Thursday, August 21, 2008

Debra - Pitch this...

I've just discovered that I'll be doing a little "lunch mentor" session for my local chapter. A group of us will have lunch. I'll offer some tidbits about how to pitch your book.

I'll offer standard advice that newer writers need. Like...


1. They don't publish or represent it.
Pitching a contemporary horror novel to a literary press.
Pitching an agent who doesn't also handle SF/Fantasy.

2. They just bought fourteen secret baby books.

3. Civil War romances or football players or rock stars aren't selling right now.
Something is always out of fashion.

4. Elements that are too category or too mainstream.

5. You are rude.

And then they'll pitch to me. Which is why I need you.

I thought you guys might throw me some pitches and give me some practice with feedback! Tell us about your book in 25 words or less. (Or as few words as you can!) Even published authors are always pitching something to an editor. It's a necessary skill.

So...tell me about your book. I'll give you feedback!
Tell me what you think is important in a pitch or what worked for you.

If you don't write, what hooks you in a back cover blurb? How do you know it's a story for you?

I'll be out in the morning but I'll get right on the blog when I get back. That'll give you time to compose your pitch. )

UPDATE AT 4:00 P.M. CENTRAL TIME: Pitch Practice is closed for today. Thank you to everyone who was brave enough to step up and take a swing. And if you didn't post a pitch, read 'em. Tell the folks if you like theirs! And I'm still working on all the pitches that have been posted so far! I will comment. :)


Kylie said...

Well I don't pitch books these days but I do have a piece of advice for you to include when you're talking to the unpublished authors: If an editor asks to see your book--send it to them!!!!

I am amazed (horrified, dismayed--insert adjective here) at the number of writers who admit that they fail to follow through with submitting the project after receiving an invitation to do so. Either the book isn't finished, or they want to continue to polish, or they're afraid of rejection/sucess, you name it.

Seems elementary to point out that they can't get published without actually sending in the book. Tell them to take full advantage of the opportunity, submit the book and start working on something else while they wait. The worst that can happen is they'll receive feedback on the book. And that's a constant throughout a writer's life.

Helen Brenna said...

Kylie, I second what you wrote.

Although I don't think there's any problem with taking a little time to polish or a lot of time to finish before you send.

Even if it takes a YEAR, send it as requested material.

Debra Dixon said...

Kylie-- Oh, very good advice. I'll add that to my list. Seems so simple but people need to be told.

Debra Dixon said...

Okay! I'm out the door, but I'll be back and I need your advice, your pitches and "blurbage." (g)

Claire said...

Twenty-five words? I'd have to leave out the verbs and half the nouns to do that. LOL!

I've never pitched before. Can some of you experienced pitchers explain how to do it in twenty-five words?

Nightingale said...

So that you'll know I can count, I'm 2 words over but here goes:

Morgan D'Arcy plans to sire a race of immortals with human morals and vampire powers but a vengeful enemy from his past intends to kill his chosen bride.

Thanks for taking a look!

Vicky B said...

With her mythical bloodharp, a naive young musician has the power to cure, kill or control the minds of any who hear her siren song.

25 words on the nose. :)

Vicky Burkholder

Sindee Sexton said...

Okay, I'll give it a go. I have two pitches. Not sure which one works. This is for a current WIP.


Awesome haircut = $50.00. A creepy antique chest = $100. Kick-ass pedicure = $25.00. Unleashing hell on earth = Priceless.


A hairstylist opens a chest and demons escape. Now she’s a succubus who has to save the world—with a hunky demon’s help, of course!

nlnaigle said...

Here's a pitch for you Deb:

She’s sworn off men. He still mourns his murdered wife. Will they find love, or will his past put more than her heart in danger?

nlnaigle said...

25 word Pitch for OUT OF FOCUS:

Casey’s biggest problem was deciding whether to photograph Cody Tuggle’s honky-tonkin’ tour, until a knock at the door changes her marital status and everything else.

Keri Ford said...

Oh, awesome! I'm giving a workshop in the spring on pitch and concept, so this will be a good chance to see if I've got it right! (yeah, I signed up to do something I'm not positive about!). I've given you three, DON'T do them all. I don't want to be a hog. Pick one.

#1 Romantic Suspense/Mystery
"Assassin and private investigator team up to protect a stolen item from a gang of thieves.”

#2 Romantic Mystery
"A private eye uses a bartender to investigate one of her customers who's a possible thief."

