Showing posts with label crafting a pitch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crafting a pitch. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Discover Pitch Wars by YA author Brenda Drake

"Alone we can do so little; together, we can do so much." Helen Keller
Our chapter of the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators had the honor of welcoming New York Times bestselling YA author Brenda Drake for our August ShopTalk meeting. Brenda is the founder of Pitch Wars, Pitch Madness, and #PitMad. In 2012 the idea came to her while watching an episode of "Cupcake Wars" on TV. On the Pitch Wars’ website, Brenda writes, “["Cupcake Wars" is] a show where bakers have an assistant help them prepare the best cupcakes possible for a round of judges. While watching all the yummy creations come together, I thought it would be great to have a publishing contest where agented/published authors, those who are a few steps ahead, could mentor authors’ full manuscripts and guide them through the publishing trenches.” But even before the "Cupcake Wars," Brenda started her first contest in 2010, described on the website as “Pitch Wars . . . a legacy,” which developed into the contest called “Pitch Madness.”
Today, Pitch Wars is a mentoring program for Middle Grade, Young Adults, New Adult or Adult manuscripts, described on the website:“where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions on how to make the manuscript shine for an agent showcase. Pitch Wars is open to completed and polished full-length fiction manuscripts only. The mentor also helps edit their mentee’s pitch for the contest and their query letter for submitting to agents.”

Pitch Wars has developed into a community of authors, editors, agents and more who come together to help each other by offering advice, with the eventual goal of publication. One of the authors in our SCBWI chapter found her critique partners in the community. After participating in the mentorship program, the idea for her second book came to her fast. And she says, the information you learn will stay with you.

How Can You Participate?
•    Do your research. Study the Pitch Wars website. Begin on the page, “New? Start Here.” This page offers step-by-step instructions on how to get involved, how to find a mentor, to prepare your submission, submit and join social media. Also, the page provides the Pitch Wars schedule.
•    Click on “About #PitMad,” which is a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed polished and unpublished manuscripts. All genres are welcomed. Agents and editors make requests by liking/favoriting the tweeted pitch. Every unagented writer is welcome to pitch. All genres/categories are welcomed. #PitMad occurs quarterly and upcoming dates are posted.
•    Go to the Pitch Wars Blog to learn more about the Pitch Madness contests.

Take a few moments and visit Brenda’s website,, take the “Library Jumpers Mystik World Tour,” and check out her other books in a second series, “The Fated;” and her latest standalone book, dubbed “a fast-paced romantic adventure” by Kirkus Review, “Analiese Rising.” One peek at Amazon Reviewers for Thief of Lies, the first book in the Library Jumpers series tells it all: “This has to be one of my all-time favorite fantasy books!” and “Conceptually, this book (series) is brilliant.”
Image courtesy of:
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter and is working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Building Story from Pitch, by Kit Rosewater

Children's Author Kit Rosewater
shares her expertise as WOTM's guest
Children's author Kit Rosewater presented a talk, "Building Story from Pitch," at a recent Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI, meeting. Her debut queer middle grade series, the Derby Daredevils, illustrated by Sophie Escabasse, is scheduled for publication in spring 2020.

Kit's talk lit a fire under those of us in attendance. I overheard one writer say as she was leaving that she was going home and working on her pitch for her novel all week so she could take it to a writer's conference that week end. Others I've talked to have done the same thing. I think you will, too, after reading Kit's detailed and enjoyable write-up of the content from that evening, which she has graciously agreed to share with us.

When I started querying in 2011 . . .
I looked at pitch a lot like a suitcase. The first time I’d even think about writing a pitch for my work, the entire manuscript would be finished and ready to send around. I’d stare at the pitch format in horror, wondering how was I supposed to distill a huge, complex narrative into a two-paragraph query letter. Or even worse, a measly logline! My pitch suitcase looked like a tiny weekender bag I was supposed to stuff an entire wardrobe into. Fitting one into the other seemed impossible.

But writers seeking the traditional publishing route know that pitch is a necessary evil. So I gritted my teeth, manuscript after manuscript, and crammed the content into query letters. Every time I got the inevitable rejection, I would curse the concept of pitching. “Why won’t agents give me a chance?” I would moan. “My stupid query letter is standing in the way of them connecting to all the special aspects in my book!” Little did I realize that response was the key to everything I was doing wrong. But more about that in a moment.

Pitch and I started to become friendly in the fall of 2016, when I participated in the writer mentorship contest, Pitch Wars. While I revised my manuscript for two months, my entry in the final agent showcase was a mere 50-word summary and the first page of my story. Here's that summary:
The vitiligo on Tami’s skin has always made her lonely. When her new classmates mistake her for their missing friend Renee, Tami’s strange connection to her doppelgänger grants instant popularity—along with access to Renee’s dark secret. If Tami sets things straight, she’ll lose her newfound friends. If she doesn’t, she might lose herself.

