Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One Sheet

So, all the buzz this last month before the ACFW Conference is centered around mental and phyiscal preparation. One of the big facets of preparation 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 This piece of paper goes by a lot of names, and it causes a lot of consternation and fear in unpublished authors, but basically it's a sheet of paper that tells what you've written and why you think it is cool.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 is to be 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. My first attempt at a one sheet was distastrous. You can read about that HERE. 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?


  1. Thank you for sharing. I have always wondered what a 'one sheet' is. Do writers of memoirs need to do these to?

  2. That is an awesome one sheet!! I appreciate you sharing this with us! Last week on the ACFW conference newbie loop, they had a link that we could go to for viewing one sheet examples. Yours is definitely more detailed than any of the others I saw. But since you already knew who you were targeting and what they were looking for, then I think you definitely had an advantage!

  3. Thanks for sharing this. Mine isn't near as detailed, but I hope it will do as I haven't time to redo it now.

  4. Good morning, Tabitha. You don't need a pitch sheet at all to sell a book. I just like them for something to hang onto while I talk about my work.

    You could certainly do a one sheet for a memoir. I found it helpful to do a one sheet because it helped me really focus on what the book was about.

  5. Hey, Jody,

    As you say, knowing the publishing house I was targeting sure helped with what should go on the sheet. It also made the decision to use the back of the sheet easy, since there's no way I could've gotten everything on the front.

    There's not much white space on my one sheets, and some folks say that's important. I dunno, I think it could go either way. And having so much detail on the one sheet sure made writing the proposal easier. :)

  6. No worries, Eileen. Everybody's one sheets are different, and I'm sure yours are great. Don't rework yours at this date, especially if you're comfortable and happy with yours. I just threw mine out as an example because there's so much talk about them these days. :)

  7. I've never made a one sheet before. Thanks for sharing yours with us. I can see how something like this, even without going to a conference, could still be beneficial for an author to refer to as they worked toward finding an agent or publisher.

  8. That is a beautiful one sheet!!!

  9. Such a pretty baby (-;

  10. This is great information and a snazzy one-sheet. I've never been too pleased w/ my efforts at making them. I didn't have publisher on my computer them. Now I have a Mac w/ all sorts of wonderful features, but I'm not pitching anything new this year, so no one-sheet.

    I think they are a wonderful tool that shows a potential agent or editor who you are and what your idea is. They also serve as a security blanket when you're pitching.

  11. I've created three with the exact same layout....I wonder how that happened. ;)

    So are you excited about old Favre and the Vikings?

  12. You have a beautiful one sheet and the best guidance I've found yet on doing one. I am about to make my first attempt. I like how you included the character GMC's with the summary. Thanks for putting this info out there for me to find. :D

  13. Erica, I'm sorry to trouble you again. When you write the summary of the novel on the one sheet is it more like a blurb on a book jacket or is there no tease in it at all like in the synopsis?

    Your example and article here have been most helpful. Thank you so much.


  14. Hi, Mary,

    No trouble! I wrote mine a bit like back cover copy for a face to face pitch, because space is at a premium on a pitch sheet. For me, the pitch sheet is more for my use than the editor's, because I have something to jog my memory in that stress-filled situation.

    What you want to make sure of is that your verbal pitch tells what the story is about without any mystery or holding back. An editor wants to know that you have a good idea of where the story is going. Be able to answer questions about the story and how it ends. Since I write romance, a happy ending is expected, so I don't spend a lot of pitch time on the couple getting together, but rather what it is that keeps them apart for the bulk of the book.

    When submitting a proposal with a full synopsis that is a page or two long, don't leave the editor hanging. Never say "Will the killer be found in time? To find out, request the full manuscript!"

    Editors hate that.

  15. Thank you, Erica. It makes sense to put a blurb on the one sheet since I'll have a synopsis as well.

    I'm nervous & excited about the pitch sessions. Your help makes me feel more prepared. So, thank you again.

    My one sheet is coming along. Perfecting the GMC for my two main characters. That seems to round the blurb out nicely, doesn't it? Great wisdom you used there. :) Happy weekend to you.

  16. Wonderful post, Erica! I shared with Fliterary's Facebook page and site (

  17. Great post, Erica! I would love to feature it on Writer...Interrupted during my conference prep week!

  18. Are one sheets good to promote yourself?