#3 Regency Romance
"In a search to find his brother, he ruins a girl of the ton who might need more patience than he has to give."

Keri Ford said...

I think the most important thing in a pitch is giving the most basic element of the plot that holds everyting together. The biggest problem with authors pitching is they are so close to their own work, what they think is that important detail, isn't. A writer needs to take a close look at their book and see if they took X element out, would the story still work? At least that's my opinion.

Betina Krahn said...

Very interesting pitches!

How about this one:

Filthy rich shoppaholic is given an ultimatum by her business manager: therapy or poverty. But she finds help in solving the problems of two friends whose lives need a lot of work.

Yikes. Sounds different than I thought it would. . .

Anonymous said...

I'm very new to pitching, so this will be good practice.

Fae warrior Finn and clairvoyant Earth-born artist Anna race to unlock her spellbound legacy before the secrets and treacheries overshadowing their lives destroy his world.



Lara said...

Ok, here goes. It's not finished, but the synopsis is done, so I know where I'm going.


Haunted by fear and loss, Egyptologist Hayleigh Cameron returns home almost broken. But when she begins to heal, she attracts dangerous attention, and the haunted becomes the hunted.


Michele Hauf said...

Okay, here's my attempt:

Can a smitten werewolf still love the mortal woman he’s protecting from his greatest enemies—vampires—after the vengeful enemy transforms her into a vampire?

I think pitches (or loglines) are so hard! But fun. And a real challenge to try figure the most important details of a plot. And I think the 25 word limit is good. If you go over, you may risk showing the editor you're not interested in listening to her suggestions for edits, so keep it at word count!

lois greiman said...

Wow, I am so intimidated by these pitches that I'm not even going to throw anything out there. Really. Good stuff.

Debra Dixon said...


Then this is a great day for you to be hanging out at the blog. These are some great pitches. Different styles but they’re all trying to give a quick feel for character, world and plot. That’s a lot for 25 words but if you can do that, an editor is ready to believe you might actually *know* your story which is a great and good thing in a writer.

Claire said...

Donated sperm will give Kate a baby, but put her career at risk. When Max proposes marriage, her job may be safe, but now her heart's at risk.

Karen Duvall said...

The pitch for my steampunk urban fantasy romance:

A half-demon NYC taxi driver teams up with an exorcist to round up rogue demons biting the Big Apple.

Debra Dixon said...


Good job!

25 words is brutal, which is why that’s the goal. Here are my questions. Who is Morgan? Would *what* he is serve your pitch more than his name? Begin with (for example) “An ancient vampire who yearns for a soul and has plans to...blah blah blah...” And where would I get those extra words? Cut “from his past.” That’s implied by enemy. :)

Another thing to add which I don’t really consider when trying to crunch my story into a strong leading sentence for a pitch conversation, is what kind of book is this? Even with in genre there are variations. Is this dark fantasy, horror, urban fantasy, a romantic urban fantasy, etc.

Debra Dixon said...


Yay! You get bonus points for short and sweet. But we need a little plot. This is all character. How can you let us know what will happen in the book? Here’s an example: When a naive musician who has the power to cure, kill or control with her siren song is kidnapped, blah blah blah... I did love the bloodharp so if that’s a treasure people are trying to take from her, then that would be important to plot. Sometimes you just can’t nail it in 25 words. You have to go bigger, go wider and then drill down to the 25 words.

Debra Dixon said...


Fabulous! The first is perfect for a query letter because that’s hard to “say.” But it’s great. Keep it. The second begins well but “with a hunky demon’s help of course” is like saying “And my book ends happily.” Make those words work harder for you. “...succubus who has to forge an alliance with an inccubus to save the world.”

Debra Dixon said...


The first pitch doesn’t give the editor enough understanding of the kind of book, the world (i.e. in your second pitch you hint at the world the reader will be in)

2nd pitch
I like this. I’m *assuming* short category but maybe not. Don’t let the editor guess. Make sure your pitch is spot on for the type of fiction or introduce it with something like “I’ve completed a short category targeted for your XYZ line. INSERT PITCH HERE.”

I’m thinking if you combine the first pitch with the 2nd pitch you’ll hit a home run. That sounds like a winner to me with people I want to read about in a short category. But like I said, if this ISN’T short category, frame the pitch so the editor’s mind goes down the right path before she ever hears the words.

Helen Brenna said...

