Monday, June 18, 2012

Pitch Perfect

It's conference season again, and for those of you going to meet, greet, and impress agents and editors so that they ask you to send them a partial, or better yet, the FULL manuscript, here are some tips on how to pitch that have been in the blogosphere lately:

Agent Rachel Gardner consistently offers excellent advice on all topics related to getting an agent and publisher. Here's a short paraphrase of what she recently said on her blog. 

  • Don't pitch the emotional theme of your story so much as the actual journey, which is the plot. The plot will illustrate the emotional progression of the characters. 
  • Include these things: 1) who the protagonist is, 2) the choice or goal of the protagonist, 3) what the consequences are of the choice, or what the obstacles are to the goal, and 4) what actions the protagonist takes to make the choice or try to reach the goal.

Go here to see Rachel's blog post for more detail.

Then I came across this enlightening information from Lynn Price of Behler Publications: a small press in California. Five important pitch/query problems they see at their publishing operation are:

  • Title Disparity: does your title make sense? The agent/editor listening to you will develop expectations based on your first pitch sentence, which includes the title.
  • Focusing on the wrong things. This one is a lot like Rachel Gardner's point about the problem of pitching the emotional theme instead of the actual story. Price illustrates it differently, using the idea of the importance of focusing on the guts of the story rather than its foundation.
  • Theme Misfire. It's important that the sentences following the first one in your pitch/query actually support and illustrate the first sentence. (This is assuming the first sentence is the hook or theme, which it should be). Many people state the theme/hook, but then veer away from it in the rest of the pitch.
  • Knowing who your readers are. This is more often a problem in non-fiction than fiction, but either way, your pitch, while not directly stating who the audience is, should make it clear to the agent/editor who the audience is.
  • Not having a message. She is not saying you should state the message of your book, but that the agent or editor should be able to extrapolate a message from your pitch. To do that, you have to show (not tell) why the story is poignant.

Go here for the full post with discussion.

Are you pitching to agents or editors any time soon? Querying? What have you found works best for you?


  1. Linda, I love this. And, even if you're not pitching to agents, people will always ask what your book is about. Know the audience and share the story with "that" audience.

    For example, my book is an aviation thriller, but a strong female theme. If a commercial pilot asks me, I give them the current aviation theme pitch. If a non-commercial but loves airplanes, I give them the taking them inside the cockpit pitch. If it's a woman... okay, I'm all over the female connection.

    Knowing how to pitch your book is essential, inside and outside the conference. I'm still working on mine. :)

    1. Right you are, Karlene. Knowing how to pitch is essential, and it's where so many writers mess up because their heads are full of non-pitch details. Love the way you parse yours!

  2. These are some great points. Wish I could have read this when I first started writing and querying!

  3. True, Lydia, our pitches can almost always get better. But you must have done something right! :)

  4. Thankfully, I'm done with all that jazz for now. But, I may be pitching for movie rights so this is great advice. Rachel is a fantastic resource. Excellent post!

    1. Yay, movie rights. That would be outstanding, Heather.