Thursday, October 28, 2010

Oh Pitching!

Imagine that you’ve written the most splendid novel. You’re characters are compelling and your plot tense and tight. You’ve edited and re-edited--your story glows. Now what?
It doesn’t matter how stunning your story is, it won’t go anywhere if you don’t learn how to pitch it.
What is a novel pitch?
Pitching is the process in which your awesome story idea moves from your brain to someone else’s. It can be used for recruiting alpha readers—getting them excited to read your book. Or it to an editor to convince them your novel is publishable. Or even to promoting your novel after you’re published. (Note: whatever step you’re at for pitching there maybe be a slight different way to do it. Pitching for an editor might mean you disclose upfront all plot conclusions, where as you wouldn’t want to ruin the end when promoting to someone after you’re published.) Novel pitching is sort of like transferring a document from one computer to another, but unfortunately for us, people do not come equipped with usb ports for jump drives. Whether it’s written or verbal, you have to communicate your pitch effectively.
Here’s an example: I like to bake cookies and some of my cookies I have to say are pretty delicious. I’ll “pitch” my cookies to you—which one would you rather eat?
1. I make these amazing cookies. They’re easy to make and only bake for eight minutes. They are chocolate and mint and quite popular. Want one?
2. I have this amazing recipe for cookies. It takes devil’s food cake mix so they’re rich and chocolaty. When they are fresh from the oven, I put an Andies mint on the top so that it melts and drizzles over the sides. When their still warm, they are gooey—you know the kind where you have to lick it as it drips down the side of your hand. They’re excellent the next day too—that is, if there is any left the next day.
Which would you prefer?
They’re the same cookies—just described differently. But describing mouthwatering cookies, that’s easy. Describing a complex, multi-character, plotted and sub-plotted novel is not.
I’m learning to pitch my novel too. I’d say practice practice practice.
Sometimes that can be difficult. Especially if your novel is in the working process and not ready to be pitched. i.e.: Halfway through explaining to your best friend your idea of a book where people are blue and always get whatever they want no matter what, you realize your plot has no conflict.
How can you practice now? Do you have to wait to learn pitching until you have a novel that is ‘ready’?
Here’s an idea I’ve had this week on this matter.
Have you ever had someone describe a book and it makes you want to read it right then? Essentially, they are ‘pitching’ that book to you.
So there in itself is an excellent way to learn pitching. Think about your favorite book. Can you describe it in such a way to make someone want to read it? That is the essence of pitching a novel—communicating in such a way that another person can see how great a story is. It is hitting their have-to-read-it button.
Here’s the plan. I’m starting a contest. It starts today and ends on November 5, 2010. Pitch to me (in the comments) your favorite novel. Whichever pitch makes me want to read it the most wins. The prize? You win the chance to be my first ever official blog guest! (I’m a college student—that’s all I’ve got.) Good luck and happy writing.


  1. I've always had trouble with the "elevator version", so this'll be good practice for me. Here's my pitch for own forthcoming novel, The Rogue Shop:

    Twenty-year-old Chris Kerry flees his Houston home to find his own way in life, away from an alocoholic past and his aunt's strict Baptist views. Utah seems like as good a place as any to escape, and his aunt putting him under oath to stay away from Mormons is no big deal. But within 24 hours he has lost all of his money, has no place to live, and the only job he can find is at a tuxedo shop where they could use a staff psychiatrist. He knows he's in trouble when his best friends become two Mormon girls from Idaho who live in the apartment across the hall. Starting college classes, finding enough to eat, and keeping his co-workers from killing each other is hard enough, but then he falls in love with the wrong girl.

  2. Those cookies sound delish!

    Perfect timing? I just pitched my novel and bloged about what I learned from doing it. Take a look.

  3. Maybe someday I'll pitch!

    Cute blog. I can't believe I hadn't seen it yet, but that situation has been remedied!

  4. Great post, Jessica! You've got us all thinking! (and working!)