My mentors and I worked on that short summary for weeks and weeks, yet I was still amazed to see the payoff and ultimate power of those fifty words. While the first page showcased my writing skills, the summary showcased my story’s concept, which turned out to be my winning ticket to signing with an agent.

Fast forward to a little over a year later
When my agent and I first went on submission with THE DERBY DAREDEVILS, which was then a chapter book series titled THE FLANNELS, we honed the summary until it sizzled. Again, that hard work paid off. Here's that series pitch:

When Kenzie Ellington’s best friend moves to Canada two weeks before her birthday, Kenzie has to find someone new to celebrate with… and a way to celebrate! In THE FLANNELS, a group of funky third graders button their plaid shirts, lace up their roller skates, and take to Austin's junior derby track. Together, the Flannels face fierce competition, thieving roller derby ghosts, and some confusing first crushes. IVY & BEAN meets ROLLER GIRL in this queer chapter book series that embraces differences and staying true to oneself.

I met my eventual editor in person months after acquisition, once we were in the middle of revisions on Book 1 of a very different-looking middle grade series. Still, that initial pitch was the first thing she brought up in our conversation. “Minutes after I received the email, I wrote Lauren back and said I couldn’t have dreamed a better pitch,” my editor told me. “I needed to read your story.”

Wow, I thought. Maybe that little weekender bag isn’t so bad after all.

And that’s when I realized that instead of being my worst writing enemy, pitch was actually becoming my best friend.

Since this discovery, I’ve studied and honed the craft of pitching. Looking back, I’m able to see that my inability to clearly pitch earlier manuscripts meant they were pretty much doomed from the start.

As a proud pro-pitch-convert, I want to go into all the great things about pitch I was missing out on, why I now start every project with a pitch before a draft, and my specific process for transforming the ideas in my head to a crisp logline and query letter.

What a Pitch Really Is and Why It’s Important
While past-me may have thought loglines and query letters filtered out the special qualities in my writing, the truth is, it’s the pitch’s job to convey those special aspects. The reason why I missed this pretty obvious point was due to a common pitch misconception:
Ultimately, a pitch isn’t just about what happens in your story from A to Z. A pitch is about why this story is unique, fresh, and needs to be told.

When I’m out of ideas with my writing, I let pitch lead the way. I check out the #MSWL (manuscript wish list) hashtag on Twitter to see what agents and editors are fascinated by these days, to see if I’m drawn to any of those concepts. A lot of times writers believe they’re only standing on one side of pitching, but really we’re on the other side too, as readers.

While I like to know what agents and editors are still searching for, I also like to see what they’ve already discovered. Along with #MSWL, I research deal announcements on Publishers Weekly Rights Reports and search for one-line descriptions that makes me want to read a certain book. Similarly, I’ll check out book blogs like “Pop! Goes the Reader” and consider the short descriptions of upcoming books and which ones pull me in.

There really is no escaping pitch. It sticks the whole way through a book’s life cycle. A pitch is used to sell a book to an agent, then to an editor, then to a publishing team, then to booksellers and librarians, then to the reader. Pitch never ceases to be important. People will always want to read that paragraph-length description before they buy, checkout, or order a book.

Why Pitch Comes at the Beginning
In his book Anatomy of Story, John Truby suggests that writers crafting new stories should begin by making two lists: one summarizing all their past projects, and one of all the qualities they enjoy in books by other authors. The point of this exercise is to identify the unique and specific ideas writers most enjoy before they become sucked into the weeds of plotting and character arc.

I love this practice, and even though my tastes rarely shift between projects, I still make the lists every time I sit down to try something new. It reminds me to begin the process of writing with joy and excitement. And ultimately, my pitch becomes a touchstone marking my excitement for a new project that I can return to again and again when I’m lost in the drafting and revising stages.

Besides acting as a touchstone during times of struggle, I like crafting a pitch before I start a project because it can save me loads of time, energy, and heartache. Sometimes an idea feels so fragile that I want to hide it away until it grows up into a full book. But I owe it to my ideas to get feedback early on. By the time I have a logline or two-paragraph pitch, it’s time to see if my excitement translates. While hearing a concept isn’t viable may hurt a lot in the moment, it’s much better than hearing the same response after I’ve spent months crafting and polishing a full manuscript.

The same goes for significant feedback that asks me to streamline or reimagine parts of the story. Once I have a whole manuscript in front of me, I often feel overwhelmed with the amount of elements that can change. Should I combine two side characters into one? Nix a subplot? Add a chapter or two in the third act? I can often toil away at a list of revisions without understanding if I’m addressing and improving the true core of the story.

When I begin with pitch, I’m building the narrative from the ground up. I don’t move onto the next floor until the first is solid. That way, when I do run into trouble I can figure out exactly which component isn’t working.

