Monday, March 5, 2012

A Plot Pitch

Week of March 4, 2012: Batter Up!
Monday, March 5, 2012: A Plot Pitch

Ask ten writers how to pitch your picture book in a cover letter and you’ll get ten different answers. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is more than one way to write a successful pitch. Some folks wouldn’t even call it a pitch, but rather, a synopsis. I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert on the subject, but I’m going to share some of the things I’ve learned/heard/been taught about pitches/synopses.

Honestly, some editors say they don’t even read cover letters (and thus, they don’t read the pitches contained in cover letters). These editors say they go straight to the manuscript. Other editors read the cover letter and pitch to determine whether to read on. But most editors say they make their final decisions based on the manuscript itself.

So what is the value of a pitch? Well, if an editor does read the cover letter, the pitch certainly can be a way to intrigue and snatch the editor’s attention. Many editors say that after they have accepted a manuscript or when they decided to take it to an acquisitions meeting that the pitch is the first thing they use to tell others succinctly about the book. And sometimes the pitch becomes the actual marketing copy and/or dust jacket copy.

Many agents use the pitch in the emails or letters they send to editors. Again, this is a quick way for the editor to see what the manuscript is about before reading it.

There are as many ways to write a pitch as there are editors who will read them. One of those approaches is based on plot.

In their Children’s Writing Boot Camp, Linda Arms White and Laura Backes advocate stating your plot using this structure:

This is the story of _________________________ who more than anything wants to _______________________ but can’t because _____________________ until _____________________.

This statement, when completed, gives a nutshell summary of your book and could be used as a pitch/synopsis in a cover letter. Often less is more, and this approach could adequately summarize your story without weighing down your cover letter with too much information. Give it a try and see what you think!


Heather said...

I recently entered a pitch contest that required the submission to be no more than 140 characters, the maximum length of a twitter post. It was a great exercise in keeping things short and to the point.

Rob Sanders said...

Thanks for the cool idea, Heather. This sounds akin to an elevator pitch where you only have a few seconds to pitch your idea. A cover letter pitch gives you a bit more room to play, but less is best!