Ok, you have just bumped into an editor – at a dinner party (it does happen), at the school gates – or an agent is introduced to you via a friend of a friend in the pub. What happens? Do you bore them senseless, wrapping yourself in knots and risk your one chance of actually ‘selling’ your book – or do you pitch them the Three Sentence Pitch (TSP). Your TSP will become your friend, make sure you know exactly what it is, work at it, hone it and repeat it. It will be the pitch you include in a submission letter/email, it will be the way you describe your book to friends/colleagues. Ensure its bright, bold and memorable.
5 top tips for writing a pitch
1/Research – look at TV listings – how are programmes described? Look at blurbs. Take down your favourite books from shelves and write pitches for those books. Remember the clue is in the name – it’s a Three Sentence Pitch.
2/ Know your book – sounds obvious but you really need to know the underlying themes, what you are saying about your themes – so perhaps, your book is about love, but what are you saying about love? What is your take on it? And who is the main character? What is their journey? What is the beginning, middle and end of the book? What is the framework you have used to hang your story on? The timeline? The location? Really know these details well and you can use these to build a great pitch.
3/Build a pitch around the ‘ifs’ in your book – or in other words – the questions in your book. A book – fiction or non-fiction – should always ask questions and should set a premise up at the start. So for example: ‘What if a girl had two imaginary friends and one day, the friends went missing?’ (Pobby and Dingan written by Ben Rice), work out the ‘what ifs’ in your book.
4/Your TSP is a description of what actually happens – it is the plot, the story, the narrative arc. Don’t use up valuable pitching time or space by telling the agent, your book is about love and friendship. Tell the story. So begin with the main character: ‘it’s when x’, faces the conflict/obstacle, ‘it’s when x faces x’ and then the ‘journey’, ‘it’s when x faces x and goes from A to B’. The journey can be a physical or interior journey.
5/Sprinkle some gold dust on the pitch – so now you need to add a bit of a twist, a bit of uniqueness and ‘you-ness’. What is the tone of your book? The character? How did you write it? Why did you write it? Is it frightening? Or funny? Or does it fit in a genre? It a detective book etc.
Finally, your title, I cannot emphasise how important a good title is. Say it aloud – does it work? Can you imagine booksellers ordering copies over the phone? People typing it into the internet? Does it have a five star quality? If not, work on it ‘til it’s absolutely right.
At London Writers’ Club Live events we are offering the audience a chance to pitch to a real life literary agent. We will need your three sentence pitch – in writing by the 24th March. Email it to us (through the contacts form on the site) and we will include your pitch in the pot. Due to time, we can only offer five or six people the chance to pitch so we will choose the pitches at random. Good Luck.