I’ve been wanting to write a post about pitches for a while, and realized that if I was going to do it, I had to bring in my critique partner, Katie Frawley.
Katie is a pitch whiz.
A pitch maestro!
Girl can write pitches IN HER SLEEP.
So without further ado, here’s a Q & A with Katie that will help get your pitches super shiny. I’m talking polished. I’m talking… glittery. I’m… going to dive into the post now.
LL: Okay, first of all, your debut, Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places, was recently announced and I’m so excited about it. Tell us more about the book!
KF: Yes! Yay! It’s about a cat (Tabitha) and an elephant (Fritz) who are bored with their lives and decide to switch. (They meet on a home exchange website called LairBnB. HA!) So the cat goes to the rain forest, Fritz goes to suburbia, and all sorts of hijinks and hilarity ensue! Laurie Stansfield is illustrating, and her artwork is FABULOUS. She has really made my words come to life.
LL: Hooray! I’m so looking forward to seeing Tabitha and Fritz on bookshelves everywhere!
I can’t believe I don’t know this about you, but in your own writing process, what comes first: the pitch or the first draft?
KF: You know, I’ve tried to do the responsible, grown-up thing and write the pitch first, but I usually don’t. Most often I crank out the stinky first draft and then work on the pitch toward the end of revisions. I will say, however, when I’m having a particularly hard time making a stinky story stink less, I will try to write a pitch. If I’m having trouble pitching, that often points to problem areas in the story.
LL: Speaking of stinky—this is a terrible segue—if you were to think of a pitch like a recipe, what would the ingredients be? What makes a good pitch?
KF: I love to cook, so this question is right up my alley! Hmmmm. I would say you need:
- A hefty handful of “What makes my character unique”
- A sprinkling of “Challenges my character will face” (also known as conflict)
- A squirt of “What my character stands to lose” (aka stakes)
The point of a pitch is to intrigue your reader. A perfectly seasoned pitch will make the editor or agent ask for more!
LL: Personally, I like my pitches with a dash of black pepper and lemon zest.
Okay, I’m going to put you on the spot and ask you to pick any well-known book, then write an ineffective pitch for the story and tell us why it’s a bad pitch.
KF: Ooooh! Challenging! Okay. I’m going to use a classic that everyone knows (I hope): Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.
Max is a little boy who, like so many little boys, loves to run and make noise and break things. One night, his mom sends him to his room without dinner because he’s misbehaving. But he doesn’t stay in his room. Max goes on a magical journey to a faraway land where he becomes King Of All Wild Things! Eventually, he realizes he misses his mom, so he gives up his crown in favor of family.
(SHUDDER! That was awful.)
LL: What? You don’t think that would make Maurice Sendak proud?!
Okay, same book, but one of your world-famous, sparkly, polished pitches!
KF: Thank goodness. That raggedy pitch was making my face itch.
When wild little Max is sent to his room without supper, he runs away to a distant land and becomes King Of All Wild Things. But Max soon finds making a wild rumpus can be lonely so far from home. Max must make a difficult choice: the total freedom of being King or a quieter life in a home full of love.
Notice, not only is the better pitch shorter, but it doesn’t tell the whole darn story! One of the biggest issues I see in pitches is that they give too much away. As authors, we love every spread, every sentence, every syllable of our work! So it can be hard to decide what to cut and what to include (even for me!). This pitch gives us the main character and what makes him unique (Wild Max), a glimpse at his challenges (discipline at home and loneliness abroad), and what’s at stake in the story (the loss of family). And it does all this WITHOUT spelling out every aspect of the plot.
That was HARD writing a pitch for a story I love so much! One of the things that makes writing pitches of other writers’ stories so fun and breezy is that I’m NOT emotionally invested in the work. Whew! I think I need more coffee!
LL: I’ll also add that, especially during pitch parties on Twitter, I tend to see pitches that don’t tell me enough about the story. Either necessarily details are left out, or, the hook, conflict, and stakes aren’t sewn together properly, and the result is a very confused reader. I’ll give it a go with a disjointed pitch for Where the Wild Things Are:
When Max gets no supper, he runs away. But after he becomes King of All Wild Things, he must decide if he should continue the rumpus or go. Will dinner still be hot?
Read this, and you’re like, Huh?! I have no idea what this is about.
(It’s tough when you’re faced with a word limit, but of course the whole point of a pitch party is to leave an agent or editor wanting more, not scratching his or her head. I recommend having a few writer pals who haven’t read the story take a look at your pitch. If it makes sense to them, it should make sense to an agent or editor.)
Speaking of… #PBPitch is coming up on February 20, and I know you offer critique and pitch-writing services. What do writers need to know if they’d like to order up a pitch before the big day?
KF- Just visit my website (www.katiefrawley.com/critiques), purchase your Twitter Pitch (or pitches…I actually had one client buy FOUR pitches at once), then email me your manuscript(s). That’s it!
I will read the story, craft the pitch, and send it back within one week. I do tend to get an influx of pitch requests before the big pitch parties, so it’s better to get in earlier if possible. My availability can fill up.
Also, if you decide last minute to participate (we’ve all been there!), you can pay a rush fee and get your pitch back in 48 hours. And I do offer a range of other critiquing services, so feel free to snoop around the critiques page on my website!
Okay writers, I hope this post will help you get—wink, wink—Pitch Perfect!
(Also, our deepest apologies to Mr. Sendak for those terrible pitches.)