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Old 09-11-2009, 12:27 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrod
Now I know you said you cut this down but this is incredibly long for an anthology pitch. Any pitch for any publication should have a log-line followed by the expansion of your log-line into a "log-paragraph," of sorts, and/or the plot synopsis. For an anthology, you can really cut out the complete synopsis. An anthology story is the log-line, really, because that's all there's room for.
I think one reason you're seeing all of the pitches in the form of a paragraph synopsis is because the example of what the editors were looking for took that form.
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Old 09-11-2009, 12:41 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JAQ
I think one reason you're seeing all of the pitches in the form of a paragraph synopsis is because the example of what the editors were looking for took that form.
I probably wasn't entirely clear on my critique there. I meant that the synopsis part was way too long. Even if you're pitching for a long-form story, you'd rarely do a line-by-line synopsis of every event that happens in the story. I mean, you could, but it comes off as dry. You want to distill your plot into the basic elements and talk about the relevance of those elements or how those elements relate to your overall themes and story. Of course, this is my preference for pitches and I don't want to speak entirely for Chris on this one.
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Old 09-11-2009, 12:54 PM   #18
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yeah, let me say, as a writer myself, i hate pitches. i'm very much of the alan moore school of thought that any story that can be completely summed up in a sentence isn't much of a story.

but.

these things have mechanisms that build the machine. the paragraph pitch is, i believe, the best way to handle this particular project. i don't have the time to read full scripts that might not go anywhere, and i really don't think it would be fair, or optimal for the project, to ask for the one line summation. hey, if anyone out there thinks they can nail it in one line, go for it. i'd be happy to read them and i just might learn something myself. but i think the smartest, most effective way to handle it is the way it's being handled.

and yes, i really want a santa claus entry. 'frog went a courtin'', too.

maverick, negative burn's got a good history, congrats on that.
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Old 09-11-2009, 02:49 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrod
Tenn/Pitt commercial break, let's do another one.

We'll look at Jamie's LRRH pitch...



This one has the same structural problem as Dan's. No log-line, too long, too dry. I don't really know what the story's about - it's an action tale, that's all I got out of this.

But, another thing to mention, and this is important for themed anthologies - this is way to wink-wink. You know what I mean? There's this gang, right, and they're called the WOLVES and they're up against the HOOD Corps, right?

The problem with pitches like these - they're really not retelling the source story, they're telling a completely different story and slapping iconic names onto the main categories.

What's Little Red Riding Hood about? It's about deception and heroics. Where are any of these themes in this story? The iconic characters, the sly wolf and the frail grandmother and the naive Riding Hood and the heroic Woodsman - where are these characters? I don't get them out of the pitch.

So it's a pitch for a different book, fitted for this book. That's how it feels, at least, to me.
Hey Jason, thanks for taking the time to break this down. I'm gonna just respond to the comments if that's okay, but don't take this as a defence in any way. It came across how it came across.

I tried to incorporate the story of LRRH in what now appears to be a skin-deep fashion, using the journey to grandmother and the wolf's deception. I thought about it a little too much and used analogies where they weren't appropriate, perhaps. At one point, the woodsman was going to be a robot who swept in and saved the day but eh...

In fact, the more I type here, the less convinced I am by my own pitch!

Anyway, I appreciate the critique. I'll learn from it.
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Old 09-11-2009, 05:06 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JamieRoberts
Hey Jason, thanks for taking the time to break this down. I'm gonna just respond to the comments if that's okay, but don't take this as a defence in any way. It came across how it came across.

I tried to incorporate the story of LRRH in what now appears to be a skin-deep fashion, using the journey to grandmother and the wolf's deception. I thought about it a little too much and used analogies where they weren't appropriate, perhaps. At one point, the woodsman was going to be a robot who swept in and saved the day but eh...

In fact, the more I type here, the less convinced I am by my own pitch!

Anyway, I appreciate the critique. I'll learn from it.
Hah - you were turned.

