanese dessert. Jasmine not only wants to make mochi with her family, even though she’s too young, but she wants to do the boy job instead of the one reserved for the girls in her family. And there will be three more books about Jasmine.” Whew. Right, not exactly 1 – 2 sentences, but it felt natural, like I was having a conversation, rather than trying to “sell” my work.

The bookseller reacted with enthusiasm. She told me to have my publicist contact the store when the books were closer to coming out and they would love to have an author event and arrange school visits. She was excited about a new chapter book series and said she was on the look-out for more diversity. YAY!

The lesson here? It’s never too early to practice your pitch. Even if you don’t have a book coming out soon, an editor, an agent, a colleague might ask, “What’s your book about?” And won’t you be happy when you’re able to answer? You can do it! Practice makes “perfect”!

——————————————————————————

author

Debbi Michiko Florence writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her dog, Trixie, and her two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

The first two books of her debut chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi will be coming out from Farrar Straus Giroux in Spring 2017, with two more books to follow. She is also the author of two nonfiction children’s books and an upcoming early reader chapter book series, Dorothy & Toto (Picture Window Books/Oct. 2016).

You can visit her online on her web site and her reading blog. She’s also on Twitter.

 

 

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18 Comments

Filed under Advice, Promotion

18 responses to “Here Comes The Pitch!

  1. Oh, this story makes me happy. You found a bookseller to support your work and the bookseller found a lovely series that fits in with what she was wanting to do in her own business. Win/win. I’m looking forward to meeting Jasmine.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mariagianferrari

    Hooray, Debbi! I keep a list of all the books I read too, though I only title the PBs. I love the idea of writing pitches for them! So looking forward to next spring when Jasmine hits the shelves!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So encouraging and such a great tip!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elly Swartz

    Great blog and so true. Pitches are the hardest part for me, too. I like the idea of practicing. I could most certainly use it : ) Can’t wait for Jasmine to come to a book store near me!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I use Goodreads to keep track of my books now and had never done it prior to becoming a GR member, but what a great idea to write pitch-like synopses as practice for writing them about my own stories. This is useful for querying agents, too. Thanks!

    I look forward to your book! Mochi is one of my favorite desserts and one of my best friends is Japanese-American so she will like to read it, too.

    Like

  6. Debbie,I so understand the developing query(insert cricket noise) syndrome!
    I’m half Japanese and remember my mom’s stories about mochitsuki. In fact it is a scene in my book.
    I’m looking forward to reading JASMINE TOGUCHI! Congratulations on the query success at the book store, it definitely inspires us all 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wonderful post, Debbi, and excellent advice on writing summaries of your books! You and I are a lot alike; I do not even bring my new books to show to my neighborhood book discussion group! I need to loosen up before TEN BUSY BROOMS comes out this fall and learn, as you have, to comfortably promote myself. Thank you!

    Like

  8. Janet Fox

    Excellent advice, Debbi!! And a great story/example.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lynn Bauer

    Thanks for sharing this great story. I hope you noticed that you were being as courageous as Jasmine when she asked to do the boy job!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Fantastic post, Debbi. What a great idea to practice writing pitches by using other people’s books. And, bravo to you for stepping out of your comfort zone with a bookseller. It will pay off when your books release. And, by the way, I have been tracking my reading for years, too. I guess it’s a writer thing.

    Like

  11. Pitches make me sweat. And not in a good way. Love this post and hearing how you navigated it!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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