My Pitching Process
With #MSWL inspiration and “love lists” completed thanks to Truby’s advice, I make pages of messy notes about what I want my next story to look like. I jot down aspects of the setting, twists, character dynamics, or themes and symbols I want to see echoed throughout. If I have a picture of a scene in my head, I describe it without crafting full sentences.

Then, when I’m fairly certain I have my rough ingredients for a story, I throw some of them together.

My favorite strategy for crafting pitch is to first fill out a basic logline formula:

“After/When [catalyst], [main character] must [main action] or [stakes.]”

This “Mad Libs” exercise turns my list into something I can fiddle with. Sometimes I see a lot of potential in the basic formula, and I massage the wording from there. Other times, I realize the special aspects of my idea aren’t coming through in the original logline, so I revisit other components and see if I can sub those into the format.

Here are some other aspects I’ll list and consider in my notes: Main character’s goal, conflict, decision, antagonist, hook, setting, mentor, sidekick, love interest, etc. Once I have a logline I’m happy with, I move onto my query-length pitch. This entails two paragraphs. In the first paragraph, I go into the setting, the main character and their goal, and the catalyst. I like my midpoint of the pitch to be a wrench that gets thrown into the main character’s initial plan.

In the second paragraph, I detail the catalyst and how my main character reacts or pivots. Usually there’s a new plan for how to deal with the disruption, but ultimately it’s a flawed plan. In the last sentence, I like to hint that the solution for my main character won’t be so easy, and they’ll be pushed into either an impossible action or impossible decision in order to get what they want. I like to keep the word “impossible” in mind because I want the reader to wonder how things will turn out. There’s nothing more disappointing than stakes that are easily predicted or solved from reading the pitch alone.

Armed with my logline and query pitch, I’m ready for feedback from critique partners. Sometimes I’m sent back to the drawing board. Sometimes I’m given a handful of notes for consideration. I work and rework my pitch materials until they make me desperately want to read this not-yet-written-book that’s still floating around in my head. Only after my pitch reaches this level will I set it aside and get to beat sheets, outlining scenes, and exploring various character profiles. So many aspects of a manuscript are bound to change, but if a pitch is done right, its essence should continue from one form to the next.

Whenever I’m feeling discouraged with writing, I like to take a favorite book down from my shelf and read the short summary on the back cover. I’m reminded that every marketing blurb can be traced allllllll the way back to an idea that sparked that author’s imagination. And I remind myself that perhaps one day, the pitch of my work in progress will end up on the back of a book cover, too.
Linda Wilson
Writers on the Move
Monthly Contributor

This month, I'm pleased to welcome as my guest, Kit Rosewater, author of the Derby Daredevils, her debut queer middle grade fiction series coming out in spring 2020. For more about Kit, please visit Here is some of Kit's sage advice: Every setback or challenge you face in your path to publication is a chance to strengthen your resolve. Each rejection adds to your backstory. Every “no” hardens your knight’s armor. Be the hero you want your readers to root for. And above all else, don’t give up. Your journey isn’t over.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

So, Can't Anyone Give Me Some Details for Writing a Great Pitch?

People tell authors to pitch to the media; they even tell us how to write a pitch. But only sort of. Don't you wish they would occasionally tell you how to do that? And do it effectively? 

Here are seven things your pitch can do to keep a gatekeeper interested long enough to book you:
1.   A headline or first sentence must capture the reader. Here are ideas for doing that? 

  • Use a statistic that is so off-the-wall that it’s hard to believe (but it’s true).
  • Make an outrageous statement. 
  • Be so clever with rhyme, alliteration, or pun that the gatekeeper just plain wants to read some more. 
  • Make it be about something that is somehow so closely related to the media gatekeepers' demographic (meaning their reader or audience) that it will be immediately obvious how it will fit into their own plans or business needs. Make it even better by letting them know you know it does relate because you read their magazine or column or blog.

2.   Throw in adjectives. No, not “awesome” or “great.” That’s up to them to decide if your story idea is awesome or great.  Words like “award-winning,” “multi award-winning,” “bestselling” or “two decades of experience” do work, though.
3.   Actually be about something more than “I published a book.” Substance. Concrete. Useful. Powerful. Think “benefits” when you write this sentence or paragraph.
4.   Offer exclusivity.  Maybe offer exclusivity with a deadline. You can make that offer to someone else when that deadline passes. 
5.   Let the media know that you are equipped to handle their needs. With experience in radio (or whatever) as an example. With Toastmaster experience. As a team leader and speaker in the business world.
6.   Close with a sentence that makes it clear you’d like to provide them with anything that would make their job easier.
7.   Don’t ask questions. It’s your job to make it so clear they won’t have to ask any.

