You only have one chance to make a first impression and when you’re pitching to an agent or editor, you want to nail it on the first try. But does your pitch pack the right punch? RU’s regular columnist author C.J. Redwine discusses the elements of a successful pitch.
Four Key Elements Every Pitch Needs
When you come face to face with an opportunity to pitch your book, whether in a query letter or in a pitch session, it can feel overwhelming to distill your sprawling 85k novel into a few pithy paragraphs. You want concise, punchy sentences that deliver the essence of your novel. You want specifics that make your idea stand out from the rest. But how do you really know what you should include?
Today, I’m going to give you the four key elements every pitch must include. Work to address these with brevity, specifics, and powerful sentences, and you’ll have a pitch that will make people sit up and pay attention.
1. Who is your main character?
You need more than just a name here. You need to give us what makes this character tick. A word or two that defines this character. Show us background and personality without taking three sentences to tell us these things. For example, I could say “Sarah Hightower is a high school senior and is really smart. She’s very driven. She is in cheerleading and is popular, too. But she has a secret that no one can know about or it could kill her.” OR I could say “Sarah Hightower—cheerleader, valedictorian, and prom queen—has a secret that could kill her.” Less words, more power, same message.
2. What does he/she want?
Give us a sentence or two detailing your character’s main agenda. Maybe she wants to solve the mystery of her mother’s murder. Or he wants to bury himself in the task of building his company and forget his ex ever existed. Whatever it is, right after you introduce the character, tell us what his or her main goal is.
3. What stands in his/her way?
Conflict happens in a novel when something stops the character from achieving his agenda. What stands between your character and his goal? Give us a quick paragraph showing us what has derailed your character’s agenda.
4. What happens if he/she fails?
This is crucial. This is where your pitch leaves a potential reader breathless with anticipation, just itching to get her hands on your story. You’ve introduced your character, told us what she wants, given us the huge thing that stands in her way, and now you’re going to tie it all up for us. Tell us what your character must do to still achieve her goal and what awful thing happens if she fails. Don’t hold back here. If you write out what happens if she fails and it sounds weak, trust your instincts and go back to the drawing board for some hard nose revisions. Your conflict has to matter. For your conflict to matter, the stakes have to be nearly impossible for your character to overcome.
There you go! The four key elements every successful pitch must have. And because I recently saw the Hunger Games twice, I’m compelled to finish this article with “Happy querying, and may the odds be ever in your favor.”
Have you pitched to an agent/editor before? Does your book pitch contain the any of the four elements in C.J.’s outline?
Tomorrow, April 3rd, RU co-founder Tracey Devlyn unveils her debut novel A LADY’S REVENGE! We hope you’ll join us!
Bio: C.J. Redwine is an author of young adult novels and an experienced teacher. After teaching high school for several years, she turned her love of using innovative teaching strategies to the publishing field and began creating materials designed to equip writers with the skills necessary to succeed. Her book QUERY: How to get started, get noticed, and get signed is available now for Kindle and Nook. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, four kids, two cats, and one long-suffering dog. To learn more about C.J., visit her website: http://cjredwine.blogspot.com.
- 10 Ways to Create Vivid, Compelling Characters, by C.J. Redwine
- Entranced Publishing’s Executive Editor, Ashley Christman, is taking pitches and offering feedback
- CTW: Pitching Strikes
- Pitch University’s Pitchfest June 19th – June 25th