Also called a pitch sheet, a one-sheet is basically an advertising flyer for your book. Many writers use them at conferences to help break the ice with agents and editors, as I mentioned in my post about what to bring to a writers conference.
Designing a one-sheet is relatively easy. I’ve heard tell of writers paying graphic designers to do this work. At the risk of angering my graphic designer friends, that is overkill. You don’t need to be a designer to put one of these together. You also don’t need a full-on design program like InDesign. Microsoft Word will work well enough, but Apple Pages is better if you have a Mac.
The principles for the pitch sheet are similar to those for business cards, but you have lots more room to work with.
Use a clear text font.
You can get all fancy with the headline font, but for the body copy, stick to a simple serif font. Times, Garamond, and Baskerville are good ones. Don’t clutter things up with bold and italic. Keep the text simple so the focus is on your meaning and not your typesetting. On the sample pitch sheets posted here, I used Book Antiqua because I wanted an old-fashioned feel, to match my branding.
The copy on your sheet will be similar to a back cover blurb or query letter. Don’t try to fit your whole synopsis on here. There’s no room, and it’s not necessary.
Use an engaging headline font.
The title of the book is the headline. Find a font that matches your genre and the mood of your piece. The fonts built into your computer are insufficient. A great place to go for fonts is Font Squirrel. There are lots of places on the Internet to get free fonts, but they are not always good fonts. The folks at Font Squirrel have picked a collection of really good fonts that’s easy to search.
From the home page, scroll down to where it says “Find Fonts” and pick “Display.” That’s what designers call headline fonts. On the Display Fonts page, you’ll see a good variety.
Use a strong focal image.
The photo or illustration should capture the mood of your novel, or act as an icon to represent some element of the story. It doesn’t have to depict something that literally happens in the story…although in the case of the Alara’s Call sheet, it does.
Here are my favorite sources for stock art:
- stock xchng: www.sxc.hu; free
- Fotolia.com; reasonably priced
- iStockPhoto.com; reasonably priced
Don’t use Google images, as you won’t know if the image is public domain or not.
I like stock xchng because it’s free, but the selection is limited and mostly by amateurs. If I can’t find what I need there, my next stops are fotolia and istockphoto. Here are a couple more:
- If you write military or science fiction, photos from branches of the military and NASA are usually public domain: www.army.mil, www.navy.mil, www.airforce.com, www.marines.milm www.uscg.mil, www.nasa.gov; free
- For historical fiction: www.historicalstockphotos.com; free
Note that the color of the headlines matches a color in the photos. The more you can tie together elements with a common factor, the better.
Consider reading patterns.
Because we read top to bottom and left to right, the left side of the page is often the strongest place to put your image. The reader will see the image before getting into the text. This kind of corrals the viewpoint onto the first paragraph.
It can be effective to place the image lower, or to place one image at top and another further down, like on the Hope and Pride pitch sheet, but I like the top-left placement of the art. On Hope and Pride, I used two images because if I had included only the artist’s palette, that would only convey half the story.
Include your bio and head shot.
At the bottom of the sheet, include your bio, contact information, and head shot. If your bio doesn’t include any writing credits, that’s fine. Do note your membership in whatever writing groups you belong to. That shows a level of dedication to the craft.
I added some niceties that are totally extraneous, like the little ornament separating the text from the bio, just because that’s my style. For branding, I used the same font for my name as on my website and business cards. I put stylized edges on the photos because there’s a setting in Pages that makes that really easy. But you could easily do without those things.
Once you have a layout you like, it is perfectly OK to design every pitch sheet the same. As long as the layout doesn’t detract from the content, you’re fine. Above all, don’t stress about the pitch sheet. It is one very small piece of your pitch effort. All you really need to pitch your manuscript is a clear idea of what your book is about and the enthusiasm to present it convincingly.