What Goes on a One Sheet? / Free Ticket Winner! **

NCWA welcomes historical fiction author, Erica Vetsch!  Click on Erica’s link at end of post to view her books.  NCWA’s conference link also appears at end of post.

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One of the big facets of preparation for a writing conference is the One-Sheet/Pitch Sheet/Sell Sheet. This piece of paper goes by a lot of names, and it causes a lot of consternation and fear in unpublished authors, but basically it’s a sheet of paper that tells what you’ve written and why you think it is cool. It’s used during your agent or editor appointments or if you happen to have a moment with an agent, editor, mentor, or otherwise interested party to help you organize your thoughts and give you something to refer to and/or hang on to so your hands won’t shake.

Often I hear the question “What goes on a One-Sheet?”
So I thought I would show you the One-Sheet I used to help sell my first novel. I’ll walk you through what I put on it, and hopefully, the picture isn’t so small and grainy that you can’t tell what it is. I think if you click on the picture you should see it a little bigger.
I created my One-Sheet using a newsletter template from Microsoft and Microsoft Publisher 2007. By fiddling with the colors and the text boxes, I arrived at a layout that I liked so much, I’ve continued to use it for each One-Sheet I’ve prepared since.
As you can see, I chose to use the front and the back of the sheet. I got tons of information on the back that helped focus the book specifically for the publisher I was targeting.
On the front:
  • A picture that illustrates the book–theme, historical era, something that gives the flavor of the story. That’s why I chose black and white for the picture.
  • Contact information (removed here for obvious reasons) for both myself and my agent.
  • Story genre and word count.
  • A hook line.
  • The title of the work and the author’s name again.
  • A brief overall summary of the story.
  • Very brief character GMC’s.
  • Author photo and brief bio. (I put my new photo on the sheet for the purpose of this demonstration, but used the one I had from two years ago when I actually pitched this story at the conference.)
On the back:
  • The title and author again.
  • Setting of the story. Because this was targeted at Heartsong Presents, there were several pieces the editor was looking to see. One is the setting, in this case, Historical Minnesota. A description of an actual historical event that spawned the story, as well as the time period of the book.
  • Bible verse. Heartsongs have a Bible verse or verses that the spiritual theme centers on.
  • Spiritual takeaway. A brief overview of the lesson that will be learned or the change that will take place in the main characters in the story.
  • Series development ideas. A brief synopsis of potential story ideas for the series along with potential titles.
  • Manuscript status. Tell the editor/agent that the manuscript is available if requested or give them an accurate idea of how long it would take you to get a manuscript to them.
  • Another photo, this one of the actual ship that wrecked that I got the story idea from in the first place.
Do you need a pitch sheet to sell a novel? No. Not at all. I just happen to like them. I also like that I use the same format for each so I can find the information I’m looking for quickly, even when I’m nervous or the question asked is unexpected.
Will an editor take your one sheet with them? Not always, though in the appointments I’ve had, the editor has made notes on the one-sheet and taken it with her.
How long does it take me to create a one-sheet? The answer is, it varies depending on how much I know about the series. One of the cool things about one-sheets is that they are as varied as the authors who create them.
I love reading other people’s one sheets and seeing how creative they are and what their vision for their book is.
So, have you created a one-sheet for a conference? What trials or successes have you had with one-sheets? Is there anything I didn’t cover that maybe I could share with you?
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**Ardis Nelson is the winner of a pair of tickets to attend An Evening with Marshal Younger Friday, May 18, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Winners names will be posted on the door for free entry to the event.
Be sure and bring your “one sheets” to NCWA’s Renewal Conference this Friday and Saturday, May 18th and 19th. Click here for more information.
This post first appeared September 12, 2011 on Gina Conroy’s blog, “Writer…Interrupted.”

Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and reading, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical fiction set in the American West. Whenever she’s not following flights of fancy in her fictional world, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two terrific teens, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron. Click here to visit her website and blog.

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