Making it Easier: Pitching Tips
Updated: Oct 4, 2019
There's lots of pitching advice out there. I mean, a metric ton. (Not to be confused with the imperial ton, of course. LOL!) And I'm not purporting to have the end-all of advice, always use what works best for you. But thing is, when pitch readers (agents, publishers, editors, etc.) read a pitch, they are generally looking for four things.
CHARACTER. PLOT. CONFLICT. STAKES/CONSEQUENCES.
And the easiest way to write a pitch is to simply think: Character wants something. If character gets it/doesn’t get it, then this happens. If this happens, this is the stake/consequence.
Always ask at the end of a pitch, “What is the consequence?” If a pitch doesn’t answer that question, then the stakes haven’t been identified, and there likely isn't enough conflict in the pitch.
Of course, I've seen some good pitches deviate from this formula, but you have to know when and how that pitch works in order to do that. Sticking to the basics of CHARACTER, PLOT, CONFLICT, and STAKES/CONSEQUENCES is nearly always the best bet.
Some common problems that I see in pitching beyond leaving out one of the four main elements:
The best advice I ever got: LISTS DO NOT A PITCH MAKE. It was in the 140-twitter days, and someone left me ONLY that during a pitch practice. It took me months to figure out what it meant. But after struggling with several listicle pitches that sucked, I figured something out: You need to have more than a list of interesting nouns to create a solid pitch. You need STAKES. You need CONFLICT. You need CHARACTER and PLOT. (There are those four elements again!) Pitches have to do a helluva lot of stuff to interest your audience, and a list can’t do that.
When you write pitches, remember to keep them legible. Readable is all the rage! You’re setting yourself up to be skipped if you over-format or use alternative text. (Unless alternative text is in your book, then find a way to justify it. That could be very interesting!)
Don’t use emojis. Whether you’re trying to make it stand out or pretty it up, a “cute” pitch is NOT one people can read. Same goes for excessive spacing. Here and there is okay if it helps legibility and emphasis.
(You know. Like I just did.)
Also, leave your manuscript's title and word count out. That’s what queries are for. Your twitter character count should go towards more important specifics about your book.
As always, unless the rules say you can, NO PICTURES OR ART. It muddies the feed and pulls attention. Pitch readers (agents, publishers, editors, etc.) don't want to wade through long posts of inspirational art or "ideal castings" or drawings of characters or any other cool thing that you've had done for your book. You can show them that stuff when you have the phone call. For now: FOLLOW THE RULES!
TOO BIG COMPS
As for comp-style pitches, make sure comps are up-to-date. I would say nothing under 5 years old, and even then, people will fight me and say they need to be newer than that. (But let’s face it, sometimes even 5 years is hard.)
Don't pick comps off of a “big sellers” list or even anything overused like Harry Potter, Firefly, Star Wars and other really big names. (Also, TV and movies are fair game, use them with a great book for an interesting comp pairing.)
Instead of big name comps, pick something that's reminiscent of them. Chances are they’ll be good comps to a given manuscript for the same reasons the big ones were, not to mention, they’ll likely be much more creative and interesting than something overused and over-reaching.
Don't. Readers want info, not info to be withheld. They'll find themselves asking whether they care and lose interest in everything you've said. It disconnects them from your pitch. DON'T USE RHETORICAL QUESTIONS.
#POC Author is a Person of Color
#OWN Own Voices
#MH Mental Health
This list is vastly important to those who identify and use these traits to identify their Main Characters. I also see some people who don't understand how to use them, or use them without care to the communities they represent. Make sure that you've researched the appropriateness of each of these tags if you decide that you are going to use one, ask questions of your fellow authors if you are unsure. There are people out there who know the nuances of these identifying hashtags better than I, especially since some of the tags may accidentally out those who are still uncomfortable sharing their diversities openly. But it still doesn't negate the fact that these are important to know and use if appropriate to your book, situation, and/or background as many pitch readers (agents, publishers, editors, etc.) are looking for diverse voices and these are easy ways to identify not only your Main Character's diversities, but your own. USE WISELY!
That is the extent of my advice. But, really, pitches are best when you make them your own. Whether it’s a scene, relationship, or the poetry of prose, use what’s special in your book and make a pitch with that. Pitches are helpful tools that will also help you understand the core of your book if done properly.
***And the requisite disclaimer that all writing advice is just advice and never to be taken as the end-all of techniques. This is just one of many ways to write a pitches, and shouldn't be taken as the one-and-only way.***