Pitchin’

(Flickr photo by andres.thor)

The CW gang is writing about “pitching”–spitting out a one-liner about their books to catch the interest of an agent/editor. Sometimes a one-liner is all the author has time to deliver–which is why it’s also called an “elevator” pitch (I caught several agents in the elevator at the last conference, but turned too chicken to pitch. Just batter me up and toss me in the skillet–that’s the least I deserve for letting those opportunities pass!). Other times, the pitch can be a full three lines, which is reserved for conference meals at tables hosted by agents or editors, or the fifteen-minute interviews authors sign up for.

Any way you look at it, pitching is nerve-wracking!

The best result of a pitch is to open the door for a proposal request. Every author’s dream is to have interest in their novel from someone in the industry. But the best benefit is that it focuses your story. If you can’t come up with a one-line summary, perhaps your plot is loose and needs to be tightened a bit. And that’s all you’re summarizing for the pitch–the plot,  not the subplot, theme, or characters (which is why the characters are seldom named in a pitch). The intent is to capture interest and the invitation for more information, not to tell the nuances of the entire story.

In 2008, when Give the Lady a Ride was an ACFW Genesis finalist and I was supposed to go to Minneapolis to attend the conference, a friend and I exchanged phone numbers and called each other out of the blue with the order, “Pitch it!” on our tongues. We practiced so often we were both pretty good at it, but I never got to deliver mine because I didn’t get to go to the conference.

This year, I wasn’t expecting to pitch anything because my 2010 finalist, The Cat Lady’s Secret, isn’t finished yet. When a CW friend said I ought to try anyway  just for the practice, I had to scramble to come up with a pitch. I never did come up with a one-liner.

I had fun at the conference, catching friends off-guard with the order, “Pitch it!” Most of them were able to do so without a hitch, but I caught a few who needed more practice. I discovered most of the authors didn’t have a good, tight one-liner. They tried to fit too much info into one sentence which if written out, would have taken an entire page. But I wasn’t much better. On the rare occasion someone turned the tables on me, I was usually unable to deliver. My tongue rolled to the back of my throat and refused to play.

Now that I’m just writing instead of staring into the face of someone anticipating greatness, I can share my pitches. My one-liner for Ride was:

Give the Lady a Ride — A New York socialite gets a lesson in faith . . . on the back of a bull.

And forCat Lady, my pitch (which isn’t nearly as succinct nor is it one line–oops) is:

The Cat Lady’s Secret–Everywhere she goes, people’s needs are met. But who will discover her identity first, the man she loves or the journalist she dodges?

The longer pitch forCat Lady gives a bit more information:

Flamboyantly dressed in an orange shirt and purple polyester pants, the cat lady walks through town, finding people in need everywhere she goes. Those needs are always met, but what happens to the town’s mysterious benefactor when her anonymity is threatened? And who will discover her identity first, the man she loves or the journalist she dodges?

I’m not sure I like it, and I’ll definitely polish it when it comes down to “the real deal,” but in the meantime it serves its function–it gives you a quick idea of what my book is about.

On the CW blog chain list (links are in the sidebar):

Traci Bonney – Tracings – 10/1
Brian Jones – Alambraidria – 10/5
Victor Travison – Lightwalker’s View – 10/13
Tracy Krauss – Expression Express – 10/16
Suzanne Hartmann – Write at Home – 10/18
Edward Lewis – Sowing the Seeds – 10/20
Sheila Hollinghead – Sheraly – 10/21
Nona King – Word Obsession – 10/24
Liberty Speidel – Word Wanderings – 10/25

About Linda W. Yezak

Author/Freelance Editor/Speaker (writing and editing topics).
This entry was posted in Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Pitchin’

  1. Linda, Thanks for your help with my pitch!

    The Cat Lady’s Secret–Everywhere she goes, people’s needs are met. But who will discover her identity first, the man she loves or the journalist she dodges?

    Hard one–why is she concealing her identity? I think the first sentence would read better as: Everywhere she goes, she meets people’s needs.

    Flamboyantly dressed in an orange shirt and purple polyester pants, the cat lady walks through town, finding people in need everywhere she goes. Those needs are always met, but what happens to the town’s mysterious benefactor when her anonymity is threatened? And who will discover her identity first, the man she loves or the journalist she dodges?

    Suggestions: Dressed in a flaming orange shirt and purple, polyester pants, the cat lady finds those in need and offers help. Yet her true identity remains a mystery. What happens when her anonymity is threatened? And who will be the first to discover who she really is, the man she loves or the journalist she dodges?

    To me, pitches are so, so, so difficult! I don’t know if my suggestions are of any help, but I tried. 🙂

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  2. E G Lewis says:

    Interesting post, Linda. You overlooked several important pitches in a writer’s arsenal: the salad bar pitch where you dress-up your story, and the restroom pitch where…well, on second throught, maybe that’s not such a good idea.
    Peace and Blessings

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  3. K.M. Weiland says:

    Boiling stories down to one line is hard enough, but actually pitching them? Yeah, that pic about sums it up! 😯 BTW, I really like both of yours.

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  4. TraciB says:

    Great post, Linda! I enjoyed reading about your conference experiences and hope to have a few of my own some day. 🙂

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  5. linda yezak says:

    Thanks everyone!
    Sheila, you offered some good advice. Thanks!
    Ed there is a line one doesn’t cross…
    Katie, it is hard! I think it’s worse than a synopsis.
    Traci–I highly recommend it. It’s a tremendous experience!

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  6. Nikole Hahn says:

    From what I read about pitches…the first simple, one liner sounds tighter and I think more what the agent wants to hear.

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  7. Okay, now I’ll have to look at your post and Traci’s this week and see if I can come up with something for all 3 of my books. I think I could even come up with a spec pitch for my Nano project next month, The Wild Green Yonder, while I’m at it.

    You’re right, pitching is nerve-wracking. I wonder how much that fact has affected the number of authors doing the October blog chain.

    ~ VT

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  8. Jess says:

    I love your cat lady pitch… the short one. It makes me want to read the book. Oh but wait… I have read some of it. 🙂

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  9. linda yezak says:

    Nicole–I definitely had more time to develop the first one. It’s two years old!

    Victor–looking forward to your post!

    Jess–it has changed a little since you read it, but it’s still a good story!

    Like

  10. Tracy Krauss says:

    I’m jumping in here a few days late, but better late than never, rigbht? I simply LOVE the pitch for ‘Give the Lady a Ride’! It is short, catchy and definitely pricks the interest. Great info on pitches in general, too. (And you did WHAT?!?! Passed up an opportunity in an elevator with an agent?!?!)

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    • Linda Yezak says:

      Hey, Tracy! Yep, better late than never.

      Awful, isn’t it? I passed Tamela Hancock Murray and Chip MacGregor. It just didn’t dawn on me to talk to them about my books! But since I pitched to Terry Burns (who works with Tamela) and Sandra Bishop (who works with Chip), I guess I had my bases covered.

      Like

  11. Nona King says:

    😀 Good advice, Linda. Thanks. I will need to see about getting a friend to call me up and yell “Pitch it!”, because i definitely need the practice.

    Like

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