Monday, March 9, 2009

Creating a pitch

Camy here. I use Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake method, and I realized that the 5-sentence summary in step 2 is an easy, painless way of creating a 30-second verbal pitch. The 5-sentence summary consists of story setup, three plot disasters and lastly the ending/resolution.

It made me break the storyline down into basic components, made sure I have those crucial three disasters, and also helped me to look at the pacing of those disasters. I'm pretty stoked.

When I took Jan Coleman's pitch workshop at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, she also mentioned a few important things to include, which I believe can be incorporated in the 5-sentence summary once that groundwork is laid:

1) The book genre—Chicklit, cozy mystery, Regency romance, etc. This can be mentioned in the first sentence.

"In my Chicklit novel, Ashley is a bored urbanite seeking purpose, and she decides to bring her version of civilization to South African natives." (Genre and setup, sentence 1)

2) Tone and Pace—make sure the language and word choice of your pitch reflects the book tone, whether somber or sassy.

3) Benefits—spiritual takeaway, moral lesson. This should be mentioned in the last sentence, the ending/resolution.

"...In the end, Ashley realizes that all God needs in a servant is a humble heart, willing to do whatever He asks." (spiritual takeaway, sentence 5)

4) Angle—what makes the book stand out from others? You can also apply a Hollywood High Concept—mention a known movie/book with a specific twist. For example, "Bridget Jones" in the Amazon jungle. You can sneak this in as a sentence at the end or mention it in the beginning, but I don't think it's absolutely necessary to include in the pitch. Also, I've heard that you need to be careful with comparisons. If you do one, it should immediately capture interest and sparkle.

"My Chicklit novel is like 'Bridget Jones' in the Amazon, where Ashley, an urbanite seeking both love and purpose, decides to bring her version of civilization to South American natives." (Genre, Angle and setup, sentence 1)

5) Reader—mention the specific audience. Urban 30-somethings, professional women, troubled teens, lukewarm believers, etc. This can also be at the end or mentioned in the first sentence. I think this is an important aspect of the pitch.

"This novel is like 'Bridget Jones' in the Amazon, and will appeal to 30-somethings, lukewarm Christians, and believers interested in overseas missions." (Angle and Reader, sentence 6)

6) Passion and qualifications. What inspired you to write the book, what makes you qualified to write about this topic?

"I was inspired to write the book after my overseas short-term missions trip to South America (qualifications), and I want to reveal the joys of missions to a fiction-reading audience (passion)."

Jan Coleman also mentions preparing possible marketing ideas for AFTER the presentation, if the editor is curious to know more, but I don't think this is absolutely necessary.

One thing I personally think would be a good thing to prepare for the pitch is a Comparative Title Analysis. It's a list of other published book titles, and what about the book is similar and different from your own. This, however, is not absolutely necessary—it's usually used for book and series proposals—and it probably shouldn't be mentioned unless the editor/agent expresses interest after the pitch. Here's an example:

"What a Girl Wants" by Kristin Billerbeck, Westbow Press, 2004
Both this book and my manuscript star an urban Christian career woman, discontent with her singleness and looking for purpose, but "What a Girl Wants" is set in trendy Silicon Valley, whereas my manuscript thrusts Ashley into the rough-and-tumble Amazon on an overseas missions trip.

Some editors say they enjoyed reading the Comparative Title Analysis in query letters, others did not. I doubt they'd throw you over just because they didn't like your CTA, and some might be interested in you because you took the time to do a CTA.

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her novel Single Sashimi is out now, and she runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and she ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly giveaways!


  1. Excellent pitch advice, Camster!

    Especially great timing with conference season gearing up.

    Being more prepared helped lessen the nervousness I always felt with pitching.

    Your tutorial here on Creating a Pitch will be so helpful to novice pitchers as well as those of us who need to sharpen our pitching skills.


  2. Way to break it down -- cool. I'm going to remember this for future reference!

    Since I'm a pantser but had to write a synopsis for my contest entry, I discovered it's helpful to have The Great American Novel sort of mapped out. I started through the snow-flake, too.

  3. Camy, good morning! And how perfectly appropriate to post on pitching during the World Baseball Classic. Good job, Kimo Sabi! Or is that Wasabi-wan? Or Obi-wan?

    I'm so confused!

    And have I managed to mention that the captain of the USA team is...


    drumroll, please.

    Derek Jeter, Yankee shortstop extraordinaire!!!

    So for Camy to recognize the importance of pitching to BASEBALL makes her the all-American girl.

    Love it!

    To celebrate great pitch letters and great pitching in any context, I've brought fried dough, drizzled with maple syrup and/or powdered sugar.

    Fresh fruit for the health conscious.

    Sweet cream in honor of life in general.

    Dig in, and let's talk pitching.

    Okay, okay, WRITING pitching, I guess!



  4. Excellent post, Camy! I never excelled at pitching so I can use your advice to nail down my story.

    Ruthy, love how you found a way to bring Derek Jeter into the conversation. :-) Thanks for the fried dough and maple syrup. Yummy.


