Missy: When I was trying to sell my third book—the first I’d sold on proposal, I struggled to find just the right proposal idea. While brainstorming with my editor on the phone, she told me something that caused a light bulb moment. She said, “I think you’re trying to force these two characters together. Just start fresh and come up with a one-sentence idea. Send me that first, and then we’ll go from there.”
A one sentence idea.
Immediately I started thinking of one-liners, of marketing hooks. Of back cover blurbs.
And that’s exactly what we need to think about as we come up with new book ideas. Because no matter how much an editor loves a story, she may still have to get the idea approved by the marketing department before she can buy it. Everyone in the publishing house needs to be on board for a project to succeed.
So I started thinking of my book, thinking what are my hooks? In that book that became A Forever Christmas, I had (hooks in bold print): a single dad with full custody of two little boys. I had a Christmas story. I had a reunion story—the heroine dumped the hero in high school, then he turned around and broke her heart by getting someone else pregnant and marrying her. Plus, I already knew how the book ended—those two boys ask for the heroine to be their mom for Christmas.
All those thoughts were stewing in my mind, and it just so happened that at the time, I was working on a blog post for a group blog where we were doing fun posts for the 12 Days of Christmas. And a sentence hit me:
A woman with a mission. Twelve days till Christmas. Will this single dad grasp the true meaning of Christmas in time to nab the one gift his boys really want: a new mom?
Being the insecure writer that I am, I emailed a group of writer friends and asked what they thought. They gave me the thumbs up and said I had found my hook. The 12 Days of Christmas thing.
So I expanded that one liner and started thinking more about who my heroine could be and how I could throw her together with the hero. I came up with a long blurb that included my original hooks and ended with:
So she decides to put her own feelings aside and sets out on mission: force him to spend quality time with his boys over the 12 days before Christmas.
Will Gregory grasp the true meaning of Christmas in time to nab the one gift the boys really want: Miss Radcliffe for a mom?
Now, I had my one-liner and my blurb and emailed that to my editor. She responded that it had several good hooks (she noticed!) and gave me the go-ahead to come up with a new synopsis.
Are you beyond the idea brainstorming stage? You can also work in the reverse. Take a story you’re already working on or have finished and try to boil it down to a one-liner. If you can’t do that, then maybe you need to try to focus your story and consider adding something that’ll make it more marketable. It’ll help you have a fabulous pitch when you’re ready to sell your story!
I learned a valuable lesson while trying to sell the proposal that became A Forever Christmas. I still tend to jump in plotting and have to back up, to remind myself to focus and use this method.
Give it a try next time you’re brainstorming. It’s always helpful to start with a kernel of an idea that contains hooks readers love, something exciting an editor can take to the marketing department. I hope my experience has helped you.
Have you used this form of developing your story and one-sentence pitch? Feel free to share with us some marketing hooks from your current story, and/or your pitch.
Georgia Sweethearts (from Love Inspired, April 2013)
After inheriting her great-aunt's failing yarn shop, Lilly Barnes is determined to make it a success. All she wants is stability, something she doesn't think possible in the small town of Corinthia, Georgia. Then Pastor Daniel Foreman rents space in her store to hold meetings for his growing congregation, and this proves to be her lifeline. At first Lilly wants nothing to do with Daniel's big dreams, but she soon finds herself starting to share his goals. Yet trouble between her customers and his congregation make them both doubt the path they're on. That is, until practical Lilly shows him that love is a risk worth taking.
Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, ACFW Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Beacon Contest and a 2013 RT Reviewer’s Choice Award. A House Full of Hope has recently been named a Romance Writers of America RITA® Finalist. New from Love Inspired, Georgia Sweethearts is an April 2013 release.
Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com,
http://www.facebook.com/missy.tippens.readers and @MissyTippens on Twitter.