Pitch Insights

With the first round of PitchSlam behind us, I thought I’d share some things I noticed going through the pitches. Hopefully, some of the contestants can use this information when revising their pitches before the next round.

  1. A Round of Applause for the Entrants. You should be proud of yourselves. Some amazing pitches were submitted.
  2. A Lot of Pitches Suffer from Vagueness. We know nothing about the MS before opening the pitch. A pitch should tell us enough about your story to make us want to read more. 
  3. Trying to fit the entire plot into 35 words. As someone said, “Give us the hook, not the book.” A pitch is a teaser, not a synopsis. Take a look at my post from last week regarding what a pitch should contain.
  4. Rhetorical questions. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Leave them out. No matter how good the pitch sounds with that question in it, I promise you can make it stronger by taking the question out.
  5. Not Naming the Main Character. This isn’t a Twitter pitch where a character with a long name can destroy your character count. It’s the same number of words to type “An epileptic robot with Mommy-issues” as it for “Epileptic Robot with Mommy Issues XYZ62….” You want to give us something to root for.
  6. Wrong Genre – or worse, made up genres. Your book is not a MG/YA urban fantasy science fiction erotic paranormal romantic mystery. It’s. Just. Not. If your book were on a shelf in the bookstore (which is the ultimate goal, right?) where would the bookseller put it? An agent isn’t going to try to figure out which genre your book is. It’s up to you to write a pitch that conveys this information.
  7. Word counts. There were some issues with word counts that were both too long and too short. It’s really hard to sell a debut novel of over 100,000 words. If it’s MG, it’s not gonna happen. It’s also really hard to sell a YA or adult novel of 40,000 words. It’s always good to familiarize yourself with what is considered an appropriate word count for your genre.
  8. Too Much Voice. Voice is important in a pitch. But if you focus too much on injecting the main character’s personality, sometimes you end up sacrificing information about the plot. We have to know what your story is about to want to read it.
  9. Leaving words out. It’s hard to fit the essence of your novel into 35 words. But don’t skip words in order to do it. Articles and prepositions shouldn’t be left out as a way of saving space.
  10. Not using all 35 words. There are reasons we give people 35 words in a pitch. This is a pretty common number. Don’t turn in a pitch that’s 21 words or 29. Thirty-four words is fine, but if you think you’ve got a complete pitch with lots of words left over, it’s probably missing something.
I hope that helps. Happy pitching, and good luck!

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