Wow, you guys have some awesome pitches. I'm with Lois. Intimidated and incompetent. Never been able to do them.

Debra Dixon said...


Thank you! (For your thoughts on pitching.) Yes, there is an element that ties character, world and plot inextricably together and that forms the essence of the book. That’s a magical combo that gives an editor a vision of your book. Sometimes the title plus the 25ish words does that. Sometimes the title is unimportant. I once did a critique for someone who said they were getting request after request for a partial but they just couldn’t get past that barrier. (She is published now.) What was the name of that book? Small Medium At Large. FOUR WORDS said it all.

Debra Dixon said...


I’m going to go for the Regency. :) Always loved a good Regency.

We know world, we have a hint of plot but this one is scrimping on the characters. Who is the “he?” Who is the “girl?” What lifts this Regency above the rest? What will interest an editor so that they say, “Geez, when will you have this on my desk?” instead of “Yes, we do publish Regency. You can send it.” Here’s an example: In the search for his brother, a reclusive Duke ruins a young bluestocking who has no idea she’s just hit his last nerve.

Hey! I’m not saying the examples are good. (G)

Debra Dixon said...


I thought it sounded good. You nailed character, world and plot. Maybe you could fiddle with the second sentence but I think it moves on the strength of that first sentence. Good on you. Being involved with 2 friends lives tilts this more toward single title.

My editor always wanted a pitch first, on the phone. Not a synopsis, so it’s a skill I had to use over the spectrum of my career.

Debra Dixon said...


I think this is a pretty good lead for a pitch appointment. :) This gives the editor several areas to question which will open up a dialogue. Like, "What is Anna's legacy?" "How does that impact his world?" "What secrets?" "What treachery/conflict?"

If you're doing a query letter, of course, you go into more detail.

Debra Dixon said...


This has a nice feel, nice mood. Lose her name and add those words to the danger part. Give us a better picture of whether this is paranormal/fantasy or suspense. If suspense help us see it as physical or psychological.

Debra Dixon said...


That's great. Got all the info in. We see the conflict. We know the world.

And you showed the "question" format for a pitch.

There are a million ways to do this so I'm thrilled we're getting different styles in here.

Folks-- listen to Michele on word count. Sure you can fudge a word or two, but boil that sucker down. This is just your opening salvo.

Debra Dixon said...

Lois-- I'm just tickled to have gotten so many people willing to put themselves out there. Aren't they great?

Elyssa Papa said...

This is for my finished manuscript called Lay All Your Love on Me, a modern-day Roman Holiday.

A troubled Hollywood heiress escapes to South Africa to hide except she runs into the one man with the power to destroy her.

Debra Dixon said...


Great first attempt! I'm assuming short category, could be long category. Depends on what you do with the building a family angle, time frame for the story, etc.

My question would be "Why is Max's marriage proposal going to save her job?" "Who is Max?" "Why is he in her life?"

Debra Dixon said...

Karen-- Fabulous. You help the editor out by placing this work within the genre and then deliver character, world and plot.

::clap:: ::clap::

Go to the head of the class.

Debra Dixon said...


I think pitch ties to movies or books can be very effective. You just have to be sure you have selected something with universal appeal as your movie/book OR you have to live with the fact that the editor across from you doesn't get the reference.

Your pitch works. I'd think about changing "the one man who..." to something that delivers that character a little more clearly than "one man."

Great job though.

Claire said...

"My question would be "Why is Max's marriage proposal going to save her job?" "Who is Max?" "Why is he in her life?""

Are you saying I should have that in the pitch? Or are you saying if I gave you that pitch, as an editor you'd be asking me to tell you more about why the proposal will save her job, who Max is and why he's in her life?

Thank you so much.

And it's category but not sure short or long.

Debra Dixon said...

Claire --

I'd fix at least some of that in the pitch if you can.

And isn't it interesting that your pitch (for me) left open the question if it was short or long when you yourself don't know.

If you aren't sure what you're writing, then the pitch will show it. Editors will pick up on that. You don't want them to question whether or not you've got a handle.

I'm betting you'll sort your pitch out when the time comes to make the real pitch. (g)

And you're welcome.

You get what you pay for and just remember this is free. (gg)

Claire said...

Actually I'm not sure which H/S lines are now considered long or short. This was going to be a Desire til they turned Desire into a more Presents-like book. Now I'm thinking Special Edition. So is that short or long? They've changed word counts like Pam Anderson changed breast size. I think SE is 55K now. That's short, isn't it?

