Monday, April 18, 2011

Your Pitch



The RWA conference will be held in June this year, earlier than usual. I am sure many writers are preparing themselves for the great event. I went to National five times so far and collected a wealth of information and folders of happy memories as I met on-line friends face to face, mingled with bestselling authors, attended the glamorous Golden Heart reception, applauded the winners and most importantly I pitched my stories to editors and agents.


If you are going to New-York in June to attend the National conference, you should be working on your pitch NOW.


How to write a pitch?

A pitch according to HQ author Linda Conrad should include the basics: "(TITLE) is a (genre) about (heroine/hero), a (backstory/identity) who, after (inner conflict) wants (goal). But when (turning point) happens, he/she has to (external goal), which seems impossible because (external conflict)."


How long should a pitch be? It depends on who—and where— do you plan to pitch your story.

Elevator pitch: a quick sentence to shoot at the editor that who meet in the elevator or the agent that happens to sit next to you at the bar. By the way, two of my friends sold their books after a bar pitch. I will use my latest release Rx IN RUSSIAN to show you blurbs that worked for me.

Example (41 words): She’s an An American Pediatrician who lost a son and her illusions about marriage and family. He’s a Russian Surgeon with four adorable sons who badly need a mother Can attraction and love overcome guilt, duty, and a clash of cultures?


See, this is quick to the point. You can say it in one breath before the elevator reaches your editor’s floor or while the agent is sipping her margarita and gazing at you with interest.

Appointment pitch: you booked a ten-minutes appointment with an editor. You have five minutes to deliver your pitch and then five more to hear her questions and discuss them. You can afford a few more details than in the previous pitch.

First example: (101 words. This pitch got me my contract with TWRP) Introduce yourself, shake hand and smile, then go straight to your lines. And MAKE SURE you stop to breathe after every period while you look at the editor/agent in the eyes.


Dr. Jillian Burton is an American divorcee, who lost her illusions about men, marriage and family, and all hope for a happy future. Feeling responsible for her son’s death, she can’t stop roaming the world to improve medical conditions. Dr. Fyodor Vassilov is a Russian widower whose heart had sealed off when his wife died, but his four adorable boys need a caring mother, a woman who loves children and big family. When Fyodor and Jillian work together in Belarus, their cultures clash and their painful memories still hurt, but their attraction defies all odds. Can love overcome duty and guilt?


In this pitch I have: Who SHE is, what she does, her background, internal conflict, and her goal. Who HE is, what he does, his background, internal conflict, and his goal. You should present their conflict and end on a question—suspense and hook.

Second example : (93 words. This pitch got me a request for partial from Mills & Boon) Fyodor, a surgeon and director of a hospital in Belarus, is a widower and devoted family man whose heart has closed down. Having a fling is okay but love? No local beauties have ever made him lose track of his duty—to find a mother for his children. Jillian, the American pediatrician, delegated to help modernize his hospital, is divorced, feels responsible for her son’s death, and has lost her illusions about men, marriage and family. Will she be tempted or offended by his advances? Can they find a second chance at love?

Query letter pitch: You can use the pitch blurb in your query letter. Or you can tweak it and not use names:

He’s a Russian widower with adorable children who need a caring mother, but his heart sealed when his wife died. She’s an American divorcee, who feels responsible for her son’s death and has lost her illusions about men, marriage and family. She won’t risk being hurt again. Their cultures clash but their attraction defies all odd.

The important thing is to state: who she is and what is her internal conflict—who he is and what is his internal conflict—what is their goals and what prevent them from reaching it. I have almost ten years of critique experience and will be happy to critique your pitch if you submit them in the comments or send them at monarisk@ monarisk.com


Rx IN RUSSIAN is now available at The Wild Rose Press and amazon.com

Here what a fan said about it on Facebook:
~Oh boy!!!! I started Rx in Russian last night around 10pm and didn’t go to bed until 4am. Woke up at 7am took my kids to school and finished the book. My theory is: if the book keeps you awake at night, there are no words to describe how good it is. Thank you Mona, the book was lovely and I enjoyed every sentence of it.~

14 comments:

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Good information, Mona, and a very generous offer. I wish I were going to National. Good luck to everyone who plans to pitch.

Sheila Tenold said...

Thanks, Mona, for a great post. I copied your examples! I'm querying agents and this is an excellent refresher for me.

Mona Risk said...

Dawn, I am not going too this year. That's why I have time to help whoever is going.

Mona Risk said...

Sheila, once you have your pitch, you can send them to me for a look if you want.

Jill James said...

