Twenty-five words. Seems like enough until you begin to write them down.
How can I get the entire flavor of my book into 25 or 30 words? In May, I conducted a little experiment on my blog. I offered a few first chapter reads for interesting pitches sent to my blog. There were over 172 pitches and/or comments about the pitches. Everyone chimed in and offered their opinions of how the pitches had touched them and how they might make them stronger.
You need enough in your pitch to tease the person you’re talking to, enough to make them ask you more about the novel. Enough to make them sit up and wag their tails with joy.
I want to at least know who and what in this one line. That’s a lot of information for one line.
Is it possible? Well, here was one of my winners in the pitch/first chapter contest.
A spiritually scarred FBI agent pursues a serial killer
who's using the Old Testament as his instruction manual.
That grabbed my attention right away. Not just any old serial killer, not just any old FBI agent.
Why is the agent scarred? What happened to hurt him? When did it happen? Where did it happen? And who was involved in his emotional scarring? A woman, maybe?
How does a killer use the old testament to kill people? What would be the driving force behind the deaths? What hurt him emotionally that he would want to kill? How does God and scripture figure into that killing? There must be pain behind something in the killer’s life, but what?
I was told this was a thriller, and since I’ve started reading???? OH, yeah. It’s one heckuva thriller. And I can’t wait to read the rest. You see, this author had me at the end of 18 words.
Yes, a mere 18 words had me desperately wanting to read the opening of his novel. So he won a read of the first few pages. After which, because he delivered in those 5 pages, I wanted to read more. And then more. And then, well, as the saying goes, the rest is history. I had to sign him to a contract.
Get ‘em ready, polish and shine ‘em, cuz Monday, July 15th we’re going to play with pitches. Everyone’s invited (ask your friends to join us, the more opinions, the better); sharpen your pencils, get ready to offer support and positive suggestions to folks to help them get those pitches ready for conference.
And BTW, Terry Burns is a tough taskmaster when it comes to writing the perfect pitch.
In fact, he wrote a great book which helps keep a writer on track, and offers wonderful hints and tips on pitching to agents and editors, A Writer’s Survival Guide to Getting Published.