Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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June 22, 2011

Tips on Pitching Your Book

Kristen Lamb is guest blogging on Writers In The Storm this Friday! Kristen is the author of best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. Her methods teach you how to build your author platform and still have time left over to write more great books! Be sure to stop by Kristen Lamb's Blog at any time for a dose of excellence.

With RWA National coming up, it seemed like a great time for this post by our Contributing Blogger, and multi-published author, Charlotte Carter. We've heard her speak on pitching and she is wonderful!

Pitching Your Book
By Charlotte Carter 

If you’re a writer, sooner or later you’re going to have to pitch your book to an agent or editor. If nothing else, you want to be able to tell your spouse/sibling/co-worker what you’re writing.

And you need to keep it short. (All of the above have a very short attention span.)

Naturally, I have some suggestions that should help you.

First, buy Lori Wilde’s Conquering the High Concept, available for about $25.  Her book is designed to help writers when creating a new story, but it works fine after your story is written. Using her techniques, you’ll come up with a 25-word ‘log line’ describing your story. (Even my brother can pay attention that long.)

Or you can use Dwight Swain’s technique, found in Techniques of the Selling WriterThis will help you come up with a short paragraph (usually 50 words or less) describing your story.

Every story has 5 basic elements

  1. Your focal character - You can sometimes have two protagonists, but even then, often the story of one character is slightly more dominant than the other.
  2. Situation - what moves the character to change, this is often what threatens your character or his goal.
  3. Objective or goal - The troubling situation your character is stuck in that forces him to act. Put another way, this is what your character desires and strives for. It could be something he wants to retain/protect or attain, which is endangered.
  4. Opponent - Your antagonist who works directly against your protagonist's objective. An antagonist who simply makes general "trouble" is not as vibrant a character as one who deliberately works against what your hero/heroine is working toward, someone who resists and fights back.
  5. Disaster - The climax of your story, the Black Moment, the point at which everything is Hopelessly Lost.

Putting these 5 elements together, you can come up with a paragraph that tells your story. Sentence one states character, situation, and objective. Sentence two is a yes/no question that asks if character can overcome opponent and disaster.

Here’s the result I got when developing my pitch for Montana Hearts, a 2010 inspirational romance I wrote for Love Inspired.

A heart transplant recipient travels to Montana to thank her donor family and falls in love with the organ donor’s widower. But does he love her for herself or because he believes his late wife’s heart beats in her chest?

That’s it. No extra details. A quick pitch that I can do in an elevator (while traveling only a floor or two).

The key is brevity. Don’t ramble. Don’t go on so long the editor (or your brother) glazes over. Hope this helps. Good luck!

What is your experience with pitching? Do you love it or hate it? Are there tips you've learned that you'd like to pass on to other writers?


Books that leave you smiling
from Love Inspired
  Big Sky Reunion, available now
  Big Sky Family, 11/2011

0 comments on “Tips on Pitching Your Book”

  1. Wonderful post, Char. Love your pitch.

    I know it does what it should, because it sparked my interest and made me think, "Oh! What a cool premise for a love story!"

    It's difficult for me to say anything in less than 25...

    Oh, look! A frog!

    1. Thanks, Gloria.

      The pitch for MONTANA HEARTS was fairly easy to phrase. I confess some books are harder to compress into a short sentence or two.

      Oops, there goes a cute puppy.


  2. The main problem I have with the 25 word pitch is what to say next when they ask for more information. hah

    1. Terri, I so understand. I've been known to go entirely blank, unable to remember the hero's name. LOL

      That book suggests before you do a pitch you brush up on names, occupations, locale, etc. so you're less likely to get the headlights-in-your-eyes look. Using 3 x 5 cards helps. But not to worry. Editors are used to nervous writers.


  3. Excellent advice! I hate pitching and know for a fact that I suck at it because I've gotten that "deer in the headlight" look more times than I care to remember. Even when I use the K.I.S.S. method (Keep It Simple, Stupid)...I still struggle. Thanks for the great tips. 🙂

    Maeve Greyson

  4. Great timely advice. The pitch is perfect for "elevator" time frame. I think I enjoy writing the dreaded synopsis better than thinking up the "Perfect pitch." Your example gave me ideas

  5. I think what we must focus on is the premise for the story. E.g. a gilr in red hood needs to bring a basket of food ther her ill grandma who lives at the edge of the forest. She must not stray from the path and watch out for a big bad wolf, but she doesn't listen . . .

    1. Zrinka,

      You've got the right idea but I might write that pitch even shorter with a hook at the end. A girl ignores her mother's advice and is caught by the big, bad wolf. Is she doomed? Or will she escape with a lesson well learned?


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