Mona, great lesson on pitches. Hope everyone going to National reads this.

Misty Dietz said...

Mona, this is so generous of you! I've NEVER pitched before, and my heart's beating fast right now just thinking about it! I'm going to Nationals...I need ALL the help I can get.

Here's my 38 word elevator pitch:

A rebel-turned-CEO’s dream of living an uncomplicated life goes to hell when his mentor’s daughter vanishes, the police suspect him for murder, and the provocative entrepreneur who can help him rejects her psychic connection to the missing woman.

-----------

Here's the 114-word longer pitch:

All a rebel-turned-construction-empire-CEO wants is to live an uncomplicated life. But that plan goes to hell when his mentor’s daughter vanishes and a series of brutal murders rock his small Northern community. Suddenly he’s on the bad side of the blue brotherhood, depending on a provocative boutique entrepreneur who’s rejecting her psychic connection to the missing woman. Behind her nonchalant façade, the businesswoman hides a soul crushed by psychic failure. She thought she’d finally capped that flawed part of herself, but her self-identity and dreams of starting a suicide support foundation spontaneously combust when the CEO roars into her life, initiating her version of Armageddon to stop their nemesis’s twenty year plan.

Don't worry about hurting my feelings; I can take it! THANK YOU MONA!!! :)

Mona Risk said...

Short one: A rebel-turned-CEO’s dream of living an uncomplicated life goes to hell when his mentor’s daughter vanishes.[put a period here and pause] The police suspects him for murder.[pause] The SASSY[so that we know right away she's awoman] [provocative entrepreneur THIS IS A MOUTHFUL. CAN YOU COME UP WITH A DIFFERENT WORD?]who can help him rejects her psychic connection to the missing woman.{OKAY,NOW WE NEED A QUESTION, A HOOK:SOMETHING ABOUT FINDING LOVE AND SAVING THEIR NECKS]

Mona Risk said...

About your long blurb, Misty:

All a rebel-turned-construction-empire-CEO wants is to live an uncomplicated life. [GOOD] But that plan goes to hell when his mentor’s daughter vanishes and a series of brutal murders rock his small Northern community. [GOOD] [Suddenly DELETE NO ADVERB IN PITCH]he’s on the bad side of the blue brotherhood, depending on a provocative boutique entrepreneur who’s rejecting her psychic connection to the missing woman.] TOO COMPLICATED TO FOLLOW. SIMPLIFY SO THAT THE EDITOR DOESN’T HAVE TO READ TWICE] [THE POLICE SUSPECTS HIM AND HE HAS TO DEPEND ON A BOUTIQUE OWNER who’s rejecting her psychic connection to the missing PERSON.] Behind her nonchalant façade, HIS LOVELY HELP [OR SOMETHING SIMILAR]hides a soul crushed by psychic failure. She thought she’d finally capped that flawed part of herself, but her self-identity and dreams of starting a suicide support foundation [spontaneously DELETE. NO ADVERB IN PITCH] combust when the CEO roars into her life, initiating her version of Armageddon [I WOULD USE A CLEARER EXPRESSION] to stop their nemesis’s twenty year plan. [AGAIN, WHERE IS THE HOOK QUESTION? THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE PITCH]

Misty Dietz said...

Awesome feedback, Mona. Thank you so much! I'll work on those changes. I really appreciate your help. :)

Mona Risk said...

Misty, you are very welcome. In a pitch you have to be crystal clear, straight to the point. Her goal, his goal, their conflicts, and a will-they-make-it hook?

Misty Dietz said...

I understand the importance of hooks but I'm concerned with sounding cliched. And aren't they just rhetorical questions anyway? Or is it just so industry-expected that not having a closing question is a no-no? Just wondering. Thanks again! Misty

Mona Risk said...

Misty, I never said to use a rhetorical question. It's up to the author to personalize the hook. Cliches are a no-no, of course. But if you don't hook me and entice me with a suspenseful question WHY would you expect me --or an editor--to read your book? Also make it simple, for example your sentence about Armageddon is way over the head of many people. I didn't change it, because an editor may or may not like it. And many readers may not understand it and ignore your book. Again, make it simple. Something to reach the heart and appeal to the mass.

Clarissa Southwick said...

Thanks for putting together all this great advice on pitching, Mona. Your pitches sound wonderful!

Josie said...

Mona,
First, congrats on the beautiful letter from a fan. What could be a better compliment?

And, I prefer the query letter approach. It gives me time to tweak and retweak to perfection. An oral pitch makes me nervous just thinking about it.