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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pitch Workshop

by Rebecca Talley

Imagine your dream editor or agent. Now think about getting on an elevator and that editor or agent steps inside next to you. Your heart thuds against your ribs and your palms start to sweat. The agent turns to you and says, "Do you write?" You swallow the cotton in your throat and give a light nod. The agent says, "Tell me about your book." You then have a few moments to not only summarize your entire novel but to hook that agent and make him/her want to read your book.

Impossible? Not if you know how to craft the elevator pitch.

In under 30 seconds, the time it takes to ride an elevator, you should be able to concisely tell someone about your book. And, even more, make that person want to read it.

Here are some links with advice on preparing a pitch because creating a pitch is as much an art form as writing the entire novel.

How to Pitch Your Book at a Writing Conference

The Fine Art of The Book Pitch

Avoiding Book Pitches that Mislead

For fun, let's practice pitches. If you have a pitch ready, post it to the comments so other readers can critique it. Come on, it'll be fun. We can have a pitch workshop right here on the blog.

Who will be first?

22 comments:

MDYBYU said...

When a tower to rival the Empire State Building materializes on the state fairgrounds overnight, no one suspects that the architect is the dreams of a 13-year-old boy.
When Tyson Phelps was two, he swallowed a gem that fell from the heaves and now he can’t control which dreams leap from his head into reality and which fade into obscurity. More than anything, home-schooled Tyson wants to go to the state fair for his 13th birthday to see Markus Zauber, the self-proclaimed Greatest Magician in the World. When Markus turns out to be a hack, Tyson falls asleep in the dark tent and begins to dream of the wizard he wishes Markus were. Suddenly, a new, improved version of Markus appears on stage and makes it his first order of business to cast a powerful sleeping spell on Tyson to keep him dreaming forever.
Spurred on by the wizard’s dark magic, Tyson’s dreams form into an ever-growing tower. Tyson’s parents enter the tower, bent on scaling it and awakening their son. As soon as they set foot in the tower, however, they revert to 13-year-old versions of themselves and soon discover that the dreams of a 13-year-old are a dangerous place to be.
As they climb, Tyson’s parents realize that their son’s dreams have turned into nightmares, ones from which none of them may ever wake up.
Starspire is a YA Fantasy and is complete at 80,000 words.

RaShelle said...

If I was talking to someone in an elevator, I'd say... my book is about: An alien princess, who has to help a human boy find love. A human boy who must destroy the leader of a rogue alien cult and neither of them know just how important they are to the other's planet or to each other.

***

In order to save the planet Kelari and earth, Venus must help a complete ass of a boy fall in love. This same boy, Ethan must find a way to destroy Dervinius, the alien leader of The Order of Eternal Fire. Venus has one week to accomplish her task or she'll die, Ethan will lose his chance to love and Dervinius will rule both worlds.

Gail said...

Alright here are my two best ones. I'm going to go back and read your links. I might hate these after that though.

Seventeen-year-old Azure is a normal girl or so she thinks. It isn’t until she’s murdered and comes back in another body that she realizes the fate of the world hangs on a simple choice: let herself be engulfed by destruction or embrace the nobility of creation.

OR

Azure’s thinks she's a normal seventeen year old girl until she’s murdered and comes back in another body. Now she’s having strange hallucinations of things coming after her and horrible disasters, but when she figures out that she is the creator of the disasters. She must make a simple choice: let herself be engulfed by destruction or embrace the nobility of creation.

JaredNGarrett said...

Tim and Hal are twin brothers whose family has been lying to them. Their grandfather did not immigrate to America from Europe; he fled his world to escape an insidious magical poison that threatened to kill him.

But Tim and Hal are needed back in Arten, so they are snatched from a street in Phoenix and deposited in a strange yet familiar magical world. Now they must choose to either seek their fated magical powers to fight a terrifying evil called the Drachnich or return to their home and allow Arten to be overcome by darkness.

