Friday, April 24, 2009

The Pitch Sheet and the One-Sheet


by Kaye Dacus

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 immediately draw your attention. 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.

Back in 2007, when I originally wrote this article, I created a one-sheet and a couple of pitch sheets for the two different series that I was planning to pitch at that year’s ACFW conference. Since then, both of the individual series has sold, and there’s serious interest in the third. Even though Rebecca Germany had already had the proposal for Stand-In Groom on her desk for several months, it was when I handed her the pitch sheet that she was reminded she’d seen the proposal and eventually asked for and then contracted the novel. Would it have sold without a pitch sheet? Probably. But it was sure nice to have it to hand to her at our fifteen-minute appointment as a visual reminder. So here are the examples of my one-sheet (updated significantly since this article originally appeared, but still something that someone unpublished might prepare) as well as the pitch sheets for the Bonneterre Brides Series and the Ransome Trilogy.

What does your pitch sheet/one-sheet look like? What have you had success with? What just hasn’t worked?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Everyone whow leaves a comment gets there name in the drawing for a copy of Stand In Groom. I've read it and it's really fun. Make sure and leave contact info so we can let you know if you win.

35 comments:

Debra E Marvin said...

no, seriously. Kaye, your photo is a good pitch too! Sassy and fun.

This one will be printed off for 'future reference'! thanks. I just booked my flights to Denver the other day. I couldn't resist the great rates.

Happy Friday, Seekerettes.
Spring--make that summer is coming to upstate NY.

Julie Lessman said...

So THAT'S the difference between a pitch sheet and a one-sheet ... I honestly didn't know, which is pretty scary!

Welcome to Seekerville, Kaye, and what a great blog! I LOVE your covers, by the way, Barbour did a wonderful job -- really draws you in!

Hugs,
Julie

Rose said...

Hi Kaye,

Thanks for including links so we could see the difference between the pitch sheet and one page sheet.

Rose

Tina M. Russo said...

Welcome back to Seekerville, Kaye. Thanks for so generously sharing all that info.

Lamars to your left and coffee to your left. If you need anything else please let us know.

Debra is coming to Denver. Woo hoo.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Wow, Kaye, you have a lot of books coming out! I'm especially excited about your Ransome Trilogy. I adore Regencies but so far am too chicken to try to write one. The research scares me, but maybe one day I'll give it a shot.

Thanks for the great article on one-sheets and for sharing yours!

kaye dacus said...

Hey, all!

Thanks for the warm welcomes.

Something to keep in mind: these are just my definitions of the differences between a pitch sheet and a one-sheet. Most writers use the terms interchangeably.

Since submitting this article for Seekerville, I've created another "one-sheet"---this one for my published/contracted books, with a thumbnail of the covers for those that are done, as well as the Title, Publisher Name, ISBN, release date, and back cover copy/marketing blurb for each one. After having spent so much time on these pitch sheets pre-publication, it was really easy to put together. And it's a great piece to take with me whenever I visit a bookstore to talk to them about my books.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning Kaye, That a great post of information. I keep saying I will develop a one-sheet, and have in a way, but nothing as fun as yours. I know some of the Seekers have great one-sheets so it helps to know how to develop one.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tina. What are Lamars? I'm sure they're yummy. I'll take some coffee.

Mary Connealy said...

I love those one-sheets and pitch sheets. So well done, Kaye.

Eye catching and professional looking, too.

Intimidating for me and my rusty computer skills.

I thought Stand-In Groom was fantastic.

Kaye and I spend a week together doing a book signing tour just recently so it's fun to see her again, even if it is cyber-ish.

Mary Connealy said...

I also don't know what Lamars is.

Gina Welborn said...

Kaye, you ought to title this post: One-Sheets for Dummies.

Fabulous!

I'm about to leave to take my oldest son to lunch for his 15th birthday, but later tonight (after we've cleaned house for his party) I'm going to checkout all the links you shared.

Uggh. I want to ramble more but I really need to go.

Chow!

Mary Connealy said...

Lamars Donuts and Coffee

Tina M. Russo said...

YOU NEVER HAD LAMARS?? Oh you poor babies. Good thing ACFW is in DENVER.

All those who are Lamars deprived can sign up for a free Lamars. I will bring dozens to the conference. I will be the lady with a the Lamars boxes on wheels behind her. Hmm, maybe I can set up my own booth. Let me check on this. Keep you posted.

Kaye, have you ever had Lamars?

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Kaye! Excellent information on developing the pitch sheet and One sheet! Your book covers are terrific--very eye-catching!

Janet

Mary Connealy said...

So, Kaye, how do you do those text boxes so the top one doesn't block out the words on the bottom one.

Is this what Text wrapping means?

Or do you have to individually manipulate the text in the boxes that are in the back.

Just tell me whatever way is the very most hardest, cuz I usually end up doing everything the hard way.

Mary Connealy said...

Also, I found three Lamar's locations in Nebraska.

Hmmmmmmmmm.........

None close to me but that's not that big a deterent. Where I live NOTHING is close to me.

it's a fact of life in rural Nebraska

Mary Connealy said...

So, it's just one of those things I ought to know how to do, right?
Make a cool document like Kaye's.

So I open a document thinking to create a tidy little one-sheet. Why not? Tackle this, Mary. You made a book trailer after all, and insurance paid for 80% of the stay at the mental hospital so it'll be fine.
And I write better books on Thorazine anyway.

Why is it all so HARD?

