The Perfect Pitch

If you’ve been in the query trenches before, or if you’re about to jump in, you probably know that there a few ways to get your manuscript in front of agents and editors. One way is classic querying. You research agents and editors, pick the ones that best fit your manuscript, and tailor your query to them. Then you send your query into their slush pile with hundreds of others. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fine way to query. Many authors have found their agents and editors this way. But in this day and age, with social media, there are other ways to get your manuscript in front of agents and editors.

The writing community on Twitter has come together to offer querying writers amazing new ways to pitch to agents. Many published authors have created contests to help writers get their work noticed. Brenda Drake is one such author. She has created multiple Twitter contests, the schedule for which can be found on her website.

Many of her contests require the entering writer to write a pitch for their manuscripts. During #Pitmad, querying writers are able to pitch their manuscript three times on Twitter in the time constraints. Agents and Editors will like the pitches they want to see samples of. That means you have 140 characters, including #pitmad and #(genre).

So how do you take your (insert word count) manuscript and describe it in 140 characters? Also, how do you make it stand out against hundreds of other pitches? The #pitmad feed runs so fast it’s overwhelming. If an agent or editor isn’t instantly drawn in, they’re not going to favorite it.

Every good pitch is made up of four components: The Main Character, The Obstacle, The Reaction, The Stakes.

When [Main Character] encounters [Obstacle], he/she must [Reaction] or else [Stakes.] #MG/YA/A #Pitmad

Okay, that seems simple enough, right? Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard. Let me give you some examples of both good and bad pitches. I’m going to use a plot from a Best Selling novel, so you should be familiar with it.

HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERERS STONE

Bad: An orphan boy learns he’s a wizard and is brought to a school of witchcraft and wizardry to learn magic alongside new friends. #MG #Pitmad

Let’s go through the formula:

Main Character: Orphan Boy. What’s his name?

Obstacle: Is a wizard?

Reaction: Goes to school.

Stakes: There aren’t any.

So from this, it looks like a cute story about magic school. In this day, that is a very common plot. How is it going stand out from anything else? We don’t know what really happens in the book. Let’s try it again, shall we?

 

Good: At magic school, 11yo Harry learns his parents’ murderer is after an eternal elixir. Harry must find it first or he’ll be killed #MG #Pitmad

Let’s go through the formula:

Main Character: Harry (eleven years old)

Obstacle: His parents’ murderer is after an eternal elixir.

Reaction: Harry needs to find it first.

Stakes: His Life

Obviously, I left out a lot. I wanted to use “the dark wizard who killed his parents” but that took up too many characters. I don’t mention the classes or Ron or Hermione. But this is the very base of the book. This is what you want the agents and editors to be interested in.

This does work. I promise you. During the last #pitmad I pitched my new manuscript. Because I used this formula, I received nine favorites. Six of which, I queried. I’m still waiting for responses, but I did have one partial request after the initial submission. This is the pitch I used:

Disguised as a boy, Val joins an enemy ship crew to track down her kidnapped brother before her people declare war. 12th NIGHT #pitmad #YA
Formula Breakdown:
Main Character: Val
Obstacle: Brother has been kidnapped
Reaction: Joins an enemy ship crew as a boy
Stakes: Her people declare war
If you noticed, I also mentioned TWELFTH NIGHT. This is a comparative title. If you have enough space, you can also add comp titles. Usually you want to put two in. X meets Y. My MS is a loose retelling of TWELFTH NIGHT, which is why I just used the one.

The next pitch contest is coming up, so get those pitches ready! You can always practice them with your critique partners or in the comments underneath.
Good Luck!!
Related Posts on Writers’ Rumpus:
Agents: Another Way In by Joyce Audy Zarins

10 comments

  1. This is amazing! I love that you took the time to let us know about other ways to get agents to notice us! And what a great formula! I’m already practicing! In addition, thank you for providing an example that is easily understood of a good and bad pitch. This was an amazingly helpful post.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s