Posted On April 2, 2012 by Print This Post

Four Key Elements Every Pitch Needs

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.” 

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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!

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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.

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11 Responses to “Four Key Elements Every Pitch Needs”

  1. Great tips, C.J.! As always, thanks for sharing your knowledge with our readers.

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | April 2, 2012, 4:44 am
  2. Hi CJ,

    My writers’ group had I pitch session. One point brought up was to present as a reader, not just the writer. Be able to answer all the questions you raised with an objective eye.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | April 2, 2012, 5:45 am
  3. Thanks for the great tips C.J. I’m working on the proposal for my next book and realized this article makes for a nice checklist.

    Happy Monday!

    Posted by AdrienneGiordano | April 2, 2012, 7:54 am
  4. Morning C.J.!

    Great list – definitely something I’ll look up next time I pitch – thanks! =)

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | April 2, 2012, 8:15 am
  5. Thanks, C.J.! I need to play with my query – this will help a lot!

    Posted by Becke Davis (Becke Martin) | April 2, 2012, 8:40 am
  6. Wonderful tips CJ.

    I have to ‘pitch’ my story at a debut authors breakfast and was struggling with what to say. These tips will help focus it!

    Posted by Cathy Perkins | April 2, 2012, 2:34 pm
  7. CJ,

    Not only are these elements right on the mark, your examples are concise and easy to understand.

    If the conflict includes the antagonist, how much about that character should be included in the pitch?

    Thanks again!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | April 2, 2012, 3:49 pm
  8. Really great tips. I am bookmarking this page. Thanks so much for sharing. :)

    Posted by Mercy | April 2, 2012, 6:52 pm
  9. Oh – I love this post! The EDJ kept from getting here earlier but this was exactly what I needed for a pitch later this month.

    The four elements really made it clear. After seeing this flow, I think I rambled before and it was only luck that got me a request! ; )

    Posted by Robin Covington | April 2, 2012, 6:54 pm
  10. When I clicked on the site, I thought pitch meant approaching a magazine with an article idea–I’m a non-fiction writer. Interestingly enough, with a few tweaks, it works for that as well! Thanks for giving us the heart of the pitch!

    Posted by QuinnCreative | April 16, 2012, 7:27 am

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