So What’s Your Book About?

Last weekend was the first time I saw any of my extended family since the news I was going to be published came out. I knew in the back of my mind they would be curious about it. But I pushed those thoughts away hoping they would all enjoy the free alcohol too much to ask. I was wrong.

I’m not one to talk about my writing to people who aren’t writers. Because, frankly, they just don’t get it. In fact I was hesitant to start calling myself a writer unitl recently.Different people have different definitions of what WRITER means. For me it means being able to show what’ve I got to the world and get paid for it. But I digress. When my mother’s friend asked me about my road to publication I was fine. It was a fairly easy question to answer. Query letter→ Agent→ Contract. But then came the dreaded question….

What’s your book about? I’ve never been able to answer this question smoothly. When my father asked I actually said I DON’T KNOW.

“What do you mean you don’t know? You wrote it. Didn’t you?”

Of course I had written the book. It is something I labored over for five months. The characters are people I grew to love. So why couldn’t I share their story?

I’ve never pitched a book before even though I have lorded over the pitch sessions for two years at my local conference. I’m still amazed at how people do it. A few minutes to condense months of hard work into a few lines. I’m not suggesting that other people shouldn’t do if they find the thought terrifying. They should go for it. I just knew that I couldn’t. If I couldn’t eloquently tell my mother what it was about then I had no hope with an agent or editor. And thankfully I didn’t have to.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll ever get out pitching my book. The publishing process is full of pitches. Most importantly to the reader. I know I have to get better at this. My family party was my first chance. It was horribly pathetic. My first attempt went something like this.

“Um… It’s about a lawyer who um, quits her jobs, dumps her boyfriend and opens up a boutique and starts a blog.”

GAG! Even I wouldn’t buy that book. And while that generally is what the book is about there is so much more to it. It’s about body image. And the complicated relationships between sisters. It’s about being adopted and feeling like an outsider. It’s about self-worth and confidence and friendship and trust. And about learning to love yourself while falling in love. Throw in a father with Asperger’s and a hippie feminist man hating mother and a hunky cop and you’ve got yourself a book. Oh and did I mention it was funny. Or at least I think so. And it’s called FAT BOTTOM GIRL. At least for now. The publisher might want to change it.

Can you slap that on the back of a book? Probably not. But it’s the best I can do for now. I’m working on it. I promise.

And if anybody is remotely interested here are the first few lines from the book.

Big Fat Fattie and Other Words for Fat

Plus Sized

Zaftig

Big

Overweight

Plump

Chubby

Portly

Fleshy

Curvy

Chunky

Heavy

Rubenesque

 

“Ellison? Is that you, honey?”

 Not today. Please not today. Ellis Garret shut her eyes and prayed hard as she stood in line at Hot Lava Java. Really, really hard. Maybe if she appeased the right god she would be spared the torture that was Mrs. Agatha Toomey.

Jesus? Buddha? Zeus? 

“Ellison? Yoo hoo!”

Are you there God? It’s me, Ellis. Can’t a girl get a miracle here?

“Ellis!”

Apparently not.

All she really wanted was a cookie and not just any cookie, but one of those super big Black and White cookies with the yummy icing and the oh-so-soft cake-like bottom. She knew she wasn’t supposed to be eating delicious giant cookies. It was only Tuesday. Cookies—any and all junk food were off-limits today. She was supposed to be good on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and everyday that didn’t start with a Sat or a Sun.  Thou shall not eat high-calorie snacks on weekdays.   

“Yes, Mrs. Toomey. It is me,” Ellis said, plastering a smile on her face that she hoped looked genuine. She turned to face the annoyingly slender woman holding a cup of green tea. Is that you? Mrs. Toomey asked the question as if she didn’t know. Well, duh. Ellis wasn’t one of those girls who was easy to miss.

 “I’m a little surprised to see you. What are you doing here?” Mrs. Toomey looked Ellis up and down with her judgmental eyes, seeming to know already why Ellis was there. Fat girls shouldn’t eat cookies.

Today I’m seeking advice. Help me to understand how to pitch my book. How to make it sound so great that people can’t help but to buy it. How do you do it? Like pitching? Hate pitching? Avoid it like the plague? Any and all comments are welcome.

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17 thoughts on “So What’s Your Book About?”

  1. Believe me Jamie I feel your pain! I think part of the reason I didn’t tell anyone I was a writer for close to 15 years was because of the inevitable question. When you write paranormals, the answer is trickier especially when half your relatives don’t know the genre at all (or only associate it with Twilight). Here are the two one liners I cam up with for Mystic Ink and The Undead Space Initiative (how someone reacts to this title tells me if they will even understand that book at all).

    One caveat – this is not how I pitched the books to editors – this is for the average reader.

    So what your book about?

    Mystic Ink is about a tattoo artist who keeps finding dead bodies in her alley. (then I broaden the conversation to say it takes place in real world Mystic CT, only in my universe there are Gods and Goddesses living there too).

    The Undead Space Initiative is about a vampire stripper who gets herself into trouble and has to flee to Mars.

