Of all the things that can cause writers to break out into a cold sweat, pitching your book is usually at the top of the list. We are masters of words–lots of them. Writing a 300 page novel? No problem. Crafting one line–one–that encapsulates your entire story? Impossible.

And a pitch is important, even if you are an established author. Why? It helps the agent, editor, marketing team, publicists, and so on understand what’s at the heart of your story. Because in the end, publishing is a business, and the goal is to get your book into the hands of readers. To do this, you need to know what your story is about–in one line–in order to sell it.

So how do you do this? I have a trick that I’ll share. It seems so simple, but it does work. Try it out and feel free to respond to this post with your results. What you need to do:

  1. Start with your story question. What does that mean? Well, the story question is the one “overarching” issue that you are grappling with as you create your story. In the case of my Zombie young adult novel, the story question would go like this:
  • What happens when a freshly turned Zombie teen tries to change the world’s intolerance of people that they fear with the power of cheer?

In this example, I don’t tell you any more about the story other than the overarching issue my main character is dealing with. You only know the specifics that are important (she’s a teen, a Zombie, and freshly turned). You don’t know the specifics that would make the pitch too detailed (what she looks like, who her friends are, where she lives, who she has a crush on, etc). And the question goes to the heart of what I’m trying to explore. What would happen if she tries to use the power of cheer to change the world? The rest of the story stems from this one question. How would she do it? Who would help her? How does it come about? Why does she have to change the world? What would happen if she doesn’t succeed?

The story question doesn’t answer everything. It whets the appetite. It gives the reader a taste of what they are going to be reading, and it begs other questions that they want to have answered.

I like to start with the question because it is often easier for the writer to pin down. It can be more playful, and it seems to have less pressure attached to it. It’s not a pitch–it’s a question. Nothing to be worried about! So have fun. Play around with several questions. Don’t force yourself to find that “one” right away. Write them down and let them sit. Later, edit and play. See which one speaks to you.

2. Next flip the question into a statement that describes what the story is about. This flipping brings you to your pitch. Using the example question above, my statement would look like this:

  • In Daphne Dapple *Hearts* Zombie High, a moderately transformed Zombie teen tries to change the world’s intolerance of what they fear by using the power of cheer.

The final pitch statement can be closely related to the question, as this one is. But it doesn’t need to be that way. The question simply leads you to the statement. You can add or subtract details and expand or contract your message as you see fit. Regardless, the idea is that you don’t go straight for that one line pitch. You start with the question and use the question to lead you to the pitch.

Using my Mrs. Claus picture book, here is another example of how this would work:

Question: What if Mrs. Claus were more than a secondary character in her own life?

Pitch: In Hedda Claus Finds Her Talent, Hedda finds that her talent isn’t baking cookies in the family bakery, it’s running the business–any business–including Santa’s.

In this example, the final pitch statement differs a lot more from the story question than in the first example. It expands on it, which is fine. Same as before, the story question was a tool to lead me to the statement / pitch. However you use the question to get to the final product is fine. As long as you get there!

Now neither of these are perfect, so the title of this post is misleading. But this process got me started down the right path and stopped me from pulling my hair out. Try it yourself and see how it works. Share your results!

Posted by: Katie B | November 27, 2018

Playlist Favorites



Music has always been a big inspiration in my life and not just for writing.  It can affect my mood, my cooking, my driving ability, and my relationship with the world and the people around me.  Here are a few of my recent favorites – the ones which always get the stories flowing. What are yours?

