Join us on May 18, 2013, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. for “Dialogue-Driven Scenes” with Suzanne Woods Fisher! Dialogue—done well—can change the pace of your story, develop characters, and so much more. There’s a lot happening in between those quotation marks!
Suzanne Woods Fisher writes about the Amish and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Her freelance work has appeared in many magazines. Suzanne’s first novel, Copper Star, a World War II love story, was published by a small press (Vintage Inspirations) and earned three literary awards. Agent Joyce Hart, who knew of Suzanne’s connection to the Plain People through her grandfather, introduced Suzanne to an editor at Revell, launching her Amish writing career.
Get all the meeting details here.
There you are, in your 10-minute session with the editor or agent of your dreams. You’ve been over your pitch with your critique partner, you’ve written enough character sketches to populate a small town, and you’ve memorized your market research. The editor smiles and says, “Tell me about your book” and … every single word drains out of your mind, leaving a complete blank where a scintillating pitch used to be.
Many authors save the situation with notes on 3×5 cards. But when you’re stressed, even making sense of your own handwriting can be difficult. Enter a new tool: the one-sheet. These have been used for years in the Christian market and in the music and videogame industries. Here’s how they work.
The one-sheet is a snapshot of your book or series, your market research, and your bio, all on—you guessed it—one page. The editor has everything she needs to know to begin a productive conversation about your book, and helps her remember your manuscript when you mail it to her later. It also gives her some unwritten but clear information about you, the author: that you’re market savvy, have done the legwork to answer her questions in advance, and have thought about marketing yourself as well as your novel—all skills that will serve you well in a writing career.
Not bad for an 8.5 x 11” piece of paper.
So let’s look at the one-sheet, section by section, and see how it not only presents your book in its best light, but how it can organize your thinking as well.
Section 1: The Book
The most important section, and the one given visual importance on the page, contains the back-cover copy for your book. Two or three paragraphs tell the reader about your characters, the central conflict, the setting … and end with a story question. Here’s an example from the fourth book in my steampunk series, Brilliant Devices:
A lady of resources has the power to change the world—if she can stay alive long enough to do it.
Lady Claire Trevelyan had been looking forward to glittering balls, congenial society, and relief from pursuit during her stay with Lord and Lady Dunsmuir in the Canadas. Well, perhaps not entirely. Being pursued by a handsome airship captain is quite diverting, especially when it appears Andrew Malvern is far too distracted by a certain blond mechanic for his own good.
But a shot fired in the night puts an end to such diversions, and instead plunges her and her orphaned band of children into a fight for their very survival. Between secret conversations at the highest levels of society and skullduggery in the diamond mines, Claire must discover who is behind these alarming attempts on her friends’ lives—before her mother is compelled to make funeral arrangements yet again.
The back-cover blurb is designed to pique reader interest—and gives the editor a starting point for a productive conversation about your characters and plot development.
If you’re pitching a series rather than a single book, you can lay out the one-sheet in landscape orientation and arrange three back-cover blurbs across the page. Then, in a paragraph that spans all three, you can give a series overview, describing the main plot and themes. This will save space so that you don’t have to repeat it in the book descriptions, allowing you greater detail in the individual blurbs below.
Section 2: Your Bio and Contact Information
This section should be 100-150 words, giving your credentials for writing the book, your experience, contest wins, and education. Use your bio from your website if you have one, so that your “collateral,” or marketing materials, are all consistent. Include your website and email address so that if the editor wishes to contact you for more, she can do so easily.
Section 3: Market Research
If you have room, or you’re using a double-sided sheet, think about including your market research. I once proposed a teen series featuring a group of antagonistic high-school girls, slowly drawn together as they created the dresses of their dreams. My market research included quotes from articles that had recently appeared in Publishers Weekly and Time about teens getting into crafting, and mentioned books by NYT bestsellers set in the knitting and scrapbooking communities. Show the editor that your book has a market, and she will have less work to do when she takes your proposal to the editorial meeting.
Section 4: Tag Lines and Quotes (optional)
Many authors include tag lines on their websites and signature lines to give readers a quick, witty way to remember them and their books. Camy Tang, for instance, writes “romance with a kick of wasabi.” Debbie Macomber promises, “Wherever you are, Debbie takes you home.” You can create a tag line for your book or series, too, and place it in a display font in a strategic location on your one-sheet. “Steampunk with spirit” is my tagline for the Magnificent Devices series. It’s both a promise and a description. The women’s fiction series I proposed as Adina Senft about an Amish herbal healer (and which recently sold from a one-sheet), is called Healing Grace, and the tagline is “Healing grace in Amish gardens.”
