Posted by: Katie B | December 4, 2018

Pitch Perfect – How to Pitch Your Book in One Perfect Line

Of all the things that can cause writers to break out into a cold sweat, pitching your book is usually at the top of the list. We are masters of words–lots of them. Writing a 300 page novel? No problem. Crafting one line–one–that encapsulates your entire story? Impossible.

And a pitch is important, even if you are an established author. Why? It helps the agent, editor, marketing team, publicists, and so on understand what’s at the heart of your story. Because in the end, publishing is a business, and the goal is to get your book into the hands of readers. To do this, you need to know what your story is about–in one line–in order to sell it.

So how do you do this? I have a trick that I’ll share. It seems so simple, but it does work. Try it out and feel free to respond to this post with your results. What you need to do:

  1. Start with your story question. What does that mean? Well, the story question is the one “overarching” issue that you are grappling with as you create your story. In the case of my Zombie young adult novel, the story question would go like this:
  • What happens when a freshly turned Zombie teen tries to change the world’s intolerance of people that they fear with the power of cheer?

In this example, I don’t tell you any more about the story other than the overarching issue my main character is dealing with. You only know the specifics that are important (she’s a teen, a Zombie, and freshly turned). You don’t know the specifics that would make the pitch too detailed (what she looks like, who her friends are, where she lives, who she has a crush on, etc). And the question goes to the heart of what I’m trying to explore. What would happen if she tries to use the power of cheer to change the world? The rest of the story stems from this one question. How would she do it? Who would help her? How does it come about? Why does she have to change the world? What would happen if she doesn’t succeed?

The story question doesn’t answer everything. It whets the appetite. It gives the reader a taste of what they are going to be reading, and it begs other questions that they want to have answered.

I like to start with the question because it is often easier for the writer to pin down. It can be more playful, and it seems to have less pressure attached to it. It’s not a pitch–it’s a question. Nothing to be worried about! So have fun. Play around with several questions. Don’t force yourself to find that “one” right away. Write them down and let them sit. Later, edit and play. See which one speaks to you.

2. Next flip the question into a statement that describes what the story is about. This flipping brings you to your pitch. Using the example question above, my statement would look like this:

  • In Daphne Dapple *Hearts* Zombie High, a moderately transformed Zombie teen tries to change the world’s intolerance of what they fear by using the power of cheer.

The final pitch statement can be closely related to the question, as this one is. But it doesn’t need to be that way. The question simply leads you to the statement. You can add or subtract details and expand or contract your message as you see fit. Regardless, the idea is that you don’t go straight for that one line pitch. You start with the question and use the question to lead you to the pitch.

Using my Mrs. Claus picture book, here is another example of how this would work:

Question: What if Mrs. Claus were more than a secondary character in her own life?

Pitch: In Hedda Claus Finds Her Talent, Hedda finds that her talent isn’t baking cookies in the family bakery, it’s running the business–any business–including Santa’s.

In this example, the final pitch statement differs a lot more from the story question than in the first example. It expands on it, which is fine. Same as before, the story question was a tool to lead me to the statement / pitch. However you use the question to get to the final product is fine. As long as you get there!

Now neither of these are perfect, so the title of this post is misleading. But this process got me started down the right path and stopped me from pulling my hair out. Try it yourself and see how it works. Share your results!

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