“A Selling Pitch Is Short with a Strong Emotional Tug” by Joan Y. Edwards
How do you decide to go to a movie? A few people don’t have to know the story line, they go to see the movies of their favorite director, like Spielberg or Martin Scorsese. Some people go to see any movie in their favorite genre: comedy, horror, mystery, romance, etc. Most people check to see what the story is about before they make their final decision.
How do you decide to read a book? What hooks you? What fills you with so much curiosity that you “have to read it.” It’s the pitch. Your story’s pitch has an important job. Its job is to tug at the reader’s heartstrings and cause him to feel empathy, sympathy, compassion, respect, favor, understanding, and/or support for the main character’s predicament along with an unstoppable curiosity to find out if that character solves his problem and how he does it.
To get your book published, you have to get the attention of the editor or agent reading your manuscript. The best way to do that is to write a selling pitch that is short and has an emotional impact.
If you can’t think of what to write in your pitch, think back to the reasons why you wrote the story in the first place. Which emotion pulled you to write this story? This same emotion is probably the one that will compel others to read it. Use that emotion to write your pitch.
How much time do you have to grab a reader’s attention? Probably only 30 seconds…25 words or less…one or two sentences at the most. People read longer book summaries, however, the first 25-35 words must tell the story well and hook them or they will stop reading. A sentence of Charles Dickens length, more than 100 words is too long. Write your pitch on a 3″×5″ card. If you can’t get it all written on the front side of the card, it’s too long.
Whatever your write in your short pitch has to intrigue, fascinate, arouse the curiosity, compel, and appeal strongly to captivate the reader’s interest. In your pitch include what makes your story different from similar stories in the same genre. Show the distinctive twist (unusual character, setting, or situation) that makes your story stand out from the others.
Once you have the reader hooked, he’ll want to read more. When you hook an agent or publisher, he’ll ask for your full manuscript because he’s anxious to find out how the character changed to solve his problem. He’ll want to find out how the story plays out.
The best-selling pitches show and tell:
- main character with flaws (Doesn’t always do the right thing, the wise thing, the good thing. He exudes humanity with weakness, frailty, fear that frightens him to the core and stops him in his tracks)
- what main character want or need in this particular situation
- conflict/antagonist/problem (Why main character can’t get what he wants or needs
- has emotional hook (Why do I care?)(How would I feel if I were in main character’s shoes?) (Can I relate? How is he like me? How is he different from me?)
- shows change in character
- universal theme (universal want, need, or common emotion)
In Save the Cat, Blake Snyder, screenwriter and teacher, says in a sentence or two, a pitch should:
- tell genre and audience (not included in word count)
- situation should have irony in it
- paint a compelling mental picture
- have a catchy title
In TV Guides pitches/loglines that describe movies at the theaters are not usually long. They have to catch the reader’s attention in 30 seconds. They don’t have much room to put it. It’s got to get to the point quickly or the reader will skip over it and go to another movie instead.
An agent or editor may ask for a 300 word summary or an even longer synopsis, however, your query letter’s pitch and the pitch you tell people when they ask you “What do you write?” has to be short, catchy, and to the point with the main emotional impact of the book or movie. The first sentence anyone hears about your story must be a great stand alone pitch for the story so that it grabs the reader and holds him by his emotional heartstrings. If it’s for a movie, he’ll watch it. If it’s a book, he’ll read it. Why? Because your pitch instilled a “need to see it” inside him.
Here are examples of a loglines from a TV Guide and ones from the internet.
American Beauty (1999 Comedy Drama) A man in his mid-life crisis and at odds with his wife begins working out to impress his teenage daughter’s friend.
The logline for American Beauty on IMDb (Internet Movie Database) stated: Lester Burnham, a depressed suburban father in a mid-life crisis, decides to turn his hectic life around after becoming infatuated with his daughter’s attractive friend.
Anywhere But Here (1999 Comedy-Drama) A flighty mother uproots her daughter and heads West
A mother and daughter search for success in Beverly Hills.
Coming of age comedy-drama. A Wisconsin mother who longs for a more exciting and glamorous life in Beverly Hills, California. So she leaves her husband and packs her reluctant daughter into a gold Mercedes Benz, heading for L.A. When a family tragedy provokes a crisis between mother and daughter, the irresponsible Adele is forced to become a traditional mom for once. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi (I summarized this)
During the U.S.-Viet Nam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.
Fried Tomatoes.com: Apocalypse Now Movie Info
In the Vietnam War, Capt. Willard , already on the edge, is assigned to find and deal with AWOL Col. Kurtz, rumored to have set himself up in the Cambodian jungle as a local, lethal godhead. Along the way Willard encounters such odd experiences that by the time Willard sees the heads mounted on stakes near Kurtz’s compound, he knows Kurtz has gone over the deep end, but now Willard almost agrees with Kurtz’s insane dictum to “Drop the Bomb. Exterminate them all.” -Lucia Bozzola, Rovi shortened by me.
Can you improve these pitches?
Write each one on a 3″x5″ card. Then change it to make it refer and fit for your story on another 3″x5″ card.
In case you want to read more, here are other pitch articles written by me:
- Write a Pitch for Your Manuscript – Week Two
- How to Deliver a Short Gutsy Pitch to Entice Editors, Agents, and Readers
- Which of These Best-Selling Romance Pitches Is the Best? Why?
- How to Entice an Editor/Agent with a Pitch (Logline)
- Pitch Exercise #1 – Would you accept or reject these pitches?
- How to Write an Effective Selling Pitch for a Romance Novel
- Pitch Exercise #2 Romance – Would You Accept or Reject These Pitches?
- Will Your Query Letter Sell Your Manuscript?
Other Resources to help you get a grip on your pitch.
Blake Snyder. Save the Cat.
Cliff Daigle. About.com. How to Pitch Your Novel
Crossbooks. Market a Book Like a Business
Joel Friedlander. Why Your Book Pitch Matters
Orlando Wood. How Emotional Tugs Rational Pushes
Thomas Phelps. About.com. Developing Your Elevator Pitch
Thank you for reading my blog. I’d love to hear from you. Write what you believe is a great selling pitch with an emotional tug in a comment.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards
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Filed under: Marketing, Pitch, Writing | Tagged: a selling pitch is short with a strong emotional tug, Amazon.com, conflict/antagonist/problem, emotional hook, genre, IMBd.com, main character want or need, main character with flaws, pitch for a book or movie, rottentomatoes.com, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, shows change in character, universal theme |