Why do authors need a pitch? Have you tried explaining what your book is about to an agent or publisher, let alone regular people? Most times, authors will stammer something like, “Well, there’s this boy, see? You know, like a teenaged boy, and he has no friends—a real loner, right?—and he meets this girl…” That sound familiar? Before you know it, people’s eyes are glazing over and you’re slack-jawed and embarrassed because you realize you have no idea how to describe your story, worse, how to do it succinctly. Some of you know what I mean. Hey, I know I’ve been there.
Whether it’s to hook an agent or editor, knowing how to ‘pitch’ your story is essential. These people are plied with requests at workshops, and at the office they see tons of queries every day. How will they know your book is better than the rest if your ‘elevator pitch’ (a very short description of your work intended to hook an editor/agent) is generic or your query letter is lost amidst the growing pile on their desk? Right now, the market is flooded with books. No one can predict which one will be a success but you can do everything in your power to make sure that your book gets considered to be published and promoted as ‘the next big thing.’
So what is a pitch? In her post on the subject, paranormal author Jami Gold puts it simply: “…they all perform the job of letting an agent or editor ‘speed date’ through many submissions,” and adds, “Pitches aren’t about selling a manuscript. Their sole purpose is to get to the second date—a request.”
Another very helpful ‘how to’ resource on the subject is The Writer’s Toolkit, where authors Penny Grubb and Danuta Reah break down the short pitch (short and focused pitch) into simple steps, focusing on a) the main character, b) his motivation, c) the problem/stakes and d) closing the deal. The point is, in a very few words, you have to convince extremely busy agents/editors that your story is worth sacrificing their precious time. Usually, you only have one shot at this so you must do it right.
Some practical tips?
Even if you never plan on querying, knowing how to ‘break down’ your story into simple yet interesting terms can be helpful in other ways. After writing 60-100K of complex relationships, generational conflict, and numerous characters, trying to identify a story’s basic parts can be hard. Knowing how to think of your story in simpler terms can make the task of writing a synopsis (which you’ll need if an agent asks you to submit your book for consideration) and planning subsequent books, easier. Lastly, be kind to your friends and family. They love you, but ever wonder why the room suddenly goes quiet, even empties, when the subject of ‘the book’ comes up? Good luck!
About Dyane Forde
Dyane Forde’s love of writing began with an early interest in reading and of words in general. She was always amazed at how linking words together in different ways had unexpected and pleasing results on others. This sparked a life-long desire to write all types of things, from short stories, novels, flash fiction, poetry…every story or book represents new joys and challenges. Dyane views writing as an amazing and intimate communication tool, meaning that it becomes a means through which she seeks to connect with others on a level deeper than intellect.
For more information about Dyane and her writing projects, see the following links. Please write! She loves to hear from her readers.
Her writing blog: www.droppedpebbles.wordpress.com
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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