It’s probably the most asked question – second only to “Where can I buy it?” – of writers. But how often do your take your answer seriously? Can you sum up your story before the elevator door slams in your face? We hear a lot about pitches and one-sentence summaries in novel writing workshops. But what about pitches for picture books?
Well, I’m here to tell you that a one-sentence summary is just as important for picture books. Why?
1. It helps you assess your premise for market strength and saleability – I often run my pitches past my critique group and my agent before I begin writing and revising. This practice saves me from wasting time on a story that’s overdone, unfocused, unsaleable or simply unappealing. On the other hand, when my agent likes an idea, she may use my summary to get early feedback from editors. I know, then, which projects are worthy of my efforts.
1. It helps you focus your writing – As you revise and revise and revise and brainstorm and revise some more, story lines can muddy and lose focus. Suddenly, several drafts in, you have to really wonder what your story is about. Keeping your one-sentence summary in front of you through your drafts helps you steer clear of plot detours.
2. It helps to streamline the selling process – From the moment you finish revising your manuscript the selling begins. First, you pitch your story to your agent. If she likes it, she pitches it to editors. If they like it, they pitch it to their editorial team and then to their acquisitions team, then to their marketing and sales team and then … ultimately your book is pitched to booksellers and librarians and readers everywhere. A dynamite one-sentence summary sees to it that your books travels quickly and happily through all these publishing layers.
So if you find yourself saying something like, “Well my book is sort of about a little girl and her grandmother and they’re on a beach and the grandmother can’t remember the girl’s name and they take a walk and …” you may want to focus your story by taking the time to draft your one-sentence summary. Your picture book writing life will be whole lot easier – guaranteed.