So, what sells? If you can angle your pitch around current new, sex, money, kids, celebrity, better health, travel or sports, go for it. You’ll be ahead of the game. Just make sure you send your pitch to the right editors/gatekeepers for each topic. Celebrity? Entertainment or politics. Money? The business section of your newspaper. Kids? Some women’s magazines. You get the idea.

Bonus Tip:  Know how to write killer query letters. You can get tips right from the mouths of agents who share their pet peeves with The Frugal Editor.  And, step-by-step guidelines for all your PR sales tools with The Frugal Book Promoter

 Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the PlaceHarkening: A Collection of Stories RememberedTracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisherThe multi award-winning second edition of The Frugal Editor; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Writing and Book Marketing – Crafting a Pitch (Part2)

Wow, the members of Writers on the Move who participated in our first December Innovative and Proven Writing and Marketing Strategies Week should get a round of applause – I certainly applaud and thank them. They really did out-do themselves with useful fresh information to help us on our book writing and marketing journey.

Today, we end this special week with Part 2 of Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Pitch series

Crafting a Pitch (Part 2)

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Crafting a pitch may be easier if you reread your book to find possibilities for pitches within it. As you read:

1. Identify the aspects of your book that will most interest a reader in a given market or at a given time.

2. Write them down.

3. Turn these features into statements that show how readers or audiences will benefit.

4. Here’s an example of one I might use for this book: “The Frugal Book Promoter is a super coach for your book’s marketing campaign.” On the back cover of my book Your Blog, Your Business: A retailer’s guide to garnering customer loyalty and sales online and in-store (, I tease future readers with practical ways to:

o   Build a blog in five easy steps.
o   Minimize the time it takes to run a blog.
o   Find material to blog about.
o   Integrate your blog with other social networks.
o   Manage a blog frugally or free.

5. A frequently-used fiction example is: “This book keeps readers turning pages late into the night.” I’m sure you can do better than this because you have the details of your plot stowed in your head. Working with and learning from the screenwriters’ loglines we discuss later in this chapter will help you with this project.

You can find possibilities in your book of fiction. My first novel, This Is the Place, is one of the most difficult genres to promote. I thought of it as a literary novel but found that it also fit into little bitty categories: a little bit historical, a little bit saga, a little bit romance, a little bit feminist, a little bit women’s, a little bit western. I also found that, by virtue of my age, there were lots of aspects of my past life and former careers that interested editors and could be worked into pitches for feature articles.

To avoid missing the obvious pitch for your book, set up a brainstorming session with three or more who have read it. Assure them no idea is too silly. No idea will be booed. Nothing is to be repressed. You may be surprised at how many angles come from such a group effort.

Because we are so immersed in our own writing we don’t see it clearly, writing a pitch for someone else’s book is easier than writing one for our own. Practice writing pitches for books you’ve read and movies you’ve seen.

Once you have an idea for a pitch, add a little cayenne.

  • Boil down your plot or nonfiction premise into three sentences or less.
  • Maintain the passion you feel for your story.
  • Use present tense. “Is” instead of “was.”
  • Use punchy, specific verbs. “Lobs” instead of “throws.”
  • Avoid adjectives and adverbs. (If your verbs are strong enough, you probably won’t need them!) Find more on getting rid of unhelpful adverbs and adjectives (and turning them into metaphorical gold!) when you read my The Frugal Editor (

To learn more about writing pitches in all its forms, take a lesson from screenwriters:

  • Join a screenwriters’ forum. Throw out the topic of loglines (very short, catchy plot synopses) and watch members of the group go to town. Offer up one of your own and let them tear it apart and rebuild a thing of beauty. Search for these groups at and With any such group it is only right for you to contribute as well as learn from others.
  • Study Jonathan Treisman’s article at He is President of Flatiron Films and produced Warner Brothers’ film Pay It Forward.

Hint: The screenwriter’s craft is a fertile ground for learning both marketing and writing skills that may be adapted to any kind of writing, from poetry to science fiction.

Now you have a picture-perfect pitch or two, find a place for one or more of them:

  • In your media releases.
  • In your fliers.
  • On your business cards and other stationery.
  • On your posters—the ones you use for events like fairs and book signings.
  • In taglines and credits.
  • In your e-mail signature.
  • On the back cover of your book.
  • In your advertisements.

Stockpile your pitches in a special file in your computer so you can pick, choose, and perfect them as needed.

Now you can write pitches, let’s put them to work. Pitch an agent or publisher. Pitch the media. Pitch that all-important group we call readers.

Note: Your pitches to the media are indirect pitches to your readers. Their audiences will be the folks who read your book.

Stop by on December 17th, for Part 3 of this Pitch series.

Excerpted from the multi award-winning Frugal Book Promoter,

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Instructor for nearly a decade at the renowned UCLA Extension Writers' Program
Author of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally books including the second edition honored by USA BOOK NEWS
Web site:

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