As you may be aware, I help host the PitchSlam contest run every year by the amazing L.L. McKinney. Writers submit a 35 word pitch for feedback, then their first page for feedback, then both together for consideration for the agent round. The hosts, with a slew of talented readers, work to pick the most polished entries for the agents to read and request.
This year, someone suggested that perhaps 35 words wasn’t enough to do a book justice in a pitch. My reply was that any book could be done in 35 words or less — and I offered to use my blog to help show how. So, once a week until I run out of book ideas or people lose interest, join me here for This Book’s My Pitch.
Personally, the format I like for a pitch is:
When [inciting incident], [main character] must [basic plot] or [stakes].
So, let’s see how it plays out. Apropos to the theme of this year’s contest, for our first installment, I’ve chosen Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I imagine y’all know what the book’s about, but here’s the snippet from Amazon.
Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.
So, how do we pitch the story in 35 words or less? One option is to be super mysterious. Make people read the book to find to out what happens, right?
On Harry Potter’s eleventh birthday, he receives an invitation to wizarding school, opening the door to a word he never knew existed. But when a Dark Lord rises, will Harry be able to stop him?
Not so great, right? See why I say I don’t like pitches that are too vague? Or pitches with rhetorical questions? Let’s try something else:
On Harry’s eleventh birthday, he discovers he’s a wizard. After traveling to a new world, Harry must learn enough magic to stop the Dark Wizard who killed his parents before Harry becomes the next victim.
Better, right? (And I did this in about 5 minutes, so I know you can do just as well). Make this story your pitch. Put your own 35 word pitches in the comments!