Needless to say, you can’t say much in one minute. How am I going to sum up a book I spent years writing? It has complex plot twists, myriad of characters, scene changes and a variety of themes running through, and turn it into a one minute visual? Simple answer. I don’t have a clue how I'm going to do it.
But that’s the challenge. When trying to interest an agent or publisher, I’m going to get one, or at most two paragraphs in my query pitch my book. These are busy, burdened people with a lot of other manuscripts and queries piling up, waiting for delicate responses. If I don’t grab them in my one paragraph, they’re not going to be the least bit interested in reading more. Doesn't matter if my book is beautifully written, has fantastic characters, charming anecdotes and great drama. No one but me is going to know if I don’t get my pitch short and right on my first, and unfortunately, only try.
No second chances here, and no feedback on where I might have gone wrong. O’ cruel world.
So in creating my pitch and video, I’ll have to do what fledgling screen writers do when the Hollywood bigwigs come to town, inviting them to give 30-second pitches about their screenplays. The producers, looking for the next Fight Club or Fargo blockbuster, are all ears. For 30 seconds, that is. Gotta use your time well.
Attention spans of producers, agents and publishers are, how do you say politely, similar to a gnat’s newborn. Miniscule, if registerable at all.. So tighten, tighten, tighten.
I’m fortunate that my husband was a documentary film maker with the CBC for over 25 years. Lucky, in that he sees things in pictures. I see things in words. So my challenge is to tell him, in ONE good sentence, or maybe two if he’s being nice that day, what my book is about, so he can put it in pictures. He has of course read the book, but he’s challenging me to get my pitch as tight as I can.
It hasn’t been pretty between us.
According to Leon Kaye in Making A Short Pitch Better, “In short, unless it (the pitch) involves the plot…learning, understanding, musing, rediscovering, etc. do not belong in a short pitch. It has to be about the lead, his/her goal, the inciting incident, and possibly the complication. And that's it.”
He also said, that if you’re pitching a particularly complicated story, he’s found it helpful to start the query with a question. Then answer it. So though I’ had already written my pitch a million times, or so it seems, I decided to try it again, this time starting with a question. So today’s pitch for my book, reduced as best I can, and starting with a question, is below. It’s probably not my last try, but I’m giving it a go. Here is the pitch for my new book:
My life took a major turn when my adopted-at-birth son was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) at the age of six. According to statistics at the time, his diagnosis was a sentence for failure: he'd drop out of school; he'd be incapable of holding a job; he'd live on welfare, on the street or worse. The brain damage, they said, was irreversible.
With all the love, devotion, hope and medical knowledge I could accumulate, I set out to change the predicted course of events, illustrating the expectations that those of us raised on the activism of the 1960s brought to bear on our lives and families. My struggle to help Michael find his place in the world continues. Life, like love, is complicated.