But there's one thing that seems to be pretty common with a lot of these pitches - the puns! Oh, the puns. The acronyms and the subtle hints and the plays on name. We should just retitle this Digital Webbing Presents: A Peter David Tribute.
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Old 09-11-2009, 05:12 PM   #21
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yeah, the puns and the acronyms and the cleverness don't do much for me.
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Old 09-11-2009, 05:20 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris stevens
yeah, the puns and the acronyms and the cleverness don't do much for me.
I'm down to debate it with whoever wants to debate it but, in my opinion, we're dealing with iconic stories and well known characters - we shouldn't need to ham-fist who the characters are with punny names and acronyms. The characters should just exist in the story and we should get it based on the circumstances and interactions.

Otherwise Herman Melville's BILLY BUDD would have been titled JESSE CHRIST.
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Old 09-11-2009, 07:38 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by jrod
A little more on log lines, I think they work best when they're clever and elegant. You think of Steve Niles' 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, the log line is something like, "It's a story about vampires in Alaska where there're 30 days of night." The editor may need to think about it for a moment but they'll get it and when they do it'll hit them as a fantastic concept. Then they'll give you bags with dollar signs on them.

Now take the same pitch and turn it into..."The residents of ______ are preparing their small Alaskan town for the coming 30 days of night when they begin to notice something sinister is afoot. The cell phone towers are down, people begin to disappear, cars are ravaged, and all communications to the outside world are cut-off. The sheriff locks up a stranger who's rolled into town, one who seems to know what's going on. The townsfolks eventually discovered their town has been targeted by vampires, but it's already too late - there's no way out and sun-ups a month away."

Honestly, if I got the second pitch, I'd probably pass. The pay-off isn't until the very end and it sounds like your run-of-the-mill horror and/or thriller from the start. Even if I read all the way through I'd say, "Oh, vampires, whatever." It doesn't have that same WHAM as the first pitch, where you're forcing the editor to come to the realization on his own, get a euphoric response from it - instead, you're building up to a realization and then spelling it out for him. There's no excitement in that.

So, what I'm saying is, start with the payoff.
Great informative post!
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Old 09-13-2009, 08:37 PM   #24
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there's good stuff in here, those who haven't read it and are thinking about pitching should check it out.
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Old 09-14-2009, 09:41 AM   #25
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First, I want to say something on content, and this one might get people arguing (I hope so). I saw in the solicitation thread (and in some of the pitch threads) Chris was defending his "too sci-fi" comments. Whereas I don't know Chris' position 100%, let me try to get a new discussion started on what "too sci-fi" means.

With a book like this, where stories have to blend fantasy and fairy tales with sci-fi elements, one needs to really balance which genre they will be leaning most on. Fairy tales (going with the modern definition) are often light and have a sense of hope in them. They're parables using fantastical elements, aimed at teaching a lesson, and often having characters learn something about themselves and society to learn that lesson. But, more often than not, the fairy tell is a message of individualism, how to improve your own station in life, how to get the girl or be the hero or become a king. Our protagonists often have an underlying sense of altruism, but the altruism usually exists to prop up their own individual worth. Sci-fi is a bit more collective in it's philosophy. The world is going in the wrong direction, the protagonist feels hopeless but is put into a situation where the good of society becomes his burden. More often than not, the protagonist doesn't want this burden. It's forced collectivism, of a sort.

If we're making a hybrid story, I would think one would need to combine the motivation of individualism of fairy tales with the collectivist benefit of sci-fi or the burden of collectivism of sci-fi with the added benefit of individual gain from fairy tales. If you go with individualism/individualism is becomes too fairy tale, if you go with collectivism/collectivism it becomes too sci-fi.

Now that's sort of my meta-definition of "too sci-fi." There's also another definition of "too sci-fi" and this may come from my own bias against the genre. Sci-fi is the unwanted bastard of literature these days. There aren't a lot of publishers that buy sci-fi, the stuff they do buy tend to get 500-copy trial runs, and a good chunk of the stuff that's pushed out hardly sells that. I think the problem is that a lot of people don't understand that they like sci-fi. They watch LOST but they'd never read a novel that includes time travel. They'd start campaigns to save Whedon's latest TV show and they'll line-up to watch the newest STAR TREK show but tell them the plot of ENDER'S GAME and their eyes gloss over.

