One of the parts of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest is writing a pitch for your novel.
This, I have discovered, is incredibly hard.
A pitch isn’t just a summary, though it often includes one. It will talk about how a book will be received by an audience, about the world development and growth of characters through the plot. Tiny tidbits of information needs to be revealed without giving anything away. This is how you sell your book, and it’s not just with a back cover blurb.
I was lucky that I had friends willing to help me with this. The first helped me to hash out what exactly a pitch needed to be about, and included examples of what a Pitch was versus a Summary.
The second sat with me for two hours on AIM as we flung ideas back and forth and word vomited until our brainstorm lead to something that MIGHT work. Refining that took more time, but in eventuality, it all worked out and I have a tight pitch.
Let’s go over what I wrote line by line to see what makes a good pitch–or at least what I think makes a good pitch.
A mage is only as good as their battery. And this battery is built like an all-pro linebacker, is covered in tattoos, and wears Walgreens Reading glasses.
The first lines of the pitch should be a hook, something to draw your readers in. Grab their attention, confuse them a bit by giving some information, but not all. In these sentences, I introduce Mages and Batteries, but don’t explain what they are. Interested yet?
Untrusting after losing her last Battery, even the glasses aren’t enough to make SSMS Mage Eleanor “Elle” Malone warm up to this new one.
While this sentence is still considered part of the hook, it is also a place where the main character is introduced. By making her name the first proper one we see, it’s clear that she is important.
The two are sent to Heidelberg to find out what is driving ghosts to become more active and far more powerful than they should be. With time running short, Elle is forced to come to grips with the draining of her last Battery, and find out what this new source of ghostly power is.
Because somehow, the Demon Lords might be coming back.
Here’s where the summary sits. Note there’s not a lot about it, but rather, just a basic overview. Get too wordy, and the person reading the pitch won’t want to read. They’ll already have all the information they might want from just the summary you sent them. Give enough details in the summary to make it clear what you are writing about, but leave out enough that you still have a story to tell. This is a delicate balance to strike, and one I’m still working on myself.
Told thorough a first person narrative, Battery Pack takes the ghost stories of Heidelberg and puts a more modern spin on them. Using Elle’s thoughts and eyes, Battery Pack recreates the feeling of living history in a place as centered in reality as it is in the Fantastic.
Here’s where we get into the meat of what the book is like. Is it fantasy or reality? History or mystery? Third person, first person, or some other type of writing, such as a journal style. Talk about what the book does, how it is written. In my case, I talk about how the modern world is mixed with the old stories that a city from the Middle Ages would have. There’s a lot of research that might go into a book taking place in a real city, don’t be afraid to let people know you did it.
Elle’s badass sarcasm and masked vulnerability makes her story relatable to fans of authors like Jim Butcher and Caitlin Kittridge.
Comparing your book with authors that write in the same genre as yours is a great way to get people to be interested. “Oh, I like Jim Butcher, maybe I’ll like a book like his.” There are so many times where I’ll pick up a book from an author I have never heard of simply because of a phrase like this. It might not be the best plan in all cases though. Don’t make it into a matter of prid. “The next JK Rowling” is a prideful statement, and not something easily proven. It makes you seem high and mighty, which is not something you want when trying to publish.
A fresh look at magic, a mission that goes south, ghosts and history make Battery Pack an adventure that will keep readers engaged until their flashlight batteries go out.
Finish up with one last overview of the high points of your novel. Think of it as a laundry list of what you have that others don’t. Can you fit in a pun, or a reminder of times when reading after dark were an every night. occurrence? All the better. Don’t force this ending. Let it flow and sound right. I kept trying to insert “the author’s own experiences in the city…” and other lines like that. But they never fit, and ruined how the lines worked together. So I took them out. It looks better for having been done.
Now, I am by no means an expert in pitches. This is just my own discovery on what works for me and what I like. But there are experts out there. one of the best resources I can think of is http://queryshark.blogspot.com/. Written BY someone who works with queries and pitches on a daily basis, it’s a great resource.