QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, May 3, 2010

Building Your Pitch

Dude, you guys, I recently attended a local conference where the fabulous Laura Rennert (Andrea Brown Literary) spoke. She was engaging and informative -- and so, so nice (and not to mention gorgeous!). When Suzette and I asked her if we could post about her class on the QT blog she said, "The more people who know about pitching, the better."

So here I am, passing along her notes to you. She gave five steps for building your pitch. I think this pitch can transfer to the written query letter as well as be used for verbal pitching at conferences.

Step One: Write down the following:
1. Title
2. Genre
3. Setting (where)
4. Protag (who)
5. Main Conflict (what)

Step Two: Write down the following:
1. One vivid detail that makes any of the above elements different. Part of Ms. Rennert's talk focused on what makes your story different. She called it the "Who, What, Where and Why Should I Care." It's this last part that you're focusing on here. Why should an agent care about your setting, protag or main conflict? What makes them different?

Step Three: Identify if your story has:
1. Credibility
2. Inherent conflict
3. Originality
4. Real emotional power

Step Four: Write down three "big" words -- evocative words -- that relate to your story.

Step Five: Set a timer for 5 minutes and write:
1. A one-paragraph pitch for your novel using what you've written in steps 1-3. In the last sentence, use one of your "big" three words to finish the pitch.

And now, something I've shared before, but what I think fits the formula of Ms. Rennert's pitch steps.

In a world where Thinkers brainwash the population and Rules are not meant to be broken (where), fifteen-year-old Violet Schoenfeld (who) does a hell of a job shattering them to pieces. When secrets about her “dead” sister and not-so-missing father hit the fan, Vi must make a choice: control or be controlled. (what)

CONTROL ISSUES, a young adult dystopian novel complete at 75,000 words, (title, genre, word count) addresses the topic of teens fulfilling their duty as citizens of society, along with how hard it is to grow up under the expectations of parents and other adults when they're trying to make their own choices. (why should I care? "Big" words: duty, choice)

Try it! Set aside some time this week to build your pitch using these steps and see how it goes! Special thanks to Laura Rennert, simply for being awesome and sharing such amazing advice.



Anne Gallagher said...

This was a FANTASTIC post Elana thank you so much. Not that I'm going to a conference but for a query, yeah dude, this is great! Even better than what's I've been using.

And thanks for all the other conference tips. I've been reading but not commenting but loving everything you've written.
And Suzette too!

Matthew MacNish said...

Umm, I'm way too shy to go to a conference and pitch to an agent face to face, but this is still great advice that will help my query as well.

Thanks Elana!

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Wow - what fantastic advice! Thank you for posting it online. I always have such a hard time summerizing/pitching my novel, even when just talking to friends, and this definitely helps. Thank you so much!

Kirthi said...

Oh my gosh, thank you so so so so muchh!!! I've been hunting the web for some sort of template to work with, and I've had no luck, until NOW! This page is now on my bookmarks!

Dorothy Dreyer said...

Wow, that's great information. Thanks so much for giving us a peek at the valuable things one can learn at a conference.

Joanne Brothwell said...

Great post. Any help to make that pitch stand out is invaluable.

Alpha-Mom said...

I'm definitely filing this gem away. I especially like the part about brainstorming the big picture idea concepts/themes. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This is great! I'm printing this out right now.

Christine Fonseca said...

Great advice! Thanks Elana.

Stina said...

Oh, thank you, Elana, for this. I panicked at first when I thought that had to all fit in one sentence. Whew!!!!

Carolyn V. said...

Oh my gosh! Great info. =)


This is awesome sauce. Thanks, Elana!

Brooklyn Ann said...

Luuuuuuv it!

Nichole Giles said...

I thought this presentation was great too. But maybe it was because I was sitting next to a fabulous writer with great hair.

Thanks for sharing it here and giving such a good reminder.

Conda Douglas said...

Excellent--so useful!

Linda Pennell said...

What a great posting! I've attended a workshop and read lots on the topic, but this is the most organized and user friendly info I've seen. Thank you!!

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Great post, Elana. You gotta read Agent Sarah's (Greenhouse Lit) latest blog post. She talks about writing your pitch first before you even begin the book to make sure you have all these elements in place. Saves you from going down the wrong path while you're writing. Interesting idea and I'm trying it with my new idea I'm currently outlining. Yep, while I'm waiting for my editorial letter, I'm brainstorming a new novel - YA Victorian Paranormal thriller! ;-D


Natalie Aguirre said...

Great concise info on what to do. Thanks.

Elana Johnson said...

Thanks Kimberly! I wholeheartedly subscribe to writing the pitch early in the novel-writing. I usually do it around 10 - 15 K.

Darvell Hunt said...

Great hair, Nichole? Hmm, you weren't sitting next to me, were you? Oh, wait, I'm a 40's something Dad with thinning hair. Yeah, right--I think it's GREAT that I have any hair left.

I LOVED your presentations on querying, Elana. So informative. I just got your eBook and I'm using it to craft my query.

Victoria Dixon said...

Thank you so much for this, Elana. I've finally got a pitch AND a query that make sense. It only took two years....

Suzette Saxton said...

GREAT post, Elana. You hit on all of Ms. Rennert's points perfectly! I think even published folk can use this method. Pitches are one of those essentials throughout a career.