Winning Pitch

This year, it’s my goal to pitch and query my novel to literary agents. This is a skill I’m still developing, so I’ve been reflecting on my notes from previous writing workshops to help me craft the best kind. I thought I’d share some with you today.

Back in 2020, one of the classes I took at a writing workshop focused on pitching. When you pitch your novel, you’re trying to get someone (literary agents, editor, publisher) interested in it. Pitching is super stressful. You need to sum up however long your novel is (in my case 100,000 words), in a few short sentences. It needs to be enticing. You can throw out a quick summary, but if it isn’t engaging, whoever your pitching to isn’t going to swing.

According to the workshop I attended, you want the focus on your pitch to be on your main character. What are their goals? Intentions? Wants or desires? When you think about it, readers are going to be spending hours with your main character when they read your book. So, why should they want to?

For elevator pitches–pitches short enough to entice someone on an elevator ride–you don’t want to waste time on character names. Instead, you should focus on description:
“Girl wanting to be seen as herself…”
“Princess desiring peace…”
“A peasant’s son hoping to be someone…”

With the desire of your main character in place, focus on description. More adjectives add to setting, character, genre, and plot. You need to be judicious. Be specific and as unique as possible without using words from story that people won’t understand. By that, I mean anything in your world that you would have to explain to someone. If you made up a race of people called Vamato, you don’t have time in your elevator pitch to explain that the Vamato are vampire tomatoes with green skin. With descriptions, your pitch evolves:
“The daughter of a wealthy scientist wants to be seen as herself…”
“A crippled princess desiring world peace…”
“The son of an alchemist wants to prove to his father he isn’t useless…”

Then, you want to introduce your main conflict. Who’s the antagonist or the antagonistic situation? How are they keeping your main character from achieving their dream?
“Daughter of a wealthy scientist wants to be seen as herself, but she dies and her spirit is engineered by a techno-cult as a living host.”
“A crippled princess desiring world peace must face a prince of an invading country in one on one combat.”
“The son of an alchemist wants to prove to his father he isn’t useless. He joins the King’s Army, and gets his chance when tasked to find an ancient legend.”

Next is the plot synopsis. What makes your story unique? Show the world its set in.
“Daughter of the scientist meets polar opposite, key to immortality.”
“Crippled princess from an underground colony.”
“An alchemist’s son is tasked to uncover an ancient legend that may not exist.”

The most important thing you can put in your pitch is the emotional hook. Why should the reader be interested in your main character?
“Daughter of a scientist dies trying to get her father’s attention…”
“Crippled princess must face childhood love in combat…”
“Son of an alchemist loses his best friend in their dreams to prove their worth…”

Finally, you need your stakes. What will happen if your main character DOESN’T get what they want?
“If the daughter is captured, cult will make an army of shifters capable of taking over everyone.”
“Crippled princess’s people will rot in the sun.”
“Alchemist’s son must race against monsters to find an ancient legend else the kingdom will fall under Darkness.”

Good thing to remember is that tension and urgency keep people reading. Whenever you’re pitching in person, you want to talk about your book like you were talking to your friend. You LOVE your book. Tell the person why so they can love it too.

There is an easy way out with pitching if you can’t decide the best way to pitch your story and you find yourself in an spur the moment pitch session. You can always use this formula:

“When [inciting incident] occurs, [main character] must [objective] or else [stakes].”

Now, I have to be honest. The first two of the examples I used when going through the pitching elements were taken directly from the Writing Workshop I attended. The third was me experimenting pitching with my novel. As you can see, it’s not as exciting as the other two. When you throw it all together, this is what you get:

“The son of an alchemist wants to prove to his father he isn’t useless. He joins the King’s Army, and gets his chance when tasked to find an ancient legend that may or may not exist. With a dark mage hunting for it as well, the alchemist’s son must get it first or Darkness will corrupt hate and fear throughout the kingdom.”

Not bad, in my opinion, but it could be better. I’ll keep researching pitching and querying and share my findings with you guys. That way, we can grow in this skill together.

I wish I could tell you who gave the class at this writing workshop from 2020, but I didn’t write down their name. For information on how to sign up for upcoming Writing Day Workshops (both online and in person), follow this link: Writing Day Workshops.

Published by Nikki

I am an aspiring author with one novel written and ready for representation and many in the works.

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