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Monday, September 12, 2011

Pitch that Book!

What's your book about?

It's funny how that one question can thrill and terrify you all at once isn't it? As writers we love to talk about our story, but sometimes we go on and on until that glazed look comes over the listener. Now if an agent asked you what your book was about this would be a disaster, right?

Today we will talk about how to streamline your answer, or "pitch", in order to get the information across and still keep the listener interested. Hopefully. ;)

In order to sell a novel you need three different-sized pitches: a one or two page synopsis, a one paragraph pitch, and a two sentence pitch, which you could recite if you managed to trap an agent or editor in an elevator with you. They actually call these two sentences an "elevator pitch," or sometime a "logline pitch," a term that comes from screenwriting. (Hilari Bell -sfwa member)
This is often one of the hardest things we have to do as writers. The good news is we can create these pitches and try them on the people around us. The next time a friend or family member asks, "What's your book about again?" You give the short and to the point pitch. Keep practicing it until you've got it down pat. Then if you ever do run into an agent, or score a pitch session at a conference, you'll be ready!

How do you write a pitch?

Just like everything else, there are no hard and definite rules. However, there are certain guidelines or tips that are good to keep in mind.

Tip #1:
Keep it short. Remember, we don't want to confuse the listener with all the little subplots that make us giddy. A pitch is like the query, we just want to entice them to read the story.

Tip #2:
Begin by setting up the situation. Since I write science fantasy and fantasy, I usually start with a bit of world building: "Sendek is a world rich with a magical heritage the people have forgotten in favor of science and technology". You don't have to start this way, and it may be preferable not to. Who knows for sure?

Now, I finish that sentence with an introduction to my main character: "but Talia Shannon's prophetic dreams foretell an invasion by scaled humanoids."

Tip #3:
Tell what the MAIN conflict is. Remember, don't bog things down with all the little subplots, even if its the subplots that make you giddy. Here's my example:
"Caught between her job as a scientist and her magical nature, Talia struggles to warn her people without revealing her source of information while trying to prove to the handsome Major Sutton that she is not a traitor to the crown."
Tip #4:
Feel free to add a hook. This all depends on what type of pitch you are working on, but really all pitches should be a/the hook.

"The arrival of the invading force makes one thing desperately clear--science cannot save them and magic is now their only hope."

Here is the complete pitch which weighs in at just 99 words:
Sendek is a world rich with a magical heritage the people have forgotten in favor of science and technology, but Talia Shannon's prophetic dreams foretell an invasion by scaled humanoids. Caught between her job as a scientist and her magical nature, Talia struggles to warn her people without revealing her source of information while trying to prove to the handsome Major Sutton that she is not a traitor to the crown.

The arrival of the invading force makes one thing desperately clear--science cannot save them and magic is now their only hope.
Now it's your turn. Send your 100 word pitches to charity.bradford@gmail.com, I'll post them here this week and everyone can help you streamline and polish it. 
Then it will be up to you to practice on the people you meet.

2 comments:

Tara Tyler said...

yours was great!
i have one, but i'm afraid people might be getting sick of my submissions! (same old story, ha!)

Charity Bradford said...

Tara, take advantage of the site while its small. That's what we are here for!