Janet Sumner Johnson
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Pitch Madness! and Giving Back

Mar

10, 2014 |

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A year-and-a-half ago on a whim, I entered a little contest (under exaggeration there) called Pitch Madness. Amazingly I got in and had all kinds of interest, all of which led to an offer of representation! Woo hoo!!

Brenda Drake is one of the most giving authors I’ve ever encountered, and I owe her a lot, so today I want to do some giving back of my own. If you haven’t heard, Pitch Madness is open for entries TODAY! Right up until 11:59 EDT. All entries time-stamped before that time will be considered (no cut-offs!). You can find more information HERE. But seriously, if you are seeking an agent, you should enter. Really.

Now, I am not claiming to be an expert, but I have had a lot of success with my past pitches, SO . . . as a way to give back, from now until 4:00 PM EDT (of Monday, March 10th), I am offering to critiquing/helping with anyone’s pitch who wants help.

Simply send an e-mail to rjljohnson (dot) janet (at) gmail (dot) com with PITCH CRIT in the subject line, and the pitch you want critiqued in the body (remember, the pitches can only be 35 words). Feel free to ask any specific questions there, too. I will respond in the order they’re received.

Please spread the word, and wishing all the Pitch Madness entrants the best of luck!

Speak up:

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Pitches: A Reader’s View

Feb

25, 2013 |

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Today I come to you with my WriteOnCon Pitch Fest Blogger Cap.

If you head over to WriteOnCon’s blog, you will find all sorts of posts from various agents giving advice on writing a pitch. AND, if you go to the WriteOnCon Forum (open until March 10), you can get your pitch critiqued.

So, about pitches. Sometimes, I think we forget their purpose. We think it’s supposed to tell people what happens in our book.

Wait . . . what? Isn’t it? I can hear the questions already.

The real purpose of a pitch is to entice readers to read more.

The irony of it all is this: As a person writing a pitch, it’s easy to forget that. As a person reading a pitch, that’s all you think about.

So let’s pretend: You walk into a bookstore unsure of what to buy. So what do you do? You read back cover copy (and maybe a line or two of the beginning) until something grabs you.

First book you grab: The Hero’s Guide to Saving your Kindgom

This could be good, you think, so you flip it over:

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan.
Prince Gustav. You’ve never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who
saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and
yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only
as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change.

Rejected by their
princesses and cast out of their castles, the princes stumble upon an evil plot
that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it’s up to them to triumph over
their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and
other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could
be.


Obviously, every person will have their own reaction to this pitch here is mine, Twitter style (just because):

And of course, what do I do? I buy the book (yes, I bought this one in real life, not just our pretend adventure).

So how might this help you?

First, realize that pitches are subjective. Not everyone likes the same things. I happen to love fairytales, and this pitch is absolutely aimed at people who like fairytales. If you have an intended audience, make sure they know this is for them.

Second, voice. It didn’t take much to set the tone, but “lousy bards” told me this would be a voice I’d appreciate. Work the voice from your book into your pitch.

Third, hook. This particular book plays off the fact that all of the princes in fairytales seem to be named Charming. Absolutely something I have laughed at for years. That is the line that sold me on this book. What is the hook of your book? What about it will make others connect to your story and want to read more?

Writing a pitch is not easy. The pitch I shared is a mere 112 words, and I guarantee those are some labor-intensive words. But try to look at it as a reader:

What in a pitch makes you go, “Ooh! I want to read that book!!”?

Best of luck to all you pitch writers!

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The Pitch

Sep

20, 2010 |

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Back in June, I entered the pitch for my book in a contest and won. I was shocked and elated!

The thing is, when I saw the contest, I wasn’t going to enter. I looked at the agent’s bio, and didn’t think she was interested in fairy tales. But my husband, being the wise man he is, asked, “Well what harm is done if you enter and don’t win?”

So I pulled out my pitch, which I’d edited and revised and played with after reading Elana’s blog:

“With his country at war, Prince Bob, Prince Charming’s failure of a little brother, is desperate to prove himself and finally escape his brother’s shadow.”

I was about to post it, but that nagging little voice in the back of my head made me doubt. I’d read Nathan Bransford’s blog on pitching and came up with this:

“When war breaks out and Prince Bob is demoted from his captain’s post, he prevents a mutiny, stops a traitor, and leads the army to victory to save the kingdom.”

But to me, it felt flat. So I pulled out the one I’d gotten some good feedback on it at Seekerville:

“Prince Charming’s little brother must overcome a mutiny, a traitor, and his own ineptitude to prevent the downfall of his kingdom.”

And while I liked it better, I still doubted. See, a few months back, I read through some winning pitches on QueryTracker.net, and one of them read something like this: A post-apocalyptic glee club.

It says nothing about the plot. ‘So how could it win?’ I asked myself. Then came the lightbulb.

A pitch is one sentence. How can you really tell someone about the plot in so few words? But see, a pitch isn’t meant to tell the whole plot. That’s what a synopsis is for. A pitch is meant to capture someone’s interest. Make them want to read your book.

That’s when I decided to break a few rules. Think outside the box. I stopped focusing on the plot, and started focusing on what I thought was unique and intriguing about my story. Here’s what I submitted:

“Before Prince Charming rescued Snow White; before he faced her evil step-mother in a knock-down, drag-out battle, he faced his biggest challenge to date: training his inept little brother, Prince Bob, to be like him. This is Bob’s story.” 

While I still got a rejection letter in the end (albeit a very nice one), the pitch did what it was supposed to do: catch the attention of the agent. I definitely think I have a better concept of what makes a good pitch. 

So what makes your story intriguing? Can you turn that into a winning pitch? I’d love to hear yours!

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The Happy Dance!

Jun

26, 2010 |

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Okay, okay, I’m supposed to be packing up the last of our things to be moving to our new place, and my internet will be cut off any second, . . .

BUT I peeked in my e-mail and got a little nudge from Amy over at The Green Bathtub (Thank you!) that I won the pitch contest on Renae’s blog The Siren’s Song. (!!!!!) So excited!

I couldn’t help sharing the good news with all of you (my extended support system, no?). While it’s not as exciting as, say, landing an agent or getting a book deal, it’s always encouraging to get positive feedback. I say celebrate the small steps too, so . . .

. . . I’m home, in a half-empty apartment doing my happy dance. 😀

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