Writing A Novel Pitch

October 7th, 2018 – Creative Coworkers studio.
Instructor: Lissa Linden https://lissalinden.com/

General Notes

Pitches may be annoying but can lead to concrete things, ie: publication
Where to pitch?
  • Twitter: #pitmad #dvpit (diversity) #sffpit (Twitter is still very relevant despite broader disengagement of non-writer users.)
  • Conference pitch sessions
  • Unscheduled pitch when meeting industry professional, eg: in conversation after an event or conference. Stay professional and don’t pitch in unreasonable places like the bathroom.
Publishing is hard. Take every opportunity to try to break in. If an opportunity to pitch a book presents itself, you want to be able to capitalize on it in a quick and concise manner.
What is a pitch?
  • It’s not a query letter or synopsis.
  • It’s not a summary of plot or theme.

Writing The Pitch

The basic pitch formula:
Who is in the story? What problem are they facing? How are they going to overcome the problem.
    When [Character] [Gets into a conflict], they must [Resolve the situation or what’s at stake will be lost].
When the stakes are very large, it’s important to bring it down to a personal level.
  • non-physical descriptors
  • give the age for YA or MG – this is a marker that you’re writing in one of these genres and not adult
  • Just the major ones. Make it personal.
  • Bigger isn’t better. Make it personal!
  • High stakes, but not huge stakes.
  • Avoid phrases like “save the world or lose everything.” What aspect of that world are they trying to save? What element of their life will make it feel like they’re losing everything?
Comparison titles only work when the person you’re pitching knows the titles. Relying on them is risky. But, they can really work.
Be specific. Where to two titles intersect? If it’s Planetside meets Gunslinger Girl, you’re talking about militarism versus class division.
Use newer titles (past 5 or 10 years). Avoid blockbusters, eg: Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. It comes across as pretentious and having an unreasonably high expectation of what you’re trying to accomplish. Be up to date on your reading, especially in your genre. What’s making a splash now versus a potentially out of date classic.


Say it out loud! Pitches are meant to be delivered in person, so you have to be able to say it out loud without stumbling over it. Revise it until it sounds like natural speech. You’ll probably never get it perfectly natural, but it’s important to avoid sounding like a robot. Practice it.
An agent in a pitch session knows you’re probably nervous or stressing out. Better to make a mistake or two than to come across too robotic.
The goal of a pitch is to have an agent ask you to query.
Agents and editors want to like your book.
They don’t come to conferences to shut people down. They don’t make any money unless they sell your book. They want to like you and your book so they can sell your book and make money! They’re human beings, and they’re usually nice people. They may be stressed and curt at conferences because they’re busy and everyone wants to talk to them.
Be prepared!
If your pitch is going well, you may have to answer some questions:
  • What makes your book unique?
  • Who’s your audience?
  • Why does this book need to be in the world? Read: why will the agent be able to sell this book?
Have a pen and paper! They may give you instructions, eg: “Sounds great, can you send me a synopsis and 50 pages to email@address.com?”
You should probably have fully completed manuscript ready when pitching. If an agent requests a partial and likes it, they may request a full. It’s in your best interest to be ready to follow up.