  5. When it comes to pitches and synopses, I definitely need a formula! Thanks for the great advice, Camy. Very timely, too.

  6. Clear and succinct advice, Camy. I've always wondered about the comparative title thing.

  7. Thanks for the breakdown, Camy. I'm not ready to pitch my novel yet, but this will help keep me from stumbling too much when hit with the usual "So what are you working on?" question during meals at a conference. And get me prepped for pitching someday. :-)

    Yummy breakfast as usual, Ruthy.

    Hope y'all have a great day!

  8. Hi Camster, Great advice for pitching and as Cheryl pointed out, pitch season is coming up. And NOT baseball Ruthy. I hope your next novel is going to include a Jeter character. That is the only excuse to be drooling so much. smile

    Speaking of drooling, the fried dough is yummy even though I should have stuck with the fruit.

  9. Leave it to Ruthy to reference everything back to the Yankees.

    Great pitch info, Camy.

    Pass the bagels... er, ptich me a bagel.

  10. Pitch you a bagel!!!

    Love it, Tina.

    And just so you know, today's sports update is:

    USA advancing to second round in the World Baseball Classic, a very cool pre-season (for now) tournament designed to show how many countries are developing great baseball programs. A little btw: Over 35% of baseball players on American teams are citizens of other countries. I love how multi-cultural it's become for a "Great American Past-time!" LoL!

    And Sandra!!!! Every body needs a little fried dough or funnel cake in their lives, right? And some of the best I've ever gotten was right at Franklin Field in Philly. Along with cheese steaks, of course. And we all know that the Philadelphia Phillies were baseball's grand champions for '08, right? World Series winners?

    Just sayin'.

    All right, back to the paying job.

  11. Camy, your books are great, but I gotta come back to read this. The snowflake method boggles my mind. Just the thought of it scares me.
    You're so smart. :-)

    I hope your dog book is coming along. Thanks for the post!

  12. Okay, I sucked it up and read the post. Excellent advice and very helpful. Thanks!

  13. Hmmmmm

    Blogger is being unkind to me this morning. I'll try again, though I'm beginning to be paranoid.

    I like this Camy. I teach the five paragraph essay at work so this five paragraph synopsis really makes sense to me. Great way to get an overview of your book, find weaknesses, get the big picture.


  14. I love it, Camy!! Thanks for organizing me down to 30 seconds, LOL!

    The good Lord blessed me with sooooo many words, I need step by step methods like this to help me prepare a concise spiel for those editor and agent moments.

    Good posting, Camy!

  15. 5 paragraphs, huh?

    I need to start working on that, one paragraph at a time....

  16. Oh no, I killed the blog! lol

    Well, in between *working* the real job today, I'm working on step number one of the snowflake method.

    Might as well start from the top, eh?

  17. NICE!!! Very helpful. I love the examples and links, too. I'm just starting to understand the snowflake's helping me write a synopsis as well.


  18. Great advice, Camy. I certainly need to sharpen my pitching skills. I tend to get the "Oh, um..." (insert shrug and scrambling thoughts here) whenever anyone asks me "So, what's your book about?"

    I KNOW what it's about, but I have a hard time talking about it.

    These tips and tools should help tremendously.

    Thanks, Camy!

  19. Cheryl--thanks! I hope you're right and it helps people gearing up for conferences.

    Ann--glad to meet another snowflake user!

    Ruthy--how wonderful for you to mention one of the hottest players I love to watch!

    Janet--I'm sure you don't need any pitching advice, darlin'!

    Melanie--while this is sort of a "formula," be aware that you can deviate as much as you like from it. It's all personal preference!

    Myra--I've found that some editors really like to know you've done some market research, especially in this tough economy.

    Leigh--those "What are you working on?" questions are perfect for practicing your pitch before you hit up an editor or agent!

    Sandra--I should have stuck with the fruit, too! LOL

    Tina--pitch me one, too. I'm hungry.

    Jessica, the snowflake isn't as hard as it seems, I promise! Plus it's only step 2 of the snowflake, and you don't have to do any of the other steps. The advice here is stuff to tack onto your pitch AFTER you've used step 2 of the snowflake, so it's more like "window dressing" for your pitch. :)

    Mary--sorry about Blogger. Shall I shoot it for you?

    Audra--YOU? Too many words? No! (Just kidding. ;)

    Pam, you don't actually have to do step one. Actually, step one was hardest for me. You can skip to step 2 if you want. You can USE the sentence from step 1 in your proposal, but for just creating your pitch, you only need step 2.

    Lynn--the snowflake is an excellent tool for a synopsis! I still use it to write my synopses.

    Erica--Thanks! I hope it helps you!


  20. Camy, I'm getting a late start today, but loved the blog -- soooo detailed and informative! You are way too young to be such a font of information!!


  21. Very interesting, Camy! I've never seen a pitch done like this. Thanks for sharing!