How to Create a Compelling One-Sheet
Blogger: Mary Keeley
An important tool writers must have with them at writers conferences is a one-sheet. If you aren’t familiar with this term, it is a one-page document that describes what you have written and why you think it is special.
Other terms used for this page are sell sheet or pitch sheet, which help to communicate its purpose: to make editors and agents think your book is special too and want to request a proposal. You’ll need a separate one-sheet for each manuscript you are going to pitch to agents and editors, unless you are pitching them as a series.
Your one-sheet is a professional document. The text should be written in professional language. Have at least one or two critique partners proofread it to ensure there are no grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors.
Your finished page should look polished and sharp. If possible, use professional software for your design. You will minimize the possibility of the design skewing when it is printed or emailed to a different computer. Some of the best one-sheets I’ve seen were created using a newsletter or flyer template in Microsoft Publisher.
The goal of your page design should be to make it a user-friendly, quick read for agents and editors. If you succeed, they will consciously or subconsciously note it, and you’ll make a positive first impression.
Edit your text to be as concise and descriptive as possible. Be sure to leave some white space between the various elements for a clean, uncluttered appearance and ease of locating specific information. Include the following elements in separate boxes or shaded areas:
- Your name and contact information, including your email address and links to your website and blog. If you have an agent, include that name and contact information rather than yours. Obviously, your name should be prominent. A good spot to place this information is in a banner space or box across the top of the sheet, making it easy for the editor to find yours in his stack. Use a subtle background design or texture if you like. Such treatments set off the particular space and add dimension.
- An image of an object or landscape that reflects your book’s setting, time period, or theme. Choice of color or black and white depends on which suits your book better. Size this element or crop it to fit your available space.
- Genre and word count.
- Hook. This is your powerful pitch that shows your book’s unique freshness that will intrigue agents and editors to continue reading. It should be no longer than two to three short sentences. If you need help writing your hook, here is a link to a post about writing a strong hook.
- Brief description of your book. Write it like back cover copy. If you are unsure how best to do this, read the text on the back of books on your shelf or in bookstores. Basically, back cover copy is sales copy designed to draw readers to your story and main characters or the urgency of your nonfiction topic and make them want to buy your book. Or for our discussion, make agents and editors want to request your proposal.
- Endorsements for your book from major authors or prominent names in your field, if you have firm commitments.
- Your professional author photo and brief bio. Your bio should focus on your qualifications for writing your story or nonfiction topic.
Create your page design to accentuate each of these elements. Be creative, but remember the goal of the design and layout is to highlight your information, not overpower it.
When you attend a writers conference, print out more copies than you think you will need. You never know when an impromptu connection in the hallway or a workshop might occur. Be prepared.
What do you need to add or change on your current one-sheet? What is the hardest part of a one-sheet for you to create? On which components of your current one-sheet have you received positive feedback?