The second class I attended at the SCBWI conference was a marketing class taught by Sarah Shumway, senior editor at Katherine Tegen Books. The subject was how to pitch, persuade and promote your manuscript.
It was a secret peek inside the world of acquisitions. My excitement tripled when I saw her handout. The second page contained a rendering of an acquisition memo. You know, the document that gets passed within the publishing house that can either sale or fold your work. She included seven parts in her memo:
1. Information- title, author, category, ages + grades, pages, format etc...
2. Sales Handle- A tag line that can be used to excite the customer to buy your book. One sentence-your pitch.
3. Book Description- A short summary of the book's plot and appeal. Ending included.
4. Selling Points- Popularity of genre (who is the audience?), hooks, strengths of the manuscript, will the audience identify with the work and how? Lastly, any previous author history that would help promote the book.
5. Competition and comparison- Is this book like any other recent and successful books.
6. Author's profile
7. Author's previous writing history.
The class was information packed. She asked us to put her memo into practice by filling out our own acquisition worksheet. The two parts that were the hardest for me were the sales handle and the book description. I wanted my pitch to punch. It could very well be the one thing an agent or editor will read in your query. Sarah was nice enough to walk around the room and offer comments on people's handles. The advice she gave me was to include what type of story i was writing in my sentence.
My finished pitch- Ancient Egyptian magic meets modern day tween life in this action filled middle grade fiction novel with an exciting violent twist.
Working on the book description was hard just because you try to write a short intriguing summary that fills the editor/agent in on your book. Sure you know your own work, but the editor doesn't. Plus, you want to get their attention and you only have one chance to do so.
Personal notes on Sarah: She was very friendly. She mentioned she likes among other things, fiction in middle grade and YA. She likes stories involving 1st love, angst and serious choices.