It’s about a boy, see? He has to…uh…save the world
Why is it so hard for us authors to talk about our work? Maybe I’m alone in asking myself this question, but I doubt it.
Does the following apply to you: You labor and labor, painstakingly plot, world-build, and develop characters. Revisions pile up, entire chapters fall to the editing scythe. The final product gleams. You love/hate it, and know, therefore, it’s time to send it out into the world. But…. Though you know your story inside out and backwards, when it’s time to sit down and write that query letter or pitch the novel to someone at at a Con, or – hell – even explain the thing to a friend…verbal vomit ensues. Stumbling, awkwardness, um-ing and ah-ing. You struggle to articulate what makes your work special, and it all just comes out sounding lame.
Part of this is due to the rather vast gulf separating writing and marketing. When we create something – a painting, a book, a sculpture, or whatever – it’s all about the details. We’ve polished each verb, tinkered with every sentence, shaded and re-shaded our protagonist’s personality. It’s hard to pull back from that, hard to look at the big picture. Someone asks, “What makes your book special?” Our response, “Everything!” But you can’t (and shouldn’t) include everything in the pitch materials. You’ve got 4, maybe 5, sentences to encapsulate your work and make it shine. Impossible!
Of course, it’s not impossible. It’s about letting go of the strict factual (extensive) account of what happens in the book and crafting a thrilling paragraph designed to entice someone to read it. But what to leave in? What to gloss over?
As you might guess, I’m struggling with these questions as I prepare the pitch materials for my very soon to be finished novel, “A Blood Red Sun.” Troll the web and you’ll find countless articles, blog posts, and the like offering advice on how to write query letters, synopses, and outlines. Here’s Nathan Bransford on the subject, and Lynn Flewelling (via SFWA), and a few words from the folks at AgentQuery. But still, I’m finding it quite hard to step back from the novel and look at it with a marketer’s eye.
Any tips or advice, dear Reader? Or even just commiseration? I could sure use it.