    Personally, I think your one-liner is fine. The idea is to pique someone’s interest and if they want to know more, they will ask you. Then you can elaborate if you want. And besides you want them to be curious enough to buy your book! Your book is fantastic and it is funny!

    1. The funny thing is that I just got an email from my agent about my Publisher Market Place announcement so I was kind of forced to get it to one line. Sugar Jamison’s Fat Bottom Girl, in which an oh-so-curvy, plus sized boutique owner, reunites with her former bad boy crush and falls in love while learning to love herself.

  2. Sugar – you are sooooo right. You are gonna pitch that book all the time. I was at a signing on Saturday and I must have done my spiel a zillion times. Them – “So, what’s your book about?” Me – “It’s a paranormal adventure story for ‘tweens. My characters, a boy and a girl, hate each other and are stuck together by circumstances. Mayhem ensues and they have to work together to save the universe. That kind of thing.” If after that, the prospective buyer seems more interested than polite, I can go into spiel two. Spiel one is the 10 second pitch. Spiel two is the 30 second pitch. Too long to type here, but I’ve said it so many times, that it flows pretty well now. At first I stumbled too. Just practice, practice, practice.

  3. What Casey and J said.

    Eventually you’ll boil down the story to a hook sentence or two, (the hardest part!). I loved your long description above.You hit on the emotion and passion of the story and some of that should definitely go into your back cover blurb. No matter what, you are going to HAVE TO be able to tell people what your story is about. If you can get it down to one or two lines and inject some humor, you’ll be golden. Sounds easy, right? I’ve taken log-line workshops, ran ideas through critique partners, and was even tempted to pay someone to come up with my pitch, but in the end, you know your story best. And whether you are trying to pitch to an agent or editor, or a reader/family member, the only way to NOT get tongue tied is to rehearse and practice–a lot!

  4. I still can’t do it either. Generally, I start in the middle, backtrack, skip ahead and sound like an idiot. But PJ is right…you boil it down, use the hook and practice not sounding like you’re reciting facts. Practice is the key word. : )

  5. Come up with a few lines that tell the story of your heroine. Forget about secondary characters. Although they are important, in an elevator you don’t have time for it. And Kristan is right, practice, practice, practice. You are going to be out there telling the world about “Fat Bottom Girl” (which I love by the way and remind me to tell you why that title has significance for me), so you better start practicing now. Tell everyone, anyone who will listen – yell it to the world because, Sugar, the more you yell, the more you sell. You go girl!

  6. I have a love/hate relationship with that question. On one hand, it’s an opportunity to direct someone to Amazon to shop for one of my ebooks. But on the other hand, will I sell it well? Especially my new one, as it’s a comedy inspired by Dracula and, on some obvious plot level, is a chick lit/post bad romance story. Maybe you can figure it out?

    Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet:

  7. Can I just tell you how much I adore that title? I really, really hope the publisher lets you keep it. Song lyrics as titles are catchy but don’t often say a lot about the book — this one says everything in a sweet little nutshell! I’m so excited to read this, and you’re going to do fine with the pitches. We all loved you the moment we met you — your fans will too.

  8. I agree with everything all the others said. And you have to figure out why you wrote the book. What did you want to tell your reader–that’s the bottom line–the most important issue or fact. And keep it short, like they said–a one or two liner. After that you can expand if you need to. My Hist. Rom Only When the Loon Sings debuted in Jan.. For years, others would ask me what my book or books were about ( actually I have 4 others I’m hoping to revise and get out there too), but I too was at a loss as to how to start. After going to numerous writing conferences and chapter meetings I finally heard the words–say it in a nutshell. Think of the story and why you wrote it. Is there a theme? What are the circumstances–in a nutshell. Did you write for the circumstances? Fate? Man against man? Man against nature. What are the other conflicts? Inspite of obstacles– Emotions that run high–What actually keeps the heroine and hero apart? So simply said, maybe start with your heroine who…tell her problem and what she wants from life, then your hero and what or who he is and what he wants(or doesn’t want). And what the problem is–just a hint– you don’t want to completely give it away–afterall you want them to read your book and not know the all the truths, etc. or specific details up front, just the jist. Say for instance my hero has a hidden past and thinks he’s unworthy of any woman–I wouldn’t tell them the reason. I’d say that and leave it–they’ll have to read the book to find out, but they have a two liner that tells them there’s a conflict between two people and hopefully will be intrigued enough to go buy your book. And as far as booksignings? I’ve been doing one every two weeks. My heroine(1800 mail order bride in a logging camp) first burns everything she bakes or cooks. So I thought outside the box and am doing not only doing signings in bookstores, at festivals, wineries in the area, but at bakeries and restaurants–I was scared to death at first and now I’m having the time of my life. People love to meet and greet authors and have their books signed. Hold that chin up girl. If you’re happy that your story is out there, are proud of what you said and had your characters do, then go for every signing you can do. Wishing you the best. Your book sounds terrific and I too love the title. Hope they keep it. Oh, as for the pitch, the title can start you off too–oh the heroine is overweight, thinks she’s overweight, (or whatever) BUT….

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