So what is your book about?
This is the question automatically asked whenever a friend or acquaintance finds out you’re working on a manuscript for a novel. And if a writer can’t answer that question to friends, they can’t pitch a book to an agent.
Crafting a pitch is often difficult for writers because it’s another skill set, it’s about marketing which most of us find distasteful. A pitch in the book world is a less than three minute presentation of your book to an agent, editor, or publisher. It’s also something that you, the writer, will use several times, when describing your book to book clubs, speaking groups, and book sellers. How is a pitch different from a query letter? Not much difference. A query is simply a “pitch” on paper.
So as not to stare into space when you are asked the question or to appear dumbfounded, here are some strategies culled from various sources.
One strategy is for the three minute presentation and the other is for a 25 words or less quickie. First the three minute approach:
Verbal pitching is not about beautiful prose or giving the listener a blow by blow description of your plot. It’s about having a conversation that communicates specific information in an exciting way. It is your opportunity to give the listener a quick visual snapshot of your book.The basic information necessary for a pitch is:
Hook,genre, protagonist, premise of plot and communicating why we should care about the story.
“A hook in rhetoric is a rhetorical device that gets the attention of the audience and makes them want to listen to the rest of the speech. Hooks can often be metaphors, playing on emotional appeal, and they can also be a series of intriguing questions, a statistic, a fact, or any other rhetorical device that captures a listener’s attention. (Wikipedia).
Genre: thriller, mystery, women’s contemporary, Christian fiction…
Who is your protagonist: human, gender, age, ethnicity, unique characteristics.
What is the plot/quest: a one line summary, i.e. A female editor blackmails her male assistant into a faux engagement to prevent her deportation. (The Proposal).
Who is the hero/heroine and what is his/her quest?
Boil down your story or non-fiction proposal to 1-3 sentences. We’re talking about normal length sentences, not oodles of noodles sentences with twenty commas. Keep re-writing these sentences until they articulate what you are trying to convey.
When you convey the information, remember to use the appropriate ‘pitch protocol,” in other words good manners. Don’t pitch a story when the agent is in the bathroom or while he/she is eating. I’ve seen it. Remember to modulate your tone, use pauses, a clear voice, and be professional. When you finish ‘pitching’ close your mouth and open up your ears to listen for feedback. For more information visit www.pitch-university.com
The other strategy is similar but more concise. You must be able to sum up your major plot line in 25 words or less.
This strategy utilizes two questions to develop your pitch. “What if…and So What?”
It must be 25 words, or less—the best tend to be 17 words.
It must convey the major conflict (plotline) of the story.
It must reveal the protagonist.
It must answer the question, “So What?” Tell us why we should care, and why we should be compelled to read the story.
You will also use your pitch in the following situations:
Your agent will use it when trying to sell your book to an editor.
The editor will use it when explaining your book to the sales/marketing team.
The sales/marketing team will use it to sell your book into the stores.
You will use your pitch again and again, when your sitting at a book signing and when someone asks you what your book is about.
Here are a few examples:
What if a cyborg is sent back through time to kill the mother of the future savior of mankind? “Terminator” 19 words
What if a cowboy stumbles on a drug deal gone bad, takes the money, only to find that he’s being hunted by a relentless killer? “No Country For Old Men”
-by Cormac Macarthy 25 words
What if a young girl risks her soul to love a vampire boyfriend? “Twilight”
-by Stephanie Meyer 13 words
You can find more information from Jon Land atwww.thrillerfest.com/craftfest/pitch-tips/ I think answering the “What if” and “So What?” generates the specific information needed to make the pitch, however I wouldn’t pitch to an agent with a question.
And ‘What if’ you don’t like any of the above ideas? Well, there’s an app for that. The “Pitch Your Book” teaches a three step plug-and-play formula anyone can use to present their book to an editor or agent, taught in a step-by-step manner with lots of examples, for $3.99 http://www.studybyapp.com
I’ve written three pitches for my novel that I keep in the memo section of my cell phone. I look at it from time to time, but haven’t memorized it, probably because I know it’s not ‘right’ yet. My next goal, within the next thirty days, is to take those three summaries and use the information here to refine the pitch. Then I think I’ll take the plunge and try it out on this blog for feedback.