A lock of hair might be fitting (albeit obsolete, overly sentimental, and just plain weird.) A wallet photo maybe? Awkward. So what could you possibly give an editor or agent at a conference to help them remember you or your project once they shuffle back into their office the following Monday?
I’ll tell you: The author one sheet.
I recently attended a writer’s conference in which I was scheduled to pitch my new novel. To better my odds, I researched book pitches, and discovered the one sheet – a single-paged marketing document, aka author one sheet or pitch sheet, which describes a person, project, or concept. Brilliant!
When one considers how many book pitches an editor or agent has endured, or how many queries and manuscripts they have likely slogged through in their career, the odds of an author or book standing out – being remembered – are not great. Anything you can get into an agent’s hands to take back with them from a conference will help, other than handing them your complete manuscript, of course. You’d never bring a manuscript to a conference, right? Everything you’ve ever read and heard has stated unequivocally not to. (Admit it – you brought it anyway.)
Some one sheets are more elaborate, including word count, genre, endorsements, and agent name and contact info – designed more for promoting already-published works. Or you could opt for one more basic, including only information that one would find on a back cover of a novel. I chose the latter, since I was seeking publication.
At the very least, your one sheet should include:
Logline/hook – One sentence that describes the concept of your book, and gets their attention. (My entire novel was easier to write.)
Blurb – Short 3-4 sentence paragraph that describes your book and defines genre/audience. Who is the protagonist, what do they want, what’s in their way, and most of all, what makes your story unique? Think “back cover.”
Author bio – One paragraph about you and your professional accomplishments, including a small, quality head shot.
Image – An object or landscape that reflects the theme or feeling of your book.
Contact information – Full name, address, phone number, and email.
Obviously, this style of one sheet, or pitch sheet, is designed to sell your novel in much the same way that a book would be marketed in retail. I emulated the ones that caught my attention then learned through research what made them so effective:
Pleasing or intriguing image that catches the eye. (I used a very old photo of our home.)
Easy to read. Basic font, short bursts of information. Concise and descriptive.
Text blocking. Putting chunks of information in outlined boxes. Create an uncluttered page.
Professional or good quality author head shot
It pays to seek out a professional to design your one sheet; however, if you’re creative, talented, and resourceful (wait…I’m talking to writers!), do it yourself! (Or do what I did and ask your son to put it all together.)
At the conference I attended, I was surprised to find that many of the other authors pitching had not brought a one sheet. I even felt a little self-conscious about the fact that I had. Until the editor said “Wow! This is one of the nicest one sheets I’ve ever seen!” I not only got the go-ahead to submit my novel for their consideration; I felt certain that I had succeeded in my goal – I’d given her something to remember me by.
Christine Mager Wevik is the author of “It’s Only Hair,” a humorous, self-help book about living and coping with baldness. She is also published in “The Link,” a magazine for The American Hair Loss Council. www.itsonlyhairbook.com