The Craft of Pitching

Happy Friday, everyone!

So I thought I’d talk a little bit about pitching. Not the baseball kind. The kind you can do in your pajamas, sipping apricot nectar, and scrolling through twitter. Have you seen the plethora of pitching opportunities that are available for authors these days? It is OUTstanding! (See what I did there? Did you??)

I could go through the many and varied opportunities over the course of the next six months. But John Berkowitz has already done that. You can see a pretty comprehensive list on his blog here.

No, what we need to do is MASTER that pitch so that when decide to participate in one of these sessions, you’ll be ready.

From what I can gather (and having participated in a couple of these myself), you’ll need to be armed with:
1. A full query letter
2. A twitter-length pitch (less than 140 characters WITH the required hashtags!)
3. A 35-word pitch
4. The first 250 words of your MS
5. Anything else for that particular contest

Phew! Right? I mean, come on. That’s a lot to prepare in one day when you suddenly find out about the pitch contest. So my first piece of advice is to plan ahead.

Plan Ahead:

1. Pay attention on twitter. If you’re a writer about to query, or thinking about querying in the next few months, there are some hashtags you should probably be following. My favorite is #MSWL. I also like #tenqueries

2. Choose the pitch contests that seem like a good fit for your book. Resist the temptation to blanket the Internet during every event. Pay attention to who’s participating and what they’re looking for. Trust me when I say that no agent is better than an agent that isn’t a good match.

3. Which all leads me to the next step in your Plan for World Domination. Get your pitches ready!

Getting Your Pitches Ready:

1. I always advise this first: Get help! Email your writer buddies and beta readers and ask them if they’ll read your query, first 250, and other pitch material. You should probably never just start throwing wild pitches out there…

2. The query letter. Oh, there’s too much to list here on how to write a query letter. There are scads of places around the Internet to find some tips and tricks. My favorite? Elana Johnson’s formula of the hook, the setup, the conflict, and the consequence.

3. The twitter pitch. Having written these myself, I’ve found the best thing to do is get that twitter window open. Put in the required hashtags, and see what you’ve got left to work with.

Some tips:

  • Avoid names. In such a short pitch, it’s okay to just say “he” or “she.” If the names are short, and you can, then you can.
  • Go for the conflict. No setup. Conflict.

4. The 35-word pitch. I’ve found that pithiest of these are generally the ones that use the formula of “TITLE OF MY AWESOME BOOK is [popular movie A] meets [bestselling book B] — with {a twist.}

Do you see the formula there? You’re telling the agent/editor what your book is like — and bonus points for making it like something that’s already selling well! — but also that yours is different. It will stand out. People will love it MORE than [bestselling book B]!!

See if you can write a 35-word pitch using this formula.

5. The first 250 words. My best advice here is to make sure that it’s not A) overstuffed with useless words, and B) too heavily focused on backstory. Neither will get you very far.

No, go forth and throw your best pitches out there!


Liz Isaacson writes contemporary and inspirational romance when she’s not teaching. She is currently revising her inspirational romance manuscript for a Harlequin Love Inspired contest and blogging about writing, reading, and life. She lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband and two children, where she serves on her community’s library board and attends the various writing conferences around the state.