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Monday, February 6, 2012

Pitching to Win

The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award closed to submissions last night. All that remains now is to wait until February 23rd when the first round of cuts are announced. Well, wait and work on a current MS or WIP.

Since the first cut is based on the pitch it made me think about what constitutes a good pitch. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts in the comments as I am by no means an expert.

Pitches, for those unaware, are a selling tool. You run into them everyday as people and companies vie for your attention and money. Everyone is trying to sell you something. Since time is a limited resource, all those salespeople have to make the most of the little bit of time and attention you're willing to spend on them before moving onto the next item. This is why pitches are so important.

As a writer we have to catch the reader/agent/publisher's attention in as few words as possible WITHOUT loosing the essence of our story. Easy, right? Not so much. Try it yourself. Think of your favorite book, one you could almost quote, you know it so well. Now, in roughly 300 words try to sell it. Capture what you think is important and tell me what your book is about. How did you do?

One of the hardest parts about writing a pitch is decided what is important and what can be left out. If you tried the above exercise you'll have discovered you can't encompass all the ideas, characters and plots you want to. Unless, of course, the book you chose was 'Goodnight Moon.' Instead you have to focus. Introduce too many elements and the reader loses interest. There isn't enough time for them to become invested in too many ideas if they haven't decided whether or not they want to read it yet.

On the other hand, if your pitch is too brief and the reader can't deduce what the book is about, back to the shelf it goes. Or out goes the rejection slip if it hasn't made it to the shelf. There needs to be enough meat on the bones of the pitch for them to sink their teeth into, get a taste of what you have to offer, and order the whole meal.

I've seen advice bandied about on different writing sites about what makes a good pitch. Some of it has been fantastic advice that the author took to heart and used to make their pitches much cleaner and their product more salable.

Others took a more 'bookish' approach and gave advice based on certain guideline and elements they were told should be in every pitch. A lot of pitches I saw revised based on this advice became muddied where before they sounded like something I would read if I came across it on a shelf.

What a good pitch boils down to is something cleanly written which gives the reader an idea of the story you want to share with them. If you have your pitch critiqued and readers can't figure out what it's about, take their advice to heart, rethink what's important to your story and rewrite it.

What do you think makes a pitch good? Did you try writing one and want to share? I'd love to see what everyone comes up with.


  1. Just the word 'pitch' makes my stomach churn. Nothing is more stressful--and important--than crafting the perfect pitch. The fate of your novel rests on those few words.

    Great post!

  2. Thanks, Tricia. It does the same thing to me, although to a lesser extent with each one I do. Maybe someday I'll be able to do them in my sleep. ;-)