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. This week, for a change, I thought it would be nice if I picked a book I’ve actually read (I mean, other than Harry Potter). I’m going from the list of books people gave me back in October, and to be honest, I’d never heard of half the books on it. I sometimes wonder if it’s easier to pitch a book when you don’t know all the details, because you’re less likely to try to cram in every cool moment. Anyway, this week, we’re doing JANE EYRE (which I read in high school). Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.
With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte’s innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.
So, how do we pitch the story in 35 words or less? I’ll be honest, that blurb isn’t all that helpful. One option is to be super mysterious. Make people read the book to find to out what happens, right?
Victorian England. Moors. Strange happenings. Orphans. A mysterious old house. Crazy lady in the attic. Can poor governess Jane uncover the secrets of Thornfield in time to marry Mr. Rochester, or is their relationship doomed?
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:
Orphaned plain Jane accepts a governess post, never dreaming she’d fall for her rich employer. When she discovers Mr. Rochester’s secret wife, Jane must choose between the love she yearns for and society’s harsh constraints.
See how that’s better? (And I did this in about half an hour, so I know you can improve upon it). Make this story your pitch. Put your own 35 word pitches in the comments!
(Special thanks to Lana Wood Johnson for reminding me what the heck this book is about. The blurbs I found on Amazon all assume you know the basic story.)