Teaming with their sorceress aunt and a group of freed slaves, Tim and Hal discover that the price of victory is far greater than they could ever imagine.

Rebecca Talley said...

It's important to keep in mind that a pitch is short, concise. You only have 30 seconds or less to convince someone to read your book so it has to be quick. Some even say it should be about 15-20 words. As long as it's less than 30 seconds it's probably okay.

Michael's pitch:

When a tower to rival the Empire State Building materializes on the state fairgrounds overnight, no one suspects that the architect is the dreams of a 13-year-old boy.

This is short, tells me it's YA (or possibly MG) and it's a fantasy. It's unique and piques my interest. The last part of sentence bothers me, though, because while architect is singular, dreams are plural so it sounds funny to me. I'm not a grammar guru, though.

Rebecca Talley said...

RaShelle, I'd say the second one is a little long. The first one is more concise.

Here's my attempt:

An alien princess has one week to help a young man fall in love or they will die when a tyrannical leader destroys their planets.

Something like that?

Danyelle Ferguson said...

Chocolate heals all wounds. That and throwing darts at a picture of your ex-boyfriend. Burned by yet another bad relationship, Rachel Marconi decides to reprioritize her life, putting her dream to compete on a Food Network Challenge at the top of the list and dating at the bottom crossed out with red Sharpie. But what’s a girl to do when a certain sexy guy keeps asking her out? Cue in Graydon Gretski, a former pro-hockey player turned restaurant owner. After a lot of persistence and humorous teasing, he finally convinces Rachel to go on a date. But just when things begin to warm up, threatening notes directed at Rachel arrive. When her bakery is vandalized, Graydon’s protective streak goes on red alert. Is it her obsessive ex-boyfriend stalking her? Or maybe a challenger trying to sabotage the competition? Either way, Rachel is definitely going to need some more chocolate—perhaps over ice cream and devil’s food cake.

Sweet Confections combines the sassiness of Rachel Gibson with the closed bedroom door approach of Kristen Higgins.


Hey Rebecca - It's fun to see your feedback. I attended a Pitchapalooza event last month. The agents there said that an elevator pitch should be between 15-30 seconds and the most important part is the comp because it tells them what genre and other author's it's comparable to. This way they quickly find out if it's something they might be interested in finding out more about to consider for representation. On that note, do you think I should start out with my comp? Right now it's at the end.

Also, they said for a sit down pitch, the pitch should be 1 minute or less. Just thought I'd throw that out there for anyone getting ready for a sit down pitch session. =)

Jordan McCollum said...

Good info on the time guidelines, Danyelle!

Here's my elevator pitch: To protect the world's tenuous peace, a dyed-in-the-wool communist must choose between love and loyalty.

And my full pitch (timed last night at 35 seconds,including the above pitch):
In the middle of World War II treaty negotiations, Soviet diplomat Katya Mikhailova narrowly escapes a bomb at the gates of her Paris embassy. Frank Walters, an American spy tracking Nazi insurgents in the area, suspects they set the bomb. Katya and Frank form an uneasy alliance to catch the Nazis, and protect the intended target: Katya's father, the ambassador. But when her would-be killers threaten to prolong the war that left all Europe--and its people--scarred, Katya must decide whether she's a good Soviet . . . or a good daughter.

Kimberly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kimberly said...

I whittled down my elevator pitch to about 25 seconds:

Conspiracy theorists whisper that there are secret societies ruling the world. Fourteen-year-old Alexandra Earhart knows it’s true as surely as she knows how to take out ninja assassins. After all, she and her dad work for The Agency, a powerful organization that regulates the world’s superheroes. But when her dad discovers that The Agency has been brainwashing the superheroes it claims to protect, Alexandra must struggle to break free from The Agency’s power before they remote detonate her father’s neural chip and blow up his brain.

Marsha Ward said...

Here's my really, really short pitch, more of a tagline, but maybe it can pique some interest:

A frontier girl afraid of becoming a spinster takes a desperate gamble on love, but finds herself betrayed and in danger from her perfidious wooer.

