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].
This week, I’m looking at ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, by Gabriel García Márquez, which I’ve never read. The title sounds vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t begin to tell you what it’s about. I’m not going to let that stop me from distilling it to a 35-word pitch.
Anyway, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.
Love and lust, war and revolution, riches and poverty, youth and senility — the variety of life, the endlessness of death, the search for peace and truth — these universal themes dominate the novel. Whether he is describing an affair of passion or the voracity of capitalism and the corruption of government, Gabriel Garcia Marquez always writes with the simplicity, ease, and purity that are the mark of a master.
Alternately reverential and comical, One Hundred Years of Solitude weaves the political, personal, and spiritual to bring a new consciousness to storytelling. Translated into dozens of languages, this stunning work is no less than an accounting of the history of the human race.
Unfortunately, this tells me absolutely nothing. it could be describing Legends of the Fall, if that were set in Latin America. I don’t even get a main character’s name. So, how do we pitch the story in 35 words or less?
Follow the ups and downs of a small town through the eyes of one family as they experience riches, poverty, love, lust, war, corruption, revolution and more. Together, they seek the truth and inner peace.
Does that make you want to read the book? Me, neither. Neither did that blurb – unfortunately, I’ve discovered that when a book gets famous enough, Amazon and Goodreads assume you know what it’s about and don’t tell you anything useful in the blurb. So I read through a few of the reviews, but that didn’t work, either. Finally, I went to Wikipedia. I’m going to be 100% honest – some books do not do well in pitching contests, and this might just be one of them. There appear to be 16 main characters sharing 4 names? So maybe this type of family saga would come across better in a query where you get more words.
Still, I am undeterred. Whether this pitch is the best possible way to sell the book or not, I wrote one that works better than the one above.
The Buendía family leaves Columbia for a city of mirrors, where strange things happen. Over seven generations, the Buendía family members must learn from each other’s mistakes to save la familia – and the magical town.
See how that’s better? And that’s from someone who has no idea what the book is about (still).
Make this story your pitch. Put your own 35 word pitches in the comments.