Writers: What the Heck is a Pitch Anyway?

Every manuscript needs a good pitch. You neeeeed one. If nothing else, you won’t have to stand slack jawed when someone asks you, “So what’re you writing?” Cause let’s face it, even if you never attend a conference and have to spout the dreaded “elevator pitch” to an agent or editor, you still have to face the judgey eyes of friends, family, coworkers, and any other unbeliever who has gotten wind you call yourself a writer. Plus, its just good practice. And it’s kinda fun.

What’s in a pitch? Not much. LOL. Only the essence of your 300+ page manuscript boiled down to less than 50 words, maybe less than 30.

What’s not in the pitch? Backstory, explanations of any kind at all, last names, and fluff.

You’re pitch needs to strike a chord in the first sentence and play the tune with your second. Like whetting their appetite with the scent of fresh apple pie (sentence one) and lettin them lick the fork (second sentence). Then you wait. Yes. Zip the trap and smile like you just ate their pie right in front of their darling eyes.

Man, Julie, dude. You’re mean.

No way. I just want them to ask me for more pie. Right? You want them to want to know more. That’s why you pipe down. Let them ask what it is they want to know. Don’t ruin a great pitch with a bunch of “blah blah” equivalent when they really wanted to know if there was a romantic element. Let the other side lead. Let the other side lead. I repeated on purpose there.

At a writer’s conference, you get to pitch quickly bunches of times. Writers will ask over dinner, “What’d you write?” and then “What’s it about?” Then, you’ll meet agents and editors and authors and every one will ask those things. Be prepared to answer THOSE questions, not how your MC’s inner monologue is meant to represent the conflicts of the middle east through imagery and dream sequences. Hey! Did you fall asleep? Exactly.

Think of it as a pitch-and-run sequence. LOL.

Now, what’s your book about at the most basic level? Is it a comedy? A mystery? That’s important. Knowing your core genre is HUGE important. Do not, I beg you, please, say it is fiction with non fiction elements, reminiscent of a memoir set in the future on a planet where they live like it’s the middle ages and use machinery powered by steam, and your teen MC will fall in love while solving crimes. Pick a genre. One genre and pitch that. I’ll even allow a secondary mention like a YA mystery or a YA pararom. Those are legit, but beyond a two part genre and it just sounds unprofessional.

Focus.

Next, what’s a solid comparison? Is it “Percy Jackson for girls?” <– I shamelessly stole that nugget of brilliance from my new twitter pal Josephine Angelini, whose debut YA Starcrossed landed her a SEVEN figure advance with Harper Teen. Congrats, *curtsy* to you miss. If you can find a similarity, something to give it an edge or create a good concept in the other person’s mind, go for it.

For fun I dug a couple pitch examples off the Internet elsewhere. I’d give credit but I have no idea where they came from sorry. I’m a plagiarizer in the name of sharing pitch info. But if they were on your site and you’d like credit, do let me know and if you’re telling me the truth, (I will check first) I’ll adjust the post for your credit here.

Here is a sample elevator pitch for Stephen King’s Carrie:
“Carrie is the story of an outcast teenager with telekinetic abilities who uses her powers to exact revenge on her tormentors at the high school prom–with fatal and unexpected results.” <– YEAh she did!

Here’s another I scored from an agent’s site:

“It’s KILL BILL meets BUFFY, about a teen girl who discovers she’s a reincarnated samurai, but would rather be breaking hearts than breaking bones.” <– super cute!

My current pitch is only at this stage of ready, but I’m feeling it. I’m liking. We’ll see what the editors out there think LOL. I’m working hard here. : /

It’s Stephanie Plum meets Elle Woods, about a teenage girl whose killer curiosity solves a murder, but don’t compare her to Nancy Drew because she wouldn’t be caught dead in polyester.<– Eh? maybe? I’ll keep you posted.

Okay now it’s your turn. Who wants to share their killer pitch or maybe a pitch experience? I’m headed to a conference tomorrow and I must pitch! I can use some fellow writers right about now. What’d ya say??

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