A pitch is your story compressed into 25 five words. Or less.
Lorna and Larry Collins have been practicing their pitches for assorted memoirs, short story anthologies, mystery and romance novels for quite some time. In their presentation at the California Writer’s Club they explained that the world of publishing has changed, but the need for a “perfect pitch” has not. Agents, readers and friends want to know what great novel is in the works, and the writer must grab attention in one sentence. While polite friends may enjoy a rambling explanation, today’s socially-media minded readers are too busy for niceties. Agents are even more impatient. They are looking for reasons to triage their monthly work pile from three hundred manuscripts to a single pertinent manuscript.
So, what is a pitch? A pitch is your story compressed into 25 five words. Or less. It is a description of the arc of the story, covering the beginning, middle and end. It should introduce an interesting character and that character should have a goal or a crisis. The setting, place or situation should intrigue your target audience. Examples follow, and note that more detailed information can be found on their website:
- What if four little guys go on a dangerous quest to destroy a stolen ring? (Lord of the Rings)
- What if a matchmaking young woman focuses on her friends but misses her own perfect match, who has been there all along. (Emma)
- A tornado blows Dorothy to Oz, incurring the wrath of a witch. A scarecrow, woodsman, and lion seek a powerful wizard to send her home. (Wizard of Oz)
Consider your pitch successful when it generates follow-up questions. Try it. When people ask for details, you’ll know it’s working. If the response is, “Oh, that’s nice. Wanna get coffee?” you should probably purchase something stronger than a coffee to drown your sorrows (my opinion, not the presenters.) Seriously, go back to the keyboard to make it perfect. The pitch is often an introductory line for the “back book” description which is then expanded. Even if your manuscript is unfinished, having a solid pitch keeps the writer focused on a powerful storyline.