How to write a pitch
Writing a pitch before I begin a new story, or at the very early stages, has really helped me create stories that are more streamlined and focused.
There are two different kinds of pitches.
- The kind you might share in a query letter or in a social media pitching competition, that might also go on the back of your book. This is the pitch that will mean no-one passes up the opportunity to read and purchase your story because it sounds that good.
- And then there’s the kind that’s for you. The kind that’s you telling yourself the story. It might give away the ending and plot twists, but that doesn’t matter. What you’re trying to do is to check there’s enough in your idea to make it worth pursuing.
Let’s look at the first kind.
A pitch that sells a book
If you’re creating a pitch for a submission, then you will want to present your concept, not your entire story. You WILL care about every word. You WILL want it to be polished. A good pitch could make all the difference.
Here are some tips:
- Less is more. Make every word count. Try not to go over 25 words.
- Sell the idea and the themes, not the plot itself
- Avoid character names
- Try looking at pitches and blurbs for your favourite books or books in a similar genre to the one you are writing.
Here are three one-line pitches for stories on the New York Times best sellers list. Not a great deal is given away, just enough to hook the reader. Can you name these successful books?
In a dystopia, a girl fights for survival on live TV.
Vampires and werewolves and their intrigues in high school.
When writing a sales pitch, you might find one of the formats below helpful:
An [interesting character] must [do something] in order to [achieve something] or else they [insert consequence]
Or try summing your story up in 10, 5 or even 3 words!
A pitch that writes a book
As I mentioned above, I’ve found writing a pitch or short synopsis invaluable for giving a book a concise and purposeful focus. It can really help ensure you understand your story’s premise including; the character’s motivation, the goal, the stakes, the crisis. Crucially, you’ll know the ending. Not necessarily in lots of detail, but a rough road map to get you going and keep you on track. In this case, it doesn’t really matter too much about polishing the words to perfection. It’s more important that the story works.
Here are some tips:
- Don’t worry about who’s going to read it. Write for you.
- Remember your pitch might change and evolve as your story is written. This is ok.
- When you’re ready, share with a trusted friend or critique partner and get their thoughts on your concept.
For this kind of pitch, you might find one of these formats useful:
Somebody [interesting main character]
Wanted [character goal]
But [what is the conflict/ problem?]
So [how did they solve the problem?]
Then [what is the resolution/how does it end?]
Writing a pitch before you write, or in the early stages, might not work for you. You might prefer to write and see where your story takes you. And to be honest, I would never say one way of working is the only way. I work differently depending on the idea, the time, the deadline. Every person and story is different!
However, you will need to create a pitch for your submission at some point, and hopefully, the tips and tricks in this article will help you present your idea in an engaging and attention-grabbing way.
In a dystopia, a girl fights for survival on live TV – The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
Vampires and werewolves and their intrigues in high school – Twilight (Stephenie Meyer)
Clare is a children’s writer and primary school teacher from Devon. She writes fiction and non-fiction picture book texts – sometimes funny and sometimes lyrical. Her first book was published in 2015 and she currently has books in development with Little Tiger Press, Quarto, Andersen, Nosy Crow and MacMillan. She also writes for the Maverick Early Readers scheme. You can find out more about Clare on her website http://www.clarehelenwelsh.com and by following her on Twitter @ClareHelenWelsh
Clare is also our Writer in Residence for the Hub, and teaches our online Picture Book course.