Thursday, October 25, 2007

Blog Pitch Workshop (Part II)

STATUS: Problem solved with Comcast. Makes me happy. Ally Carter is on the New York Times Bestseller Top 10 List for the third week in a row for CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO SPY. That makes me very, very, very happy.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SWEET CAROLINE by Neil Diamond

Now you guys are getting into the swing of things. In fact, I encourage you all to give examples with your analysis in the comments section like Rebecca did for yesterday’s post.

And since Ally is my NYT star, let’s tackle her young adult novel I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU next.

The premise of this work is pretty high concept and easy to sum up: a teen girl who attends the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women (but really a school for spies) jeopardizes her make or break sophomore year by falling in love with a teen boy from the neighboring town who can’t know who or what she is.

So now we have to work that concept into an attention-getting pitch paragraph. Since we are playing with making our pitches sound like good cover flap copy, here’s what the flap reads for this book:

“The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women is a fairly typical all-girls school—that is, it would be if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE, and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. So while the Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses, it’s really a school for spies.

Cammie Morgan is a second-generation Gallagher girl, and by her sophomore year, she’s already fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways (one of which involves a piece of uncooked spaghetti). But the one thing the Gallagher Academy hasn’t prepared her for is what to do when she falls for a boy who thinks she’s an ordinary girl.

Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, and track him through town without his ever being the wiser—but can she have a relationship with a regular boy who can never know the truth about her?

Cammie may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she’s beginning her most dangerous mission—falling in love.” (Hyperion 2006)

Now let’s analyze.

1. 6 sentences total (and notice how much information is packed into these six sentences)
2. The first two sentences are a summary of the setting with some fun elements to set the tone. We have to know that the Academy is a school for spies or the rest of the cover copy won’t make sense.

3. The next paragraph dives right in and here’s a fun comparison. The Harry Potter cover flap copy started with what Harry has not done (Quidditch, ride a broom, dragon hatching). In a similar vein (but reversed), the LYKY cover copy tells us what Cammie is capable of (an impressive and fun list that captures our attention) but then launches into what she hasn’t done—and that’s fall in love with a boy.

4. The next sentence I love because it highlights what a teen girl spy would do to find out about her new crush and also highlights the main conflict of the story—which is that she can’t tell the truth about herself. We pretty much get an idea of what is going to drive the plot elements of this novel.

5. The last sentence is really just for fun—and mainly because it’s cute to think of “falling in love” as the most dangerous mission of all.

The whole description captures the tone and feel of the novel as well—and that’s what you want to achieve in your query pitches (even if you aren’t writing YA). Also note that it really doesn’t do much plot summarizing about the novel as a whole. It really just spotlights the main conflict (keeping her spy background a secret from the boy she likes).

Tomorrow we’ll tackle some non-YA examples.