Of Writers and Prose: Constructing the dreaded novel pitch.
April 13, 2015 Leave a comment
It’s become a staple of writing. Like the query blurb, a pitch for your novel has become an essential and needed tool for a story. Whether it’s a pitch to an agent, for a contest or for promotion, authors need those creative sentences to help sell their novel. They’re also great when someone asks you what your novel is about. No stumbling over the right words to make your novel sound interesting; just repeat your pitch and you’re done!
There are two kinds of pitches, the short and the long. The long pitch is more for face-to-face agent/publisher meetings and normally are about 2-3 minutes long. Great for cornering the unsuspecting agent in an elevator. This isn’t a lot of time so a well-rehearsed pitch will help you get your book details out and hopefully intrigue the perspective victim agent. The short pitch has become very popular in the last few years mainly due to Twitter, and is another effective tool for promoting your book.
The most important thing (and the most difficult) is getting your plot across in the fewest words possible. If you dislike writing synopsis or a query blurb, you’re going to HATE this. I’ll admit, it’s a pain in the ass and it’s not meant to be a cake walk, but it can be done. Think of it as an exercise in creative writing. I do. It keeps me from throwing my computer against the wall and I’d like to pass on to you some things I things I’ve learned.
- Have fun. Seriously. If you start thinking this is a chore or dread having to write them, it’s not going to make the task any easier or help your creative juices to flow. Might just do the opposite. It’s all about the mindset, folks.
- Have an idea of how you want it to sound. Understand that like a query blurb, a pitch has to have structure as well. You must include the protagonist’s name, the situation he/she is in, and something related to the plot. Something catchy so the reader will remember.
- Remember there are different lengths for different agendas. For a Twitter pitch you only have 140 characters – that INCLUDES spaces, and you have to put in hashtags. A contest might have a word limit, so it’s best to have several pitches of different lengths. For an agent pitch, it can be several sentences or a small paragraph, which gives you a little more room to play with it.
Example Pitches for THE POSSESSION OF MERCY MOREAU (my Gothic novel)
Twitter pitch (140 characters)
Mercy has 3 men in her life; 1 wants to love her, 1 wants to use her, 1 wants her dead. Gothic mystery about love, lust & revenge. #PitchMAS (exactly 140 characters)
The Possession of Mercy Moreau – Gothic mystery about love, lust and revenge. (12 words)
- Don’t try to squeeze the word count down right away. Work with it first. Play with it. Understand what you want to say and begin there. Go through the synopsis of your story (you should have one of these ready too) and pick out a few key moments. If the first pitch you write is almost a paragraph long, fine. It’s not the finished product. Like everything about your novel, the first few run-throughs are a work-in-progress. Don’t be afraid to put it away for a bit either. Sometimes not looking at a creative piece and coming back later helps to clear the mind and focus on what has to be done.
- Once you have a few pitches written, look them over. Does your pitch portray an intriguing picture? Does it clearly describe genre and your intended market? Are you within the allotted time frame/word count? If you have a query hook that’s good, try working that into a pitch.
- Ask another writing friend to look over your pitches. A second pair of eyes is always a good thing.
Lastly, don’t stress yourself out. I know, easier said than done, but I mean it. Writing is supposed to be a fun thing. Don’t let yourself take it to places that makes it a chore.