Rebecca Talley said...

Gail,

I like the first one. Here's my stab at it.

Seventeen-year-old Azure thinks she's a normal girl until she’s murdered. When she comes back in another body she realizes the fate of the world hangs on a simple choice: (let herself be engulfed by destruction or embrace the nobility of creation.--this seems a little too vague, can you give me more details or make it less vague?)

We know it's a YA fantasy and that her world depends on her choice. I'm not quite sure what the choice is at the moment, (is she reincarnated as the star of destruction?). You might work that in because that's an interesting angle and it's much less vague. I think your story sounds very interesting.

Canda said...

Lexi Middleton has a wish thief. Not a generic, theoretical one, but a real one—her little sister, Tifani—who siphons wishes away as soon as Lexi makes them. Now that they have to share a high school, the rivalry intensifies. Of course Lexi loves her sister…well…and hates her.

She works hard to gets good grades, has fun friends and wishes she had a boyfriend. Be careful what you wish for, Lexi, ‘cause Tifani just might get it.

Lexi must confront her fears that trap her in the high school social caste system, stop Amberlee’s bullying and reclaim control of her wishes.

Shaunna said...

Kellie Laramie is a thirty-four –year-old-divorcee, mother of a troubled teen, a sensitive eight-year-old, and a darling five-year old daughter who has succumbed to hero worship of the neighbor’s dangerous son, and Kellie, poor girl, will soon be a widow.

Canda said...

I like the hero worship angle. Makes me wonder if the neighbor has a soft side. I'm confused by how Kellie is a divorcee and widow.

RaShelle said...

Thanks for the help. =D

Rebecca Talley said...

JaredNGarrett,

This works better for a query. A pitch needs to be short and concise.

Here's my attempt:

When twin brothers discover their true magical origin, they must choose to either fight the terrifying evil threatening their world or allow it to be overcome with darkness forever.

For a pitch you need to whittle down your story to one or two sentences that hook the reader and provide the jist of the story.

Your story seems to be about two brothrs discovering their true identities and then having to use that knowledge to fight for and protect their planet.

Rebecca Talley said...

Danyelle,

This seems a little long for a pitch, though the books sounds great! Interesting info on comparing your book to others. I'll have to think about that for mine.

Here's my attempt at yours:

Rachel Marconi decides to reprioritize her life, putting her dream to compete on a Food Network Challenge at the top of the list and dating at the bottom until she meets Graydon Gretski, a former pro-hockey player turned restaurant owner.

What do you think?

Rebecca Talley said...

Jordan, I like the pitch. Tells me a lot and intrigues me, especially the last line.

Here's my attempt:

When Soviet diplomat Katya Mikhailova's would-be killers threaten to prolong the war that left all Europe--and its people--scarred, Katya must decide whether she's a good Soviet . . . or a good daughter.

What do you think?

Rebecca Talley said...

Kimberly,

Wow, sounds like a very exciting story.

In reading more about elevator pitches from agents, they seem to like a very short version--about 20 words or so. People want to know what your books is about in a sentence or two.

Here's my attempt for yours:

Fourteen-year-old Alexandra Earhart and her dad work for a powerful organization that regulates the world’s superheroes. When her dad discovers that the organization has been brainwashing the superheroes, Alexandra must work fast to save his life.

What do you think?

Rebecca Talley said...

Marsha,

A frontier girl afraid of becoming a spinster takes a desperate gamble on love, but finds herself betrayed and in danger from her perfidious wooer.

I think this is perect. I know it's a western, I know there will be action and intrigue and danger. It would definitely pique my interest.

Rebecca Talley said...

Canda,

I think this is a little too long. I like the info and the story is intriguing, but I think we can condense it a little. I especially love the first line--that alone should garner interest from an agent.

Lexi Middleton has a wish thief--her younger sister, Tifani who siphons wishes away as soon as Lexi makes them. Lexi must reclaim her wishes before Tifani destroys her life.

What do you think?