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Beyond the First Draft—The Pitch Sheet and One-Sheet

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

One Sheet to tell them all;
One Sheet to sell them,
One Sheet for promoting all
And in the pitch impress them.

Okay, so maybe rewording Tolkien’s One Ring poem isn’t the best way to promote my own writing skills. But hey, it was fun.

If you were to place an advertisement in a prominent writing magazine about yourself as a writer, what would it look like? Lots of graphics? A photo of you? A description of all your works or just one title? Previous publications?

There are two approaches to creating these marketing tools: (1) a pitch sheet for a single title/series or (2) a one-sheet that includes information about multiple titles/series, even across different genres.

What’s the difference and which should you do?

Frankly, the more I’ve learned about these, the more I think every author should have both. (Why is one hyphenated and the other isn’t? That’s just the way I did it.)

The pitch sheet is an important tool to have to use as a leave-behind after editor pitch sessions at conferences. It focuses only on the single title or series you are pitching to that particular publishing house. And if your book/series crosses a couple of genres, you can do a pitch sheet for it as a fantasy novel and a pitch sheet for it as a romance novel (just make sure you give the right pitch sheet to the right editor). The pitch sheet uses many of the elements that you put in your proposal:

    Half-page synopsis of the book
    The one-paragraph author bio
    Your photo (good, professional-quality headshot)
    Your contact information
    Your agent’s contact info (if applicable)

A one-sheet is more of an overview of you as an author, giving information about all of the titles/series you are currently pitching. There are two uses for this. If you are a single-genre author (like me), your one-sheet can be used as a leave-behind in an editor appointment to show them how much more than just one title you have to offer. If you’re a multiple-genre writer, your one-sheet is a great leave-behind for agents you may meet with. It shows them the depth of your writing experience. On a one-sheet, you would usually include:

    One-paragraph author bio
    Information about the titles/series you have written/are writing
    Your photo (good, professional-quality headshot)
    Your contact information
    Your agent’s contact info (if applicable)

The reason I think we should consider doing both a single-title pitch sheet and an author-overview one-sheet is because it gives us so many more options of what information we can give to prospective editors and agents. Of course, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself with too many sheets (keeping each sheet in a separate labeled and/or color-coded file is a great idea). But you also don’t want to turn off a potential editor by handing her a one-sheet that may make her feel you aren’t focused solely on writing the genre of book she’s looking for. This is one of those “use your best judgment” calls as to what you choose to do.

What should the pitch-sheet/one-sheet look like?

You.

Your pitch-sheet/one-sheet should represent you as a professional writer. Even though you have more leeway with using colors, graphics, and images, this is still a BUSINESS form. If you don’t have experience with graphic design or desktop publishing programs, don’t frustrate yourself and turn out something mediocre or that’s a jumble of information when a text document that’s clean and reads easily will reflect better on you.

Unlike the query letter, proposal, synopsis, here color does work—as long as it still looks professional. As I mentioned before—imagine you’re creating a flyer to be inserted into a magazine or newspaper. How would you capture people’s attention and make them want to buy your book(s)?

Look in writers’ magazines or something like Publisher’s Weekly or Romantic Times for author/book ads to see how publishing houses promote their authors/titles. Obviously, since your pitch-sheet/one-sheet is for unpublished materials, you won’t have a book cover to use for graphic interest, but is there some other graphic you can use? If your book is set in Paris, find a great graphic photo of the Eiffel Tower. Is it a historic romance set in the South during the Civil War? How about the iconic image of Oak Alley plantation. Don’t go to the trouble of designing your own book cover. That may actually turn editors off. But using one iconic image that will immediately set the mood and tone for your novel can help enhance interest.

Is it worth paying someone to put one together for you?

I don’t think so. No one knows you and your books better than you do. However, if you really feel that you cannot do an adequate job, it might be worth trying to find someone who can put together something with good visual impact. But remember—what’s most important about a pitch sheet/one-sheet is the information about your writing, not about whether you can wow them with great graphics and layout.

Pitch sheets/one-sheets I’ve seen run the gamut from looking like resumes to looking like newsletters to looking like professionally designed magazine ads. The most important thing to keep in mind is: don’t overwhelm the page with tons and tons of text. Again—study ads in magazines and newspapers. The ones that look better have the text broken up into sections. Those that do have a lot of text may use different fonts or blocks of color (or both) to break up the information so that it doesn’t just look like one big blob of black text on a white background. Be careful with the fonts you choose and make sure to pick those that are easy to read—and that represent the flavor of what you write. If you write thrillers, you probably won’t want to do your header in a frou-frou/scripty font. Don’t overdo it with using a ton of different fonts, either.

Having done this research, here’s my pitch sheet (printed front-and-back) and here’s my one-sheet.

What does your pitch sheet/one-sheet look like? What have you had success with? What just hasn’t worked?

8 Comments
  1. Tuesday, August 28, 2007 11:15 pm

    Oh no! You had to mention it! Eek. I’ve been dreading putting my one sheet together. It’s one of those things that will take me a while to do (right) and I hear the clock ticking. Thank you for posting this Kaye, great tips!

  2. Wednesday, August 29, 2007 11:34 am

    Okay, I’m going to put together a pitch sheet…I’ll post it on my blog when it’s done :D Then you gals can share your opinions :D on it.

  3. Tuesday, December 18, 2012 3:11 pm

    Thanks for sharing your own examples, Kaye!

Trackbacks

  1. Writing Series Spotlight: Beyond the First Draft and Manuscript 101 « KayeDacus.com
  2. Conference Prep & Question Time « KayeDacus.com
  3. What Does It Mean: One Sheet? « The Writing Place
  4. How to Create an Author One-Sheet | Blogging Bistro
  5. How to Pitch Your Novel | Maryann Diorio

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