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One Sheet Tutorial

One Sheet Tutorial

Most of the posts I’ve done on marketing and publicity have been geared toward the published author. But since many of us are pre-pubbers, and trust me—I remember those frustrating days, I thought I’d do a post on promoting yourself pre-sale.

With the ACFW conference coming up, numerous hopeful writers will be offering up their dreams and nervously facing agents and editors. Agents and editors who have the task of making dreams come true or dashing them. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel, and your dreams will have a better chance of coming true.

When you walk into your appointment, introduce yourself and hand them your One Sheet. This takes their attention off you and can ease nerves. While you rattle, they read over it.

So let’s cover the One Sheet which consists of:

1.  Graphics – Finally, the author’s chance to get creative. We all dream of designing our own book cover, so here’s  our chance. Find graphics that would look great on your cover or give a feel for what the book is about. Get creative. If the picture doesn’t look stretched, you can stretch it across the top. If it doesn’t stretch well, place the picture on the left of right.

2.  Title – Place the title on top of or beside the graphics. You can use a font that goes along with the theme of the book. For my Romance, AR series, I used flowing, romantic font. For my rodeo series, I used rustic, ranch style font. You can use unique font for your title and your name. Use Times New Roman for everything else on the One Sheet.

3.  Short Tag Line – Something catchy that makes the reader want to read more. 

4.  One Sentence Summary – This sentence should sum up what your book is about. The shorter your sentence, the better.

5.  A short synopsis of your book. Pull out all the stops to make your book sound as interesting as possible. You don’t have to give away the ending. The agent or editor may ask and then you tell them. Your synopsis is designed to make them want to know more. If they ask questions, you’ve probably hooked them.

6.  State of completion and word count. If you’re pre-pubbed, don’t make the pitch unless your book is complete.

7.  Your name or pen name.

8.  Your bio. List anything you’ve ever had published fiction or nonfiction, including press releases, poems, essays, articles or short stories, but not letters to the editor in your local paper. List any contest wins you have – even local conference contests. Make yourself sound as good as possible, but don’t embellish. Mention any writers’ groups you’re a member of with ACFW at the top. Mention that you attend conferences with ACFW at the top. If you have a website or blog, or are active on Facebook, Twitter, or other social networks, say so. Type magazine names, contest names, and organization names in bold, so it stands out.

Don’t list your day job unless you’re in the publishing industry or if you’re a marine biologist and your book is about a marine biologist. I included pastor’s wife on my White Roses One Sheet because my book is about a pastor and the heroine ends up being a pastor’s wife. Don’t include info about your family. The agent or editor really doesn’t care. They just want to know about your writing qualifications and the book.

9.  Bullet list. This supplies the agent or editor with everything they need to know about you at a glance. We’re talking ACFW, so don’t put published author on your bullet list unless you’re published in fiction.

10.  Your headshot. If you invest in a professional headshot, you’re One Sheet will appear more professional and polished. Mine was a Wal Mart special and it worked, but I included my pro headshot on the series One Sheet just to show the difference. If you present yourself professionally, the agent or editor will take you more seriously. ACFW usually has a professional photographer at conferences. Take advantage of this offer. You get pro headshots at a steal of a deal.

11.  Your contact info. Include e-mail, home phone, cell phone, address, and website. If the agent or editor is interested, they’ll keep the One Sheet, so you want them to be able to contact you.

If you’re book is part of a series, let the agent or editor look over the book One Sheet and answer questions, then explain that the book is part of a series and give them your series One Sheet with the same basic layout, but include a blurb about each book.

You don’t have to use the exact pattern I’ve used. Move things around and experiment. As long as the result is balanced and pleasing to the eye, you’re good. But keep the book info at the top and your info at the bottom until you’re a big name author. Be prepared to answer questions. I’ve had agents and editors ask me about everything from GMC to how many Facebook fans I have.

If graphics and catchy phrases aren’t your strong suit, there are writers who will take your info and create a One Sheet for you. Post your need on the ACFW loop and you’ll likely get great help at a steal of a deal.

As awesome as the ACFW Conference is, it can be overwhelming. Many ACFW Arkansas members are a step ahead because they’ve already made friends who are also attending the conference. I’d advise you to take the class and join the loop for first-time conferees.

The first year I attended ACFW in 2005, I was totally unprepared. I felt overwhelmed and unqualified. I didn’t know anyone and everyone I met was published. I was certain I was the only unpublished attendee.

By 2006, I learned how to do a One Sheet. I had it and my short proposal ready for my appointments. I went in much more confident and relaxed. I got requests from Tyndale and Avon Inspire. Only to be followed by rejections. In 2007, again I got requests from Love Inspired, Harvest House, and two agents, followed by rejections.

2008 was my year. JoAnne Simmons asked for the full manuscript of White Roses and I audibly gasped.

Final tip: Be sure and bring up any interesting hooks about your book. Unique setting, occupation, or anything timely. It wasn’t in my One Sheet that White Roses was set in Romance, AR. When I mentioned that, JoAnne’s eyes lit up.

Final note: The road to publication can be long and frustrating. This may not be your year. But I’m a firm believer: persistence plus patience equals publication. Keep learning and improving your craft. Attending ACFW will definitely give you a leg up. And God has the perfect timetable for you.

Do you have a One Sheet prepared? Tell me about it.

  1. Debbie Archer05-31-11

    I like the way you covered each ingredient of the one sheet. It’s done thoroughly and thoughtfully. Questions about this particular topic are always prevalent on the main loop. This explanation is focused and helpful. Thanks so much, Shannon.

  2. Lisa Matthews Collins05-31-11

    Thanks Shannon! That will help me get my head on straight before St. Louis.

  3. Sheila Covey06-02-11

    Wow! As always you do such a great job of explaining things. Glad you took time to do this. Awesome post!!

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