It's kind of difficult to pin down exactly why this is the case but I have my own theories. I think that for every sci-fi concept you introduce, especially if it has a very sci-fi sounding name, you lose a percentage of your audience. If LOST's pilot mentioned time travel, moving islands, destiny, science stations, etc it wouldn't have made it past the first season. People would have seen it, said, "What is this derivative nerd shit?" and passed on it. You need to ease the person into the sci-fi, often sexying it up as an action/horror/fantasy hybrid and really introducing only one futuristic concept in order to get them on board from the get go. So if your pitch includes time travel, aliens, space travel, AI, and futuristic devices, it has the potential to become "too sci-fi," pushing out the fairy tale elements for concepts that, in reality, are a bit too derivative of the sci-fi go-tos.

I'm just brainstorming, I'll probably go back on half of what I said. In reality, I'm oddly wired from my morning coffee and my brain may be trying too hard.
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Old 09-14-2009, 09:49 AM   #26
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Dan Hill asked me if I have any advice about pitching things other than anthologies. I told him that the rules kind of remain the same, in my mind: log-line, expansion of themes and concepts, synopsis (although, as I said in the thread, I don't think a complete synopsis is necessary for an anthology pitch).

But with a full-length book, I think you need to put a lot more confidence into your packaging, as well. I've shared this before but I'll share it again, my pitch for POSTCARDS. I had a phone conversation with my eventual editor at Random House, he loved the concept and wanted a pitch to sell to his bosses. So I put together a pitch that was designed to sell the concept of the book but also sell the vision and the creators. It wasn't hard to do, a couple of hours with photoshop, but I put together a pitch that was designed to be a quick read but a complete picture of what this book is about. Feel free to look at it, I won't get into specifics but it nabbed us a substantial advance, probably one that was too big for the first in a series of anthologies, honestly.

The pitch.

But there's something to learn here - don't just hand over bland, white paper to a publisher if you don't have to. Include something that'll make it pop, even if that something is scanned images and a basic layout. Make it stand out, visually, from that stack of papers sitting in front of him or her. I do a lot of marketing for my day job, so I guess that's kind of where I'm coming from, but your concept needs to jump out at editors. It's a visual medium, after all, and you should make them SEE your vision for the book, not just read about it.
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Old 09-14-2009, 10:19 AM   #27
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great post. hopefully that helps some folks as we enter the closing week of this process. i'm glad jason took the time to get into it as that's not really how my mind operates. in the words of a brilliant director of film when asked what it was he was looking for, 'i'll know it when i see it.'

hope everyone's enjoying all this and i'm looking forward to seeing what happens this week.
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Old 09-14-2009, 10:31 AM   #28
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jrod, good post in 25. I think that is a very valid point about many peoples outlook on scifi.
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Old 09-14-2009, 10:58 AM   #29
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Thanks to both of you but this discussion is bland if no-one tells me I'm wrong about something.
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Old 09-14-2009, 11:08 AM   #30
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Two interesting works to discuss. THE TIME-TRAVELER'S WIFE. That book is hard sci-fi. I read that book and I said, "Man, that is some nerd-core, right there." But it EXPLODED outside of the sci-fi demo because it was also hard romance. I think this kind of backs up the theory a bit - no casual reader read this book and said, "Ugh! Sci-fi!" But then you have something like JOURNEYMAN that was also hard sci-fi, similar in plot and execution to THE TIME-TRAVELER'S WIFE and people rejected it pretty hardcore. Maybe it's because JOURNEYMAN took the collectivist approach - time-traveling for the good of man kind - instead of TTW's individualist approach - making a relationship work despite time-travel. Thoughts?

Also, Cameron's upcoming AVATAR. I saw that teaser and popped a sci-fi boner. I showed it to Robin and she "mehed" it pretty hardcore. Robin loves James Cameron, she loved Aliens and Terminator and The Abyss, but when she saw the trailer to AVATAR she said, "I really don't like sci-fi." But The Terminator was sci-fi! But it was also an action that really only introed two sci-fi elements, time travel (which really only took a couple of minutes to set-up) and cyborgs (that looked human for most of the movie). Aliens had aliens, of course, and space travel but the space travel was just for setting and the alien was just for horror. The Abyss had aliens but set in the modern world. None of these sci-fi stories feel all too sci-fi for the casuals. But Avatar? Space travel, gene manipulation, aliens, great battles, futuristic weapons - that just felt too sci-fi. It was an explosion of sci-fi and that turned her off. I'm interested to see the BO results for the movie, honestly.
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