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Don’t Strike Out on Your Pitch

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If I was completely honest, I’ve been afraid of the pitch since my first conference. Before that I never heard of it. I learned that attendees paid to have 5-10 minutes with an agent, yet after I still didn’t really get it.

I figured if an agent or editor read my work and they liked it, then that’s all I needed. I cheered for agents that allowed a sample chapter and dreaded the agents that wouldn’t even allow sample pages (I usually dodged them). But a good manuscript isn’t enough, that query, specifically the pitch is important, and probably at least part of the reason I didn’t get a lot of requests.

So what is a pitch?

When I first began to ask around, I heard such things as “pretend you’re in the elevator and have until the next stop to get the agent to ask for your manuscript.” Oh that’s it, sell all 80,000 words in a sentence or two. Then I heard from some it should be a comparison between popular books or movies, set up as _____ meets _____. I read a lot, but I couldn’t think of the perfect comparison (Check out this for comparisons: http://www.rachellegardner.com/finding-comparable-books/ ). Then of course my queries were falling flat. I was frustrated.

One favorite website, www.kidlit411.com had a link to an article called The Art of Pitching: A Story in a Sentence by Lynda Pflueger (http://www.amazon.com/Get-Literary-Agent-Complete-Representation/dp/1599638010). She wrote that pitch is “a carefully crafted, short, verbal statement that will make an editor or agent want to know more. It should be concise and compelling. Its purpose is to intrigue and inform. Think of it as a type of advertisement.”

As writers we need to advertise ourselves because with 150 queries a week, why will an agent read my sample pages over another? The pitch makes a difference. The pitch shows marketability. An agent/editor looks for it in your query and asks about it at a conference. It’s worth making time to practice and perfect pitch.

Fortunately, I stumbled across more help when I found a blog post on Kidlit.com (http://kidlit.com/2014/06/02/secrets-to-a-good-logline/ ), called Secrets to a Good Logline and purchased Get a Literary Agent by Chuch Sambuchino (http://www.amazon.com/Get-Literary-Agent-Complete-Representation/dp/1599638010 ). I learned some dos and some don’ts. Do be specific and do aim to elicit emotion. Don’t reveal the ending and don’t go into the subplots or unnecessary details. I also learned I could do a one sentence seller without going down the “meets” road.

A one liner can be done and then followed by more detail after you have the listener’s attention. The sentence should elicit emotion and connect the character to the reader. This means one should be specific as to who the main character is and their main struggle. Remember our human connection with our readers is emotion. If the reader feels the struggle, they are connected. Plus there is the added benefit of its not just some girl, it’s Katniss Everdeen. I suggest a list or a venn diagram of sorts to get the brain juices pumping.

The other portion of the sentence should connect the plot to its appropriate market. The agent needs to know what kind of world it is, the genre, and who would be interested in this book. If your line tends to focus more on the character connection aspect, then it’s more likely a character-driven book and if more focus is on the plot/world then it’s probably plot-driven. A sentence can provide a lot of useful information.

An example from John Green’s Abundance of Katherines:

“Having been recently dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, recent high school graduate and former child prodigy Colin sets off on a road trip with his best friend to try to find some new direction in his life.”

Ugh, we all know it sucks to be dumped, instant connection. Seriously, by 19 Katherines? That’s weirdly interesting. It’s a road trip with a best friend, okay, I see this as a contemporary.

Knowing what I know now, I feel more confident about my own pitches, and I wish you luck with your own.

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