“Are you crying?” Tom Hanks asks in A League of Their Own. “There’s no crying in baseball!”
Maybe not in baseball…but certainly, many an author has shed tears over a pitch. So how do you turn your pitch into a home run?
Step 1: Know Your Genre
To say that your book is sci-fi is a nice start. But what kind of sci-fi? Is it steampunk, cyberpunk or a lost world novel? Or that romance you’ve been writing—is your chick-lit protagonist a publicist in Prada, or does she daydream of Regency cads in cravats from the comfort of her English manor? Genre drives sales, and knowing your genre and subgenre can help an editor see your book as marketable.
Step 2: Craft the Perfect One-Liner
Now you’ve got to sell your story. Occasionally, opportunity presents itself at a conference, a dinner party, or a book signing, and you run into an editor.
“Oh, you’re a writer? Tell me what you’re working on.” The clock’s ticking, and it’s time to throw your best elevator pitch. As the name implies, it’s brief, about as long as it takes you to go up or down a few floors in an elevator.
What’s the best way to do it? Start with a comparison to something familiar, like this description of Stephen King’s Cujo: “It’s like Jaws with dogs.”
“I’m working on a cyberpunk fairy tale,” you say to the editor. “Think Little Red Riding Hood in the Matrix.”
The editor raises an eyebrow. “Tell me more!”
Step 3: Hook ‘Em
“Red’s a down-on-her-luck netrunner who stumbles onto a darknet called Grandma’s House—going straight and exposing them would mean millions, but when a fixer named Wolff offers her twice that to turn on her employer, Red’s got a dangerous decision to make.”
With one sentence, you’ve covered the rest of your pitch: hero, goal, obstacles, and consequences. It’s important that you show all of these things in order to present the whole scope of your story.
Your potential editor now knows your genre and subgenre, has a frame of reference for the world of your book, and can see the hero’s conflict. In just 3 easy steps, you’ve shown yourself as precise, pithy, and ready to play ball!
Ready to make that pitch? Pink Umbrella is accepting submissions!
A shout-out to the incomparable Lisa Mangum of Shadow Mountain Publishing for these tips, presented at the 2017 American Night Writers Association Conference . . . sometimes you find a friendly face at a writing conference, and sometimes it happens to be the person giving the best presentation there.
Merry Gordon is silently correcting your grammar. A freelance editor and writer, Merry also has nearly two decades of experience teaching English at the high school and junior college level.
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