With Pitch Madness fast approaching, I thought now was a good time to go through a little pitch workshop. First off all, I'm going to put together a pitch for you guys. Then, I'm going to ask you to put your pitch in the comments section, and I'm going to critique it for you - say what I think is working, and what isn't.
So let's use my latest WiP as a starting point (and hope that when I send it to my agent, she loves it!!).
Step One - The One Line Hook
It is absolutely vital that you can sum your book up in one line. This is the line that an editor will use to sell your book to the other people in the publishers, and that your sales rep will use to hook a potential bookseller. So don't underestimate the power of a good hook. In fact, many agents and editors have been known to say: "If you have a good hook, then that's half the battle.
A logline is one line that boils down your narrative to its core purpose. So let's break this down - what forms a good hook (aka logline)? Actually, it's pretty simple. A good logline should show CHARACTER, GOAL, CONFLICT. That's it. The clearer and more simple you can make it, the more high concept your work becomes. And high concept sells well. If you can't sum up your work in one sentence, you might want to consider whether it's your logline writing skills or your book itself that needs work. A good site to browse when thinking about loglines is this one: http://www.raindance.org/10-tips-for-writing-loglines/ That should give you some good ideas.
Alright, let me show you my logline for my YA Folklore Mystery (the length of a Pitch Madness pitch):
An isolated teen's brother washes up dead on the shore of their tiny island, but when she investigates the murder, it seems more than one person on the island is determined she doesn't solve it.
So we have a character (the teen), the goal (to solve the murder) and the conflict (people on the island stopping her from solving it). Simples. Now, you try.
Step Two - The Pitch
It is very important you don't move onto this until you have written the logline. Don't be lazy. I'm serious. The logline is ridiculously important. If you don't have that, then you will have a weak, unfocused plot. You only have one chance at this. You want the agent to understand the story completely. Remember, they don't know your story like you. So it's your job to get your information across as CLEARLY as possible. That's really important too. To be CLEAR. Soooo many new writers have fancy, wordy, beautiful sentences in their pitch and it has no clarity so the agents pass. If you need to forsake stylistic flourishes for clarity. If you can add some style whilst still being clear, then of course do. In addition, do not be mysterious in your pitch. Don't be obtuse. Your story has mystery naturally by having a character, a goal and a conflict. No need to be confusing.
This is where you are going to take your logline and work it into a full pitch (for a query). In a pitch you can add details - your character name, what makes your story unique, setting, etc.
Okay, so following that theory, here's mine:
Sixteen year old Lucy’s brother washes up dead on the shore of their Scottish island. The islanders say he broke the curse of the mythical selkies, bringing their wrath. Others say he ran off with a fabled kelpie woman and drowned. And whispers about underhand dealings leading to his death drift around the harbour, ship to ship. Determined to get to the bottom of it, Lucy decides to find out what really happened the night he died – accident, murder, or legend come to life. But the more she delves into it, the more she realises that not everyone wants her to find out the truth.
This is the pitch I will send my agent. In addition to achieving what the logline achieved, it also tells her about the character (Lucy, teenager, determined, investigative), the setting (a Scottish island), and the unique angle (a blend of myths, legends and folklore).
So there you have it! I hope this helps, and I look forward to seeing your pitches in the comments below!