Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Susan Mallery is "pitching in" today !

Before I turn the soapbox over to Susan, I just have to say first, she is bright, funny, tireless (she's written over 100 books), brilliant (USA Today's Bestseller list, National Readers' Choice Award, etc.--it's a long list) and is one of the few reasons I'd go live in rainy Washington state.

She's that good. Really. Help me welcome a good buddy of mine-- SUSAN MALLERY!

(pssst...that's her new book on the left. Just came out this month. I have to tell you because she neglected to mention that in her blog! It's the fourth in the Buchanan series. Visit her website and see a great video trailer for the book.


This is why I’d never make it in Hollywood

I really like being a writer. I don’t have to dress well, I don’t go to meetings and any day can be donut day. But there are the occasional challenges. Conference, for example. All the recent posts about the thrill and pressure of solitary writers suddenly having to be “on” at a conference, chatting with agents and editors, as if we spend our days with real people instead of the voices in our head. It can be stressful.

I can be incredibly charming on my computer, with a idea about what I’m supposed to say and plenty of time to edit. But on the fly? Let’s just say in person there’s more potential for, um, well, disaster. Then there’s that moment when an editor or agent or hey, the romance buyer from Borders says “What’s your next book about?” The author (namely me) is supposed to smile brightly and deliver the perfect one sentence pitch that leaves said agent/editor/powerful book buyer wide-eyed with delight and eagerly anticipating the book while secretly thinking the author is talented and brilliant and destined to be a star.

It’s a lot of pressure for a single sentence.

Pitching an idea is an age-old tradition. My favorite ever is for Jurassic Park—Jaws with dinosaurs. So cool. So easy to understand. So hard to do.

I have a book coming out in January—Accidentally Yours. It’s one of those amazing books occasionally given by the universe—an idea that popped into my head one evening and then was a total joy to write. I love this book. People who have read it love the book. It could be the best thing I’ve ever written. So, did I have a pitch prepared for conference? Nooooooo.

I just plain don’t know what to say. (You can imagine that last sentence with a serious whine in my voice. Really. It’s better that way.) I’ve been working and twisting sentences and words and I just can’t get it. Here’s one attempt.

“Single mom Kerri Sullivan is willing to do anything to save her dying nine year old son—break the law, impersonate a waitress, attempt to seduce a gay chauffer—all in an effort to corner billionaire Nathan King and convince him to contribute fifteen million dollars to a research scientist working on a cure.”

Okay—but Kerri also pretends to be a superhero. When her son got sick, he was only five and he got really depressed about the disease, so she decided that she would convince him she was a superhero because if she was one, he would have superhero genes and could beat the sickness. Apparently it’s working, because he’s still alive. She has a totally cheesy costume and the town helps her do stuff like pretend to lift a car with her bare hands. Plus Nathan lost *his* son to the same disease, so he’s emotionally distant and crabby, but very sexy. And they do strike a deal, with Kerri basically blackmailing Nathan into helping, then offering herself in return. For anything he wants.

All of which is a whole lot more than one sentence. Or even two sentences. I don’t know how to say the book is funny and sexy and that it’s probably going to make people cry, but they’ll laugh, too, and it’s really special and I love it and I hope they’ll love it.

Soooo…pitch your favorite book. Can you sell it in one or two sentences? And if you have any suggestions about pitches for Accidentally Yours, post away.


Anne said...

Hi Susan, I'm not stalking you, really(saw you on The Midnight Hour). :-) I pitched my book last summer at the Lori Foster get together to two editors and one agent. Let me just say, holy cripes was that nerve wracking. I've never been so scared in my life. I wasn't sure if I was going to pass out or throw up, but I did it. And it took five people who had read my book to come up with the hook for the pitch. It was crazy. I'm now agented so she can do the pitching for me. Thank goodness! LOL

Looking forward to your upcoming books, Susan. You're an AMAZING author and one of my faves. *G*

Betina Krahn said...

Susan, welcome! And I sympathize with you on the whole pitch thing. It seems to me my books are always too complicated to be summed up in a single catchy phrase. But then I'm always immersed in plot and character and "stuff."

For me it all comes down to-- what category are they selling it in? If it says romance on the spine, then I pitch the romance. . . and pick the right pair of lovers to compare to: Mulder-Scully, Buffy-Angel, Tracy-Hepburn, Ole- Lena. (Okay that last one was for the Minnesotans and North Dakotans.) But if it's women's fiction or rom-suspense or suspense or fantasy or mystery. . . then work on pitching that. . . even though you know there's major romance in it.