Thunderclouds LSD ft. Sia, Diplo, Labrinth
Dusk Till Dawn Zayn ft. Sia
Chandelier Sia (yes, I’m a little bit obsessed with her)
Runnin’ (Lose It All) Naughty Boy ft. Beyonce, Arrow Benjamin
Black and White The Staves
The Ballad of Mona Lisa Panic! At the Disco (actually anything by Brendon Urie)
Aldnoah.Zero – “aLIEz” AmeLee
Crush (Goshfather & Jinco X JayKode Edition) Jennifer Paige ft. Lauryn Vyce
The Gold Manchester Orchestra
Open Your Eyes Snow Patrol
Dimelo Marc Anthony (the Spanish version)
Waves (Robin Schulz Radio Edit) Mr. Probz
November Gracy and Tony
The One That Got Away The Civil Wars
The Funeral Band of Horses
Bang Bang Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj
Bad Romance On The Rocks (Acapella Version)
Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do Black and Blue (Musical)

For more of my favorites visit my Playlist page.

Have you ever wondered what really goes on at 25,000 feet?

Dear Passenger

Debut author, Elizabeth Calwell, spills all in Dear Passenger: Welcome to my Wacky World as a Flight Attendant. This super-cute, easy read lets you in on the secret, inner life of the flight attendant and the crazy situations (dare I say people) they encounter in the skies. Some of these experiences had me squirming in my seat, and some of them had me laughing out loud. Either way, I will never look at a flight attendant and the job they perform in the same way again!

You can find the book on Amazon in both Kindle and Paperback form. Sit back and prepare for takeoff!

Posted by: Katie B | November 13, 2018

NJ-SCBWI Annual Conference Rallies the Kidlit Community


The New Jersey regional chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) held its annual conference on June 2nd – 3rd, 2018 in New Brunswick. As always, it was a robust event with authors, illustrators, editors and agents coming together in conversation and community. The New York City and Los Angeles SCBWI conferences are more well known and heavily attended. That being said, the New Jersey regional event is so close to New York City that it pulls an equally qualified faculty and a strong body of writers.

Because the New Jersey conference is more intimate, it is easier to mingle with faculty and other writers and to have meaningful interaction. The event registration also allows you to pick exactly who you want to hear speak, meet with, dine with, and receive critiques from. For this reasons, I prefer it to the larger, more social and less personal annual conference in New York City.

If you are considering where to spend your money next year (and these things can get pricey!), I’d strongly suggest looking into the less expensive but just as worthy NJSCBWI annual conference. To give you an idea of the value, here is everyone that I met over the two days:

Anna Roberto. This year I had the pleasure of reading the first two pages of my middle grade novel to the hysterically funny Anna Roberto, Editor from Feiwel and Friends, as part of a scheduled round table discussion with five (or was it six?) other authors.

John Cusick. I practiced pitching my young adult novel to John Cusick, an Agent with Folio Literary Management, in a voluntary (and free!) pitch-fest. All I have to say is that he was very kind, even when my voice cracked. Phew.

Karen Boss. Karen Boss, Associate Editor with Charlesbridge Publishing, critiqued my picture book in a fifteen minute one-on-one meeting that included comments and notes. If anyone has ever received a critique from her, I have one word. Alas.

Catherine Laudone and Charlie Olson. For the first page session, the first page of before-mentioned young adult novel was read to Catherine Laudone, Assistant Editor of Simon & Schuster, and Charlie Olson, an agent with Inkwell Management.

Samantha Gentry. Dinner was spent with the energetic Samantha Gentry, an Assistant Editor at Crown Books, and a table of eight other authors. If you ever have the opportunity to work with her, take it.

Annie Berger. Lunch the next day included time with Annie Berger, an Editor with Sourcebooks, at an intimate table for eight. The crowd was surprisingly energetic considering it was towards the end of the event, and the lunch was over too soon.

For the “academic” portion of the event, I was able to attend several workshops, most of which were in smaller breakout rooms. This gave the opportunity to really connect with the presenter (as opposed to a huge lecture hall), and there was the opportunity for Q&A after. The workshops I attended were as follows:

Rachel Orr, agent at Prospect Agency, gave a workshop on crafting picture books.

Krista Marino, Senior Executive Editor at Penguin Random House, gave a workshop on thinking like an editor.

John Rudolph, agent at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret, presented on how to hook a children’s book agent.

