Pitch to Win!

If you’re a writer who is serious about writing, you know that in order to be successful you have to be able to pitch your book—and no, I don’t mean throw it across the room in exasperation because “it’s just not working!” (Though that will likely happen, too.)

Since I was rejected—actually laughed at—in a pitch appointment once, I’ve let that experience keep me from pitching again. And it even has kept me from working on my writing as much as I should.

Don’t let this happen to you!

Aside from the fact that the person I pitched to was having a bad (and insensitive) day, why did my pitch fail?

Simple. Because I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t practice, practice, practice. So, today let’s practice!

The elements of a successful pitch

Michael Korda, once editor-in-chief at Simon & Schuster, said: “If you can’t describe a book in one or two pithy sentences that would make you or your mother want to read it, then of course you can’t sell it.”

That’s still a good description of a pitch. But there’s more.

Editors are looking for ideas they can sell—to their pub boards and to the public. And part of what they sell is you and your passion for your book.

Can you describe it clearly and confidently? And are you the right person to write it? If so, why?

Prepare and then prepare some more 

Here’s where I made a major error. I did not know what my book was about. Oh sure, I wrote it—but I didn’t know it very well. I wasn’t even familiar with the genre I was writing in, or what a genre is. (See “To Thine Genre Be True” by Susan Miller in the October issue of ACFW Journal.)

I also was unfamiliar with terms such as: set-up, conflict, resolution, setting, plot, and characterization. Turns out I had them all in my manuscript, but I could not articulate them to the editor. And if I can’t relate them to an editor, why would the editor believe I have the ability to make them clear to an audience? Oh, and what’s an audience? Hint: Saying, “Everyone will want to read this” does not work.

One method 

Linda Rohrbough

As ACFW Journal columnist and author Linda Rohrbough has told me time and time again, “It’s an entirely different set of skills to talk about a book than to write a book.” And she is right. Linda’s three-step method for pitching a book makes sense to me:

  1. The First Log Line: This line contains the basic information of your manuscript:
    • The hero
    • The hero’s flaw
    • The life-changing event that start’s your story
    • The opponent
    • The ally
    • The battle/conflict
  2. The Second Log Line: This line amplifies the first by indicating:
    • The character who arcs/changes
    • What the arc/change is
  3. The Third Log Line: Here is where you add a sentence about theme. What does the character learn? How does he or she change?

An example 

Here’s how Rohrbough’s method looks in use, with an example from the movie 50 First Dates.

(Log Line 1) A womanizing veterinarian falls in love with a girl with short-term memory loss. (Log Line 2) His challenge is to win her heart anew every day. (Log Line 3) He learns that the fun, for him, is in the chase. 

Learn much more about this method on Linda’s website (http://www.lindarohrbough.us/). She even has her method in an iPhone app you can download.

Time to practice (and a contest!) 

Many of you will attend the ACFW Conference in Dallas TX in just a couple weeks, but if you’re not, participate anyway! You’ll be pitching a book somewhere, sometime, right?

Post your pitch in the comments for the chance to win your choice of:

(Winner drawn from those who enter a pitch.)

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying his playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor/writer at WritingOnTheFineLine.com, where each Tuesday he takes a writer Into The Edit, pulling back the veil on the editing process. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.