Another option is to use a particularly telling quote from your manuscript—something that encapsulates the theme of your book. I used “A lady of resources makes her own luck,” one of the heroine’s lines. This line appealed to a reader so much that she created a poster of it along with my book covers, and sent it to me!
Editors tend to be visual people—even if they’re not creating cover art and page layouts, they still give professional input in both those areas. So consider including images that convey the style and mood of your book, its setting, maybe even its characters. Use your own photography or buy images from stock photo sites, and make your one-sheet even more memorable.
So far, I’ve sold two trilogies on a one-sheet alone, so I can vouch for how well they work. Give your inner graphic designer some freedom and see what you can come up with. Then at your next editor appointment, see how well it works. You never know—one sheet of paper might start a chain of events that ends with a book contract!
RITA Award® winning author and Christy finalist Shelley Adina/Adina Senft wrote her first novel when she was 13. It was rejected by the literary publisher to whom she sent it, but he did say she knew how to tell a story. That was enough to keep her going through the rest of her adolescence, a career, a move to another country, a B.A. in Literature, an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction, and countless manuscript pages. Shelley is a world traveler who loves to imagine what might have been. Between books, Shelley loves playing the piano and Celtic harp, making period costumes, and spoiling her flock of rescued chickens. Learn more about her books at http://www.shelleyadina.com and http://www.adinasenft.com.
Amish fiction author Adina Senft will be signing copies of her latest release, The Tempted Soul, at Inklings Books & Things in the Capitola Mall, Capitola, CA from 2:00–4:00 p.m. If you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by!
This little bookshop has an interesting history. It started out as a Waldenbooks—remember those? They were in every mall in America, it seemed, along with B. Dalton. Then Borders bought the chain and this little store became a Borders Express. Well, you know what happened to Borders. So the employees of the store got together, took back control of their destinies, and created a little indie bookstore themselves, and they’ve been so supportive of the local genre-fiction authors.
Shelley Adina announces the availability of the first four books in her Magnificent Devices series all in one set. Kristin Billerbeck reminds us that everyone has a story and reflects on the genesis of her own storytelling. With the popularity of movies about warrior kings, Diana Symons reminds us that Jesus has a warrior heart. MaryLu Tyndall shares her fabulous new book trailer for Forsaken Dreams, her latest release. And Camy Tang shares an image of how she sees libraries. She isn’t the only one!
by Katherine Bolger Hyde
As a child, I was invisible. The shy second daughter of a working single mother whose devotion exceeded her energy, I did my best to leave the smallest possible footprint on the world.
As an adolescent, I was misunderstood—not by my parents, but by my peers. They mistook introversion for arrogance and assumed my preference for intellectual pursuits equaled disdain for the pursuits of others. I wrote for myself alone.
As a young mother in a difficult marriage, I was lost. My voice was drowned by the demands of children and a husband absorbed in his own needs. I tried to write, but with no encouragement, I soon gave up.
As an older mother with a second family, now in a supportive marriage, I realized at last that my spirit was withering for lack of expression. The only way I could find myself was to pour myself out on the page and watch what took shape. Job and children notwithstanding, I carved out space and time and began to write.
Eight years and four novels later, as a middle-aged woman on the cusp of an empty nest, I have served my apprenticeship. I have honed my craft, persisted through rejection, shared my lessons learned with those just setting out on this daunting but exhilarating road.
I have found my voice.
I am ready to be heard.
I will not be silenced again.
Katherine Bolger Hyde is the author of the picture book Lucia, Saint of Light, and several pre-published adult and YA novels. A lifelong lover of literature (and alliteration), Katherine has a degree in Russian literature and works as senior editor for Conciliar Press. She lives in the redwoods of Santa Cruz County, California, with her husband and the youngest of her four children. She loves to do needlework and dreams of one day designing and building her own storybook cottage in the woods.
Shelley Adina muses on Epilogues—love ‘em or hate ‘em?
Kristin Billerbeck dishes on whether fearful kids really have a hard time separating fantasy from reality.
Camy Tang hosts Tyndale’s Digital First authors, Pam Hillman, Johnnie Donley, and Diana Brandmeyer.
Marcy Weydemuller reviews C.S. Lakin’s new release, The Crystal Scepter, in Reading for Craft.