Linda Camacho, agent at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency, spoke on world building.

Cari Lamba, agent at Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, presented on how to pitch and query.


Posted by: Katie B | November 6, 2018

Women Who Write Conference an Enjoyable Success

Women Who Write (www.womenwhowrite.org), a New Jersey based writing group for female authors of all genres, hosted its annual Writer’s Conference on September 29th, 2018 in Madison, NJ. For those of you looking for a conference that offers the same benefits as the NJ-SCBWI Annual Conference, but at a fraction of the size, the Women Who Write event is worth the trip.

Tracks were established for poets, adult fiction writers, and children’s writers. You could simply attend the lectures or you could step up your participation by submitting to a first page session or paying extra for a one-on-one critique with an editor or agent. Since the heart of publishing is only 45 minutes away by train, in the bustling metropolis of Manhattan, the conference routinely pulls senior professionals from the business. For children’s writers (which is obviously my specialty), this event featured rock-star literary agent, Rachel Orr, of Prospect Agency and editor extraordinaire, Caitlyn Dlouhy, Vice President and Editing Director of Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Adult writers and YA authors with a romance spin could hear from the lovely Susan Litman, Acquisitions Editor for Harlequin Books. I was easily able to connect with each during breaks, more so than I’ve ever been able to before.

This event is regularly held during September so be sure to bookmark your calendar for next year. Hope to see you there!

Tami Charles, author of Like Vanessa and Definitely Daphne, is no stranger to marketing herself – now. But when her first book came out, she was as new to the process as anyone else whose debut novel finally graced the shelves of the local bookstore.
Tami Charles

Tami Charles

There is so much great information on the internet (and this website!) on how to meet your agent or improve your craft. But what happens after you get that book deal? Do you wait and let the money roll in? Uh – in a word – no. In order to be successful, you have to be an active participant in the promotion of your own work. And for those new authors, and even not-so-new authors, navigating the world of self-promotion for the first time, Tami has shared her top three tips.
Marketing Tips for the First Time Author
1. Request a meeting or conference call with your publicist to discuss a marketing plan for your book. Prepare ahead of time for the meeting by outlining your goals and any ideas you may have to help in promoting your book. Also have a list of questions ready. This level of preparedness lets your publisher know that you are willing to be an active participant in the process. Take notes on the plans your publicist has for your book. Remember they are the experts!
2. Create your village. Who can you count on to help you spread the word? It doesn’t matter if it’s ten people or one hundred. Every little bit helps! They can spread the world in numbers ways:
* leave a review on Goodreads
* call their local library and request they order a copy (or twenty!) of your book
* social media boosting
* and good old word-of-mouth never hurt anyone
3. Network, network, network! There is no time to be shy when you’re trying to promote your book. Search for events that you can attend to spread the word. Introduce yourself to key people who may have great influence in helping to promote your book. No idea is a silly idea.
You can find Tami’s books on Barnes & Noble and Amazon and at your local indie bookstore.


Posted by: Katie B | October 23, 2018

NaNoWriMo Strikes Again!

It’s that time again!


November is the month when writers come together in partnership and feverishly try to finish a 50,000 word novel in a month. 50,000 words. Thirty days. That’s 1666.67 words a day. No big deal, right?

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. The focus is not so much on the quality as the quantity, which has its value. Sometimes you just need to get words on the page (a.k.a. the shitty first draft) so that you have something to edit.

The goal: On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel. Many a novel has come out of NaNoWriMo, but to be clear, November is about writing the book. Don’t submit as soon as you are done. We need a new challenge to be DaDecEdMo, where we take the month of December (or longer) to edit. Remember – the first draft is always “shitty” or a work-in-progress. The beauty of any story is in the editing.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo before, and I’m trying it again this year. Once you create an account and sign in, you can link with fellow writers. You can track progress and get inspired by the productivity of others. Feel free to find and befriend me. I need all the inspiration I can get!

Find out more about how NaNoWriMo works.


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