I've re-written it every way I know how, but to answer those questions doubles the pitch's word count.

sigh I guess if this was easy everyone would do it.

Claire said...

Oh... and I think I got WAY more than my money's worth. :-)

Keri Ford said...

Thanks, Debra! this is so great that you did this. title of my regency-- Fortunate Set Backs and it's one of those that sums up the whole book, but I don't know that it was reflected in my pitch! Thanks.

Renee said...

Okay, well I'm trying. ;)

A Highland warrior turned English border warden discovers his toughest battle is laying siege to the infamous Border Hellion’s heart.

Thanks for doing this and letting us practice putting ourselves out there.


Laramie Sasseville said...

Hi! and Thanks! Here it is:

She wants to maintain her happy status quo – until a lonely djinni turns her world upside down – and together they save the world.

- Laramie

connie brockway said...

A woman seeking sanctuary from her stalker, ex-husband, finds employment as a housekeeper with three diverse women who need her as much as she needs them.

okay -- it's 26. And I suck at pitches. (SO teach me, Obi-Wan!)



Lara said...

Here is my second attempt, Debra. Thanks so much for this opportunity. It's really helped me focus.


"Protected by werejackals, blackmailed and hunted by the now-immortal pharaoh Akhenaton, Hayleigh must commit murder to protect everyone she loves. But what if she fails?"

Renee said...

This one is also a historical set in the early 1600's, which I forgot to mention in my previous post.

Thanks again.

He’s, Scottish, the king’s man investigating human trafficking. She’s, English, the betrothed of the ringleader. Two pawns on opposing sides in more ways than one.


Barbara said...

Thanks so much for doing this. I wasn't able to hit 25 words, but I'm close.

In order to catch her mother’s murderer, a princess (and underground mage) reluctantly courts the attention of three princes, one of whom might be trying to kill her.


Debra Dixon said...


You're right. Long really isn't that long anymore. But Special Edition was the line I thought might also fit your pitch.

Debra Dixon said...

Keri-- You're welcome. It's always interesting to see what someone who knows nothing about your book will take from your pitch. It's been fun. Although way more people have stepped up to pitch than I realized would.

We have brave souls reading our blog.

Margay said...

An attempted kidnapping on her niece spurs Silvie to find justice. She won't let anything stop her - not even the handsome detective from her past.

Debra Dixon said...


We’ll assume that a buyer of historical fiction will immediately understand why a warrior is not suited to be a border warden. At least I’m assuming that’s the reason for mentioning the character’s “job” transition. If there ISN’T an inherently funny or difficult situation for the warrior in being the border warden, then pick the one that’s most important.

We’ve got character. We’ve got world. I think you’re missing plot. Isn’t there more going on in the book than just boy-meets-girl? I’m betting there is. And if you’re pitching to a romance editor the romance is a given so pull out more of the layers of your plot in this pitch.

But excellent try! We have to practice these things. People who don’t write our books are often better at pitching it because they don’t get caught up in the things we writers do.

Debra Dixon said...


That 25 words is killing everyone.

Okay, the pitch is concise, understandable and gives an editor some jumping off points, but I think it's a little light on world.

Cut "...the attention of..." because that's implied by the verb "courts." Now you've got 3 more words to add texture.

Right now the pitch is okay, but not vivid. Move toward vivid and bring the world/characters alive.

Laramie Sasseville said...

Just reading your comments to others has prompted this rewrite:

Amelia isn’t looking for change when a sexy djinni falls for her, but her life becomes one extreme makeover – even as an ancient evil stirs.

- Laramie Sasseville

Debra Dixon said...


You need to consider all of that information and integrate it into your pitch.

Remember this is your first salvo. You'll get another sentence usually but don't save your ammunition. Take control of the battle for the bored editor's attention right in the opening moments.

Debra Dixon said...


Lead with that dijinni! Dijinni turning worlds upside down is fun. It sets the tone for the book (I’m assuming.) “A lonely dijinni turns the world of a cautious woman upside down when they must...SOMETHING NOT GENERIC.”

“Save the world” is generic. Use those words to support your characters with plot action that makes the editor think, “Oh, these characters are going to be in for a hard time! What fun.”

Debra Dixon said...


::clap:: ::clap::

We cross posted. You're definitely getting why that first try wasn't working hard enough for you.

2nd try is miles ahead of the first.

