7 steps to a Successful Literary Pitch

I recently returned from the #WDCE (Writer’s Digest Conference East) in New York City. What an experience! The atmosphere alone was worth the money and time spent going. I was able to meet a lot of young writers as wide-eyed and bushy-tailed as I was (am), which has, even in just the few days since I’ve returned home, been invaluable.

I attended the conference with no intention of making a pitch to an agent — Being more concerned with getting my creative juices flowing again, and checking out the self-publishing world. My how plans change!

I wrote a pitch for my book on Friday and delivered it with no…ok, very few….mistakes to 12 agents the following day! It was both a terrifying and liberating experience. As a writer, I do love to talk about my work…my Precious, if you will. Taking into consideration the things I was able to glean from the conference, I have been making, and continue to make, adjustments to the novel. My hope is to have it ready, or as ready as it can be, to send out very soon. I will only get that one chance to impress…so here’s hoping I do!

I’ll try to keep you better updated as time goes on!

Now, Without further ado: 7 Steps to writing a solid pitch, as given by Chuck Sambuchino. (Well, from the notes I jotted down while he was speaking.)

First: Introduce yourself and be polite.

Second: The agent wants to hear four things.

  • Genre
  • Title
  • Word Count (if you know it)
  • Is it complete?

Third: Log line: Character, their vocation along with something that makes them different, and why they are in the story.

Ex: Tammie Johnson is a no-holds-barred New York City Cop, who struggles with a drug addiction and the need for speed. ( I don’t know.. something like that)

Fourth: The Pitch

  1. Introduce the main Character. Ex: 35-year-old Tammie Johnson was born and raised on the streets of New York City.
  2. Introduce something unique or different about your character. Ex: She used to believe in the system, but now with 15 years on the force, she struggles with a very real drug addiction and spends her nights illegally racing cars on the street for cash.
  3. Inciting incident. Why is this a story? Ex: When she witnesses the brutal murder of a close racing friend, Tammie decides to clean up her act and find the evidence needed to put the guilty party behind bars.
  4. Conflict. What’s stopping your character from doing what they want? Ex: But, the culprit knows she witnessed the murder, and is now out for her blood as well. Tammie must find a way to put the man behind bars without exposing her own hand in the illegal car racing world, or worse, ending up a corpse herself.
  5. Complications. What are some SPECIFIC examples of things that get in her way. Ex: While fleeing for her life and looking for clues, she’s forced to dress like a clown, gets attacked by a seemingly rapid Chihuahua, and on one occasion is forced to defend herself using only a crimson, 6 inch stiletto heel, and her wits.
  6. Vague wrap up. You want to give them an idea of the possible outcome, but not tell them the end of the book.. You want them to WANT to read it! Ex: When Tammie is given an anonymous tip, she must decide to pursue the lead, or give up. For this white rabbit might lead her to the answers she’s been looking for, or down a dark hole — one that’s 6 feet under.
  7. Stakes. What happens if the character fails. This doesn’t have to come at the end…Just make sure you put it in there. My examples show that if Tammie doesn’t catch the killer, she could end up dead herself.

Ok! Well, that’s all I got. I’m sorry for the pitch given in the examples, I came up with that seat-of-the-pants style while writing this..:P If you would like more, or better, examples of a successful Pitch — check out Chuck Sambuchino’s Blog, Guide to Literary Agents. He also plays a mean Piano, and sings a sweet rendition of Hallelujah. I was lucky enough to meet Chuck at the Conference and he is a must read for anyone looking to pitch their book to a Literary Agent.

Do you have any pitch-agent related horror stories? Please share in the comment section below!

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