Janet Sumner Johnson
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Pitches: A Reader’s View

Feb 25, 2013 Uncategorized 9 comments

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

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!


9 Responses to “Pitches: A Reader’s View”

  1. Old Kitty says:

    I love these blurbs but I go first for the cover! LOL! I am so shallow!! If a cover catches my eye, I then go for the title! Then I turn the book over and read the blurb! LOL!

    But as for writing a pitch, I'm totally rubbish! Seriously – I failed this big time during my writing course a few years back!

    Take care

  2. Something tricky about pitches:

    As a reader, I don't want any spoilers. I want to be enticed, and I want the surprises to unfold naturally when I read the story.

    However, when pitching to an agent in a query, it's often necessary to reveal some of the spoilers. Because the agent needs to know what's unique about your book to make it stand out from the 100 other queries received that day.

    So I guess, when writing a pitch, I'd want to know: Who's the Audience?

  3. I agree with Diane. They are tricky to write because the one's for agents need to reveal more than the ones for a book blub. But some times they can both be the same.

    I wrote my pitch this weekend in only two tries (instead of my usual 50-100). Still doing a happy dance over that. 😀

  4. IN many ways, the pitch seems to be more important than just about any other skill when it comes to writing.

  5. LTM says:

    GREAT post, CUF! And it's totally true–you're trying to hook the reader. This really comes into play in self-publishing when writing blurbs to go with the book on Amazon. It's the same deal.

    You want them to pick it up/NEED to read more! :o) <3

  6. Oh man this pitch sold me too!! (though I barely got through that list of names).

    Love your twitter takes on it.

    Such a good point about intended audience, too. That's why I like pitches that give you something like "Sleeping Beauty meets Hunger Games" (I made that up)

  7. nutschell says:

    I'm not very good at pitches and blurbs. Those are skills I'd one day love to harness!

  8. Wow, this is an excellent post.

    With my recent NA book, I found that I put in my query to agents wasn't necessarily what I'd want readers to know. I'd want them to find out what happens in that one part organically.

    It's tough!

  9. That book sounds completely awesome! I must buy it — and give it to my daughter — but then read it myself. 🙂

    I am a horrible pitch/blurb/synopsis writer. Ugh. But I'm not as bad as I used to be (which isn't saying much).

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