First I can't figure out how to make a text box. Then it comes but I can't make it the right size. Then no words will come.
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo

no, I'm not bitter

Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo

Oops it worked. Except, what did I click?
Then the text comes up and I write it. It's okay. I can write.
Then an image. So I find that. I can't make the image go into the text box. Maybe I wasn't suppose to use a text box. The office assistant says somethign about a canvas.
CANVAS???

I'm getting confused and for a while I think Canvas is a state in the midwest, between Nebraska and Oklahoma. Then I have to sing the song "Oklahoma" for a while to spell the state.
But anyway,

Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo

So now I've got the picture in there and in all my clicking I distinctly remember something about text wrapping, so where's that
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo
Click
Undo

The office assistant tells me exactly what to do except I obey him/her/it and it doesn't work. I must have selected the wrong thing, or nothing, or everything, which I guess is the same as the wrong thing, right?

So now I'm thinking, "You know what? I'm a published author. I don't need to create a one sheet for the love of Pete!"

I've got a book to write you know?

Repeat the above eight thousand times and you'll have the story of my life with computers.


The end.

Mary Connealy said...

But I'm not bitter.

Did I ever tell you about the time I got a ONE in the Golden Heart?

A ONE!!!!!!!!????????


I'm not bitter about that either.

Tina Pinson said...

I know Lamar is town in Colorado . . . and they have some lovely twisters.

So when I come to your table, Tina, I should get some yummies for free.

:)

Kaye,

Thanks for the information.

I did a one sheet with my stories then I did my pitch sheets and did the no-no you spoke of. Made covers that resembled what I wanted my books to look like.
I thought I was styling.

I showed them to my agent and she nixed the beautiful, creative, colorful, and time consuming covers I'd done.

Oh well, always living and learning.

I suppose the bugged eyed picture of me with green hair isn't the one I should post on my sheet. Unless of course I'm writing sci-fi or sumptin'

LOL

Tina Pinson said...

My goodness, Mary.

You should be most proud of yourself.

At least you know how to click and undo.


thank God for that button.

Sally Bradley said...

I'm with Melanie--the Ransome series sounds wonderful.

What program did you use to make those sheets?

kaye dacus said...

Sorry I haven't answered before this--I had lunch with my BFF and then dropped by a local bookstore (where I dropped off one of those post-pub one-sheets and signed the one copy of SIG they had on the shelf) and then spent the rest of the day at Panera getting some Genesis entries judged.

For everyone who asked, I created those in MS Publisher. You can download a free 90-day trial version of the software here:
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/publisher/default.aspx (and they have an option to try it online for free in your web browser---though it probably requires Internet Explorer. I didn't try it.)

It does take a little bit of design knowledge to use it. But if you can use PowerPoint (which is a better option than MS Word if you play with it for a while) and understand how to use "Move to Front" and "Move to Back" options, the program automatically runs the text around things like other text boxes and images.

kaye dacus said...

Oh, and there's no way LAMARS are better than KRISPY KREMES. Have I ever mentioned I live just a few blocks away from one of the largest KK stores in Nashville? It has a drive-thru too.

Of course, one KK is 7 Points on Weight Watchers, and who can eat just one? ::sigh:: Best to avoid them altogether.

Elizabeth Ludwig said...

Pardon me while I get these in my head...

One sheet=series

Pitch sheet=single title

One sheet=series

Pitch sheet=single title

Okay, got it. Thanks, Kaye! Great info here.

kaye dacus said...

Hey--maybe after I finish my current series on Point of View, I should teach a "Text Boxes in MS Word for Dummies" series! :-)

Mary Connealy said...

Kaye, teach it if you want, but I probably won't be able to find it and sign up for it.

It's like putting a homeless shelter in the suburbs, you know?

the bums..er excuse me...homeless people...can't find it.

That's me....

Tina M. Russo said...

Kaye, I will find you at conference and give you the chance to compare Lamars to KK. Thanks for being with us.

Jessica said...

Great post, Kaye! Both intimidating and informative. ;-) But you explained things really well.

Barbara said...

thanks for all the great info.

Krista Phillips said...

First, and most importantly, I've never had Lamar's so I can't comment on their yummy-goodness, but I MUCH prefer Dunkin-donuts to Krispy Kreme Kaye. Oh, and there is a little donut place by me that I prefer even more that DD. I'll have to try Lamar's (you say there's one in Denver?!?) because I'm a sucker for a good donut:-)

Mary, oh my, seriously I laughed very hard and your click and undo:-)

Kaye, you already know I love your one-sheets/pitch-sheets etc. :-) Redoing mine from last year(which I LOVED then but HATE now) is on my TTDL!

Krista Phillips said...

and=at... grrr.. it'd help a poor writer if she could type right!

Jeannie Campbell said...

very informative, kaye, thanks. and thanks for the link to your article on how to go beyond your first draft. that's where i am!

Leanna said...

Thank you for this post. It was very helpful. And thanks for the examples. My weekend project - my pitch sheet :)

mareva said...

The covers are great, and your advice is something i think we'll all try to follow.

Mareva
marevawrites(@)gmaildotcom

Cathy Shouse said...

Kaye,

This was a huge help. By the way, have you ever had someone not take either sheet?

I went to an agent appt. at a conference and she refused to take even a business card. She said she wasn't taken anything from anyone.

I'd love the book. cathy underscore shouse at yahoo dot com

Cathy

kaye dacus said...

Cathy--
Yes, there are many, many times when an editor or agent won't take anything from a pitcher, even if they ask for the person to submit their proposal. After all, it's just one more thing they'll have to keep track of while they're away from their office without their usual filing system in place, and are more likely to just lose it or forget why they had it in the first place. Don't see it as a bad sign. It's normal.