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Writing a Two-Word Book Pitch

“Wait, did you just say ‘Dystopian Hookers’?”

Over the holiday weekend while sitting beside a campfire with a T.V. writer turned D.E.C. officer, the topic of my books came up in conversation. When the D.E.C. writer–let’s call him Dave–asked what my books were about, I answered with my go-to response: “Dystopian Hookers”.

Dave, unwittingly sacrificing a log to the Gods of Writing.

After a brief joke about writing from experience, Dave expressed interest in snagging a copy, and I was happy to oblige.

But as I lay in bed that night, replaying the evening in my head (because that’s what INFPs do), I found myself wondering, “Why do I always say dystopian hookers?”

The Color Code series is about so much more than dystopian hookers, and such a brusque and over-simplified response feels almost irreverent at times. Still, it’s the two-word pitch that I come back to time and time again. Why? Because it works.

Why ‘Dystopian Hookers’?

The answer to that question is simple . . . and complicated. First of all, I’m still shy when talking about my own work, so it’s easy to fall back on self-deprecation and comedy. But more importantly, those two little words do two very important things.

  1. They scare away people who probably shouldn’t read my book.
  2. They draw in people who might actually appreciate the subject matter.
The Gods of Writing seem pleased …

Of course I want everyone to read my novels, but let’s be real, a book about a dystopian caste society in which the lowest-ranking citizens are forced into prostitution is not for everyone. And I don’t expect it to be. So, if someone is offended by “dystopian hookers”, the content of my novels probably won’t sit well with them. And if they’re visibly horrified after I say those two words, I’m usually able to make a joke, and steer the conversation in a new direction.

On the other hand, if anyone finds the concept of dystopian hookers intriguing, it’s a great jumping point to start up a more genuine conversation about the book. After all, both the novel and television adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale have been widely acclaimed, so there are certainly people out there who are willing to engage with uncomfortable or triggering topics.

But what’s the secret to writing your own?

How to Write a Two-Word Book Pitch

The formula’s pretty simple, really. You’ll need:

  1. A noun.
  2. An adjective.

Let’s talk about the noun first.

Broadly speaking, who or what is your book about?

My response to this question would have been “Pinkcaps.”

Does the word you chose mean anything to the average person?

If you’re writing fantasy or sci-fi, the main subject matter of your book may be an entirely made up word, like Pinkcaps. If that’s the case, you’ll need to take your line of questioning one step further.

What’s the most generic synonym that could describe the noun you’re writing about?

In my case, hookers is the vernacular equivalent to Pinkcaps, so it’s the word I went with.

Now that you have a noun picked out, let’s get into that adjective.

What kind of (fill in your noun here) does your story deal with?

This question was a bit of a stumper when it came to my story. For a while I played around with the idea that the Pinkcaps were trapped in a rigid, matriarchal caste system, but that was often too hard to explain succinctly. Additionally, I wanted to make sure people understood that my story was a work of speculative fiction, and that it did not take place in our world as we know it. So, I found myself asking the next best thing:

What kind of world or genre does my story fit into?

The simplest answer: a dystopia. And thus, dystopian hookers was born.

But if you’re still not sold, here are a few examples:

Harry Potter: Boy Wizard (Easy. It’s the story of a kid who finds out he’s a wizard.)

Star Wars: Honestly, the title pretty much takes care of itself. It’s a heroic war/adventure story, but in space!

Throne of Glass: Teen Assassin

And of course, feel free to leave your own two-word pitches in the comments below!

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