Debra Dixon said...


Hi! You looked GORGEOUS as the luncheon speaker at RWA National. Gorgeous. And I’m cracking up that you’re playing pitch with us. :) I’ll do that next post but I had to stop and say hi first.

Renee said...

I am soooo trying and this is sooooo hard. Thank you for the input, now I can chomp at the bit for a few days trying to hash out something fantabulously grand.

I really don't want to bore an agent to tears. Thank you so very much, again.


Laramie Sasseville said...

Third time the charm?

Being wooed by a sexy djinni and saving the world from demons weren’t in Amelia Swenson’s plans for the weekend, but plans change.

Debra Dixon said...


Your pitch actually gave me fits because I couldn't put my finger on what I would change.

Then I realized for this pitch, the theme is missing. Need is just too general. This is not necessarily a book with a plot arrow driving straight down the middle.

Plus I thought you could to give us a better handle on the three woman as flavor for the plot. As an example...

Three generations of women under one roof hire a stray on the run from a dangerous ex-husband, never expecting their new housekeeper will teach them how to be a family.

I went a few words over. So sue me. (g)

I'm not sure I would try and crunch it down. You're trying to pitch a multi-protagonist book. (Yes?) So you get a pass for some extra words.

25 is the goal, not the Holy Grail. Sometimes we stop a little short of the goal and call it a good day.

Debra Dixon said...


That's a great query sentence but I think I like # 2 better as a spoken pitch. Some things read better in the head than they sound in the ear.

Debra Dixon said...


Don't bury your lead!

"Hayleigh must commit murder..."

Rearrange a bit. I think you've got it all. As always consider if you need a proper name or can substitute something that delivers character better.

Cindy said...

Okay, I'll give it a shot.

Romantic Suspense

When an informant turns up dead a by the book undercover cop finds himself modeling a new line of men’s boxers to uncover the killer and stop a DVD pirating ring.

Debra Dixon said...


“She won’t let anything stop her.” That’s a given for a book protagonist. You can find words that work harder for your book and give more to the editor/agent. So, I’d cut that. Also “handsome” is the default. There’s another word you can reclaim.

I’d beef up world and character with those extra words. Will she have to swallow her pride? Is he trying to stop her or does she need his help? Can you give us a hint of setting? Example: ...spurs Silvie to find her own brand of Southern justice.

Debra Dixon said...


Okay. That works. A little long. (g)

We've got plot, world and character.

These pitches are just a nice snapshot, a handle of what's going on and I think you did that.

Renee said...

If I said this was my 2nd try I'd be lying since this is #9. What I'd like to know am I moving in the right direction or totally off mark. This is for the border warden one.

She shot him in the arse, then offered to be his mistress. Now those he’s bound to protect with his life are losing their lives.


Marie said...

Ok I'll toss my two cents in....

Anthropologist Pilar Reilly wakes up on a different world in a different body. Things get worse from there.

Laramie Sasseville said...

Thanks for your comments! They are a big help!

Renee said...

He must destroy the devil’s spawn in order to save his own son, but can he free an angel chained by societal strictures?

Connie Brockway said...

Thanks, Deb! Just call me "Chin-Lifts-R-Us" or me.

You looked pretty great yourself.

Like everyone else here, that 25 word count was the bugger! The women aren't under the same roof. They never even meet each other, until the end, though they "know" each other via the housekeeper through whose eyes they find the anecdotal material necessary to to 'heal"

Anonymous said...

Here goes:

Romantic Suspense

A retired computer hacker has to solve her fiancĂ©e’s murder to ensure her personal safety while questioning her attraction to the possible murderer.

Playground Monitor said...

Wow, what fun! Too bad I was tied up all day waiting for a repairman who never showed up. They sent him to the wrong address -- in a neighboring state. Needless to say, my afternoon was filled with irate phone calls and I can't get my satellite TV problem fixed til next Tuesday. Sheesh! Talk about incompetence.


Sindee Sexton said...

Hi Deb! Thanks for the feedback on my previous pitch. Here's one for the one I am currently trying to sell:

Lighting fried laptops? Weird voices in her head? A strange man claiming she’s a faerie princess? Yeah right! Time to call a therapist!

Debra Dixon said...

Thanks for playing everyone!

I finally had to take a break from the computer yesterday and get some "real" world work done.

If you pitched after Pitch Practice closed, I'm sorry!

We might do this again in the future.