My current book has major paranormal elements, but for now it's being pitched as a contemporary adventure romance because that's where I see it being sold. Sometimes limiting it to once sentence makes you winnow down to the really important part of what you-- and the reader love about the book!

Susan Mallery said...

Hi all!! ::waving::

I like the comparison idea for pitching. I have a friend who always does two movies. I just never seem to be able to work the phrase "hot monkey sex" into my pitch. I'm gonna have to work on that!

Susan Mallery said...

Hi Anne--I feel cherished, not stalked! :)

As for the pitch...people are still going to ask, so while you don't have to sit in front of an editor (I did that, too! Wow--scary, huh?) you still have to answer the age-old question of "What's your book about?" :)

It totally makes me crazy!

Kate Carlisle said...

Susan, Hi!!!

OMG, I can't wait to read this book! Even if you can't get it down to one sentence, it sounds wonderful! And you're throwing in **hot monkey sex** too?? Who can resist? LOL!!

Pitching is totally nerve-wracking. Like you, I'm lucky if I can get it down to a few paragraphs. But I did manage it once, when I pitched a story about vampire lawyers -- Working Girl meets Buffy at The Firm.

That was easy because I work with lawyers every day! *grin*

Debra Dixon said...

Susan! Yay, we're so glad you're here today.

"Single Supergirl mom seeks billionaire pocketbook for dying son's research cure. Will seduce if necessary. Hot monkey love is not a problem."

Oh...that was more than one sentence. But at least I did boil the plot down to one personals ad. :)

Susan Mallery said...

Love Buffy at the Firm!!!

Deb--I never thought of it as an personal ad. Great way to go. And you got in the hot monkey love!! I'm writing it down even as I type. :)

Keri Ford said...

I've always heard entice with the main idea and minimal details. Then when they want more, hit em with the good juicy stuff! Here's my attempt, but please, take at your own risk--you're taking advice from an un'pub!

BTW- I’m not shouting in caps, but I’ve yet to figure out how to make italics on blogger!

"To save her dying son, she PRETENDS to be a superhero to boost his morale. But she’ll need more than fake powers to convince the local billionaire to donate money for research. She’ll need sex appeal, something’s she’s got and something she offers."

Maureen Child said...

Hey Susan....Accidentally yours is going to sell itself! But you're getting some great pitch ideas, here!!

I used to think writing a synopsis was the hard part. But the pitch has really taken over...

Susan Mallery said...

Keri--great, great pitch!! This is fabulous. Hmm, I should have come here *before* I went to conference and babbled!!

Maureen--you're right. A synopsis is nothing compared to a pitch!

Christie Ridgway said...


Accidentally Yours sounds wonderful and the fabulous Keri has your pitch down pat. I love the superhero bit. I read that after 9/11, little kids were seen all over NYC in their Superman costumes. It helped make them feel safe, I guess. I've always loved that image.

I know I'm going to love this book. Plus, that cover of Tempting is luscious. I gather you've been making your sacrifices to the cover gods.

Susan Mallery said...

Yes, many, many sacrifices!! :)

How are you feeling, Christie??? Better? Healed? You are the only person I know who can look adorable in a hospital gown! :)

Kathleen Eagle said...

Susan, I hear you. I hate it when someone asks what my book it about. It's about 100,000 words long is what it's about.

I've been messing around with two ideas since I got back from Dallas, hammered them into proposals, sent them to my agent, who called with a strategy that began with, "Let's start with the second one. That one has the hook. Can you come up with a different title? Something with the word 'dead' or 'bones.'"

Doesn't he realize how hard it was to come up with what I sent already???

Okay, here are some more titles.

Not bad, he says. Can you think of something with both Dead and Bones?

What do you guys think of "The Only Good Bone Is a Dead Bone"?

My pitch : This is "Da Vinci Code" meets "Powwow Highway."

I HATE pitches, proposals, titles, synopses (?), loglines, anything that forces me to put my story into some kind of a nutshell. I'm a novelist, for Pete's sake!

So I hear you, sister. Welcome!

Keri Ford said...

Kathleen, try these:

Bone Dead
Dead to the Bone
Death by Bone (hm..that could be interesting.)
Dead and All That's Left is Bones

This is the thing I hate about high concept pitches: I never read Da Vinci Code and I haven't any idea what Powwow Highway is either.

Debra Dixon said...

Dead Bones Tell No Tales ???


Keri Ford said...

Couldn't help myself:

Dead to Bones to Dust