By Laura Drake
You all know me (Ms. 413 Rejections) so I’ll spare you the story. Just know that I have pitched a LOT in my life, and I’m here, fresh from teaching a Pitching class, smack in the middle of conference season, to give you some tips for pitching that will make your pitch so shiny the agents will be digging in their purses for sunglasses.
Do you have to have one? No. But they’re a great way to capture a gatekeeper’s attention fast. Your goal is to make them say (or think) “Ohhhh.” How to do that in 25 words or less? It’s not as hard as you might think. Because you’re NOT giving them the steak (the plot,) you’re giving them the sizzle.
Note: In case you need a breakdown of Loglines, Taglines and the like, click here.
There are a couple of different ways to tackle this – choose whichever one resonates with you and your story:
Regardless of which you choose, it must show:
Lee Nordling suggests using a template:
“This is the story about a _____ who __________________, only for _____ to discover _________________.”
You only have 25 words, so don’t waste one on the character’s name. It’s much more powerful to use a description; an adjective and a noun:
See how much more compelling that is?
It could be the intriguing premise, stated by combining two disparate references:
“Stephanie Plum meets the Underworld” ~ Darynda Jones, First Grave on the Right
There is a risk to this method, however. It depends on the gatekeeper having read/seen both. If they haven’t, you’re going to get a blank stare, which is NOT the reaction you want!
It could just be an intriguing line from your book – this is the line I used in my query for my debut novel, The Sweet Spot:
“The grief counselor told the group to be grateful for what they had left. After lots of considering, Charla Rae decided she was thankful for the bull semen.”
There are no rules for a pitch, except that it MUST be: Clear & Interesting
That sounds obvious, but the vast majority of pitches I’ve heard have problems with one or both of the above.
There are three parts to a short (also called a one page) pitch.
In a pitch, you have to tell the ending. This is not a time to be coy. The agent can’t tell if you have a good novel if you don’t tell them the end. Besides, your ending can hook them too! Your query is different. A query is pure enticement. You’re trying to set them to read the synopsis (which does divulge the ending) and the chapters you’ve enclosed.
You have to convey:
The above will ensure that your pitch is clear.
You’ve got to be able to say your pitch, without reading, without stumbling, and make it sound effortless, like normal conversation. Like a perfectly executed Gymnastics routine, that doesn’t come without LOTS of practice. Tell it to the mirror. Tell it to your toddler. Tell it to the mailman (and yes, I’ve done this.)
In my class, a brilliant student said she practiced by recording it on her phone. You can hear where it needs work.
Tomorrow, I'm going to share tips for what to do on your big day, but this is enough to digest for now.
Does anyone want to throw their pitch out there? Come on...be brave! We'll all offer unsolicited help and feedback.
Laura Drake is a city girl, who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. She writes both Women's Fiction and Romance. The Sweet Spot, the first novel in her, 'Sweet on a Cowboy' Series was released by Grand Central in May, and has earned a Top Pick from Romantic Times!
“From the cover and title you expect a sweet contemporary western, but this is a sensitive honest look at a family destroyed by loss, a family that must try to rise from the ashes of their old life and see what they are now – different certainly, but pieces or a unit? Drake’s characters are so real, and so like us, that you’ll take a look at your own life and count your treasures.”
http://LauraDrakeBooks.com Twitter: @PBRWriter
Copyright © 2023 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved
Another great post! Thanks! I've not done this before, so I'm going to be daring 1st thing in the am! Here's a quick try for a book I'm working on, sort of a combo of personal story/women's health resource:
"Hopes and dreams for a new little life turn into a nightmare when a rare type of miscarriage leads to the chemo lab."
What do you think?
Interesting, Maria - but I'm not sure who the protagonist is - the mother?
Chemo lab - I'm not sure what that means - did the mother contract cancer?
Let me know, and we'll all pitch in to help!
Thanks for clarifying the elements of the pitch vs. query. I did pitch to an agent last month who loved the concept. Here's the pitch I used:
"In 1782, the fight for independence becomes personal in Charles Towne, South Carolina.
Three young women vow to remain unmarried rather than be subjected to a husband’s whims, expectations, and abuse. But how long can they resist the loves of their lives?"
Nice, Betty! Sounds like a great book! I read "Charles Towne" and thought it was a man! I don't know how to clear that up, though. Maybe I'm the only one who will read it that way...
No, I thought it was a guy too. Could you combine the two words, Betty?
While I understand your point, I've purposefully used the spelling of Charleston as it appeared during the time period of my story. Spellings and word usage are such tricky beasts when it comes to historicals!
I understand, but I recommend you add a word to let us know it's a location and not a person. It sounds fascinating!
Reblogged this on Cindy D.
Even for those who'll never pitch to an agent or publisher this is valuable marketing info. We have to know what makes our story special. If we can't even hear the sizzle ourselves we'll never convince anyone there's a steak grilling.
So true, Joel. The cool thing about doing this work is that it can be the basis for your query.
Some in my class decided that they're writing a logline before they write the book - to be sure the conflict is there, and that the story hangs together as a whole.
Well, as you know, I'm a huge fan of answering all the basic questions before you even begin writing, so I think they're spot on.
Joel ... I used this class to perfect my query and log line since I won't have the opportunithy to pitch to anyone in person. It's the best tool to hone in on how we want to present out work to an agent 🙂
Great article. Thanks for sharing.
Great post, Laura! I like to write the pitch when I'm starting out on a book. It helps give me a "plan" without locking into a scary outline. My logline attempts need help though. 🙂
Throw it out there, Chickie!
Laura ... what more can I say that I haven't already said in triplicate??? Yes, yes, yes ... this is great stuff. I ate it up during the one month you taught and I have saved every single comment and suggestion. Thanks so much 🙂
Glad it helped, Florence.
Great post and so helpful-as usual! Tweeted
Thank you, Nancy!!
I am definitely bookmarking this page and the link on loglines and taglines. Thank you so much ! I think people forget that writing is a business, even if you do it because you love it. I'm fairly sure if I can get this process done early enough , it will save me a lot of time later on!
Lorelle, just teaching the class convinced me - I'm writing my logline/pitch FIRST for my next book!
This was really helpful- I took notes! I have such trouble writing these for my own book; much better with other peoples'. I'm going back to the drawing board now, though, and giving it another shot.
Feel free to post when you get it done, Irtrovi - we'll help!
You know the old saying, 'Those who can't do, teach?' Yeah, I don't do well on my own, either. I think we're too close to the novel to be able to see it from a high level.
I need to print this out and hang it next to my computer so I don't freak out when it's time to come up with a pitch.
I loved pitching, but as fate would have it. I only got to do it at one conference. Tweeted.
Thanks, Ella! Although I made myself do it, I'm not sure I could say I loved it.
Of us on WITS, Jenny would probably be the one who can pitch best...
[…] You all know me (Ms. 413 Rejections) so I’ll spare you the story. Just know that I have pitched a LOT in my life, and I’m here, fresh from teaching a Pitching class, smack in the middle of conference season, to give you some tips for pitching that will make your pitch so shiny the agents will be digging in their purses for sunglasses. […]
[…] ← Fearless Pitching – Part 1 […]
[…] ease your nerves! Angela’s are here and here. Laura’s posts are at Writers in the Storm here and […]
If it's not too late to throw a pitch out there--here's a rough draft: Fire away!
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[…] Fearless Pitching, Part 1 by Laura Drake […]