Tales in Publishing: The Dreaded Pitch

Tales in Publishing: 
The Dreaded Pitch

When you talk to authors, it seems like there's something they dread most: writing any kind of synopsis. A synopsis is difficult. How do you condense an entire book into a paragraph effectively? The thing they seem to hate as much as synopsis crafting is the pitch. If you think condensing a full-length book to a paragraph is hard, trying condensing it down to a sentence.
What is a pitch? In writing, an elevator pitch is a very short blurb, usually a sentence or two that answers an important question: what is your book about? It must capture the premise, give us a feel for the novel such as main characters, point of view, genre--whatever the most important and obvious selling point of the novel hinges on. The pitch is intended to sell your book in a very short span. They can be used at conferences where agents will give you one minute to sell them your book, the beginning of query letters as a hook to get the agent reading, on online pitch days where agents favorite pitches to ask for queries, or in the advertising for the book.

Writing a sentence sounds easy, but when asked the infamous "What is your book about?" question, usually a writer needs a few minutes--a couple paragraphs--merely to give the story justice. It is difficult to cut it down, but here are some tips, followed by a model of a pitch that worked for me (meaning the pitch itself led to a query request, manuscript request, and then representation).
  1. Write the query synopsis before the pitch. Trying to boil down 200 hundred pages to a paragraph is hard, but condensing down a paragraph to a sentence is much easier. I honestly don't have an issue getting the plot down to a sentence if I do it in this order. 
  2. Word choice is everything. I make a limit, such as 40 words or 200 characters. If you plan to use this pitch for a Twitter pitch day, it'll have to be even shorter. First, avoid wordiness; a lot of the time we use too many words to get an idea across that a simple vocabulary word could replace. I spend the most time on this stage. I spend about five minutes a day trying to cut, replace, and pick succinct words. 
  3. Pick enticing, "selling" words, words that make someone want to buy it. This is sometimes hard for writers because we're better at crafting than selling. One way to sell is through hooks, a short provocative statement or question that engages the reader, or some authors compare their book to well known novels.
  4. Do not write it in a day. Come back with fresh eyes each time and repeat the cutting and replacing of words.
  5. Create three of them. Two reasons--practice makes you perfect and you might need three if you get to pitch to someone more than once. How embarrassing would it be if asked to pitch more than once and you simply repeat yourself or scramble around trying to quickly craft another one? Having three will also help because one will end up shining through as the best.
Right, so all good advice, but if you never saw one, what do they look like? Here's one of my pitches.

What happens if bees go extinct? In the not so distant future, scientifically modified Emlyn and Ace find themselves thrown into the role of saviors on a perilous mission where their tenuous relationship could save or destroy mankind.

Certain key things to look at here. The hook is a question that shows the complication of the novel, as well as an eco-fiction genre since the honey bee is endangered. "Not so distant future" shows the relevance of this issue and hints to a dystopian genre--it's a real-world, pressing concern. "Scientifically modified" points out a sci-fi theme and that the characters are different. The rest of that statement gives the premise: because of who they are they can save the world, but also could mess up and kill us all. It hinges on their "tenuous relationship," which shows us another complication and that the book is a romance novel. So in total, I was able to get in the two conflicts, two main characters, a little about the world, and most genres and themes (YA is missing but was elsewhere--in a hashtag or followed after in my query letter). 

I have many more pitch examples and will release them once these books are safely under copyright. But if you are interested in purchasing this novel, you can buy it here.