Work That Pitch

The pitch is the first thing I think of when I’m working on a new project, and it’s the first thing most people will remember later on.  When friends ask me what my new WIP is about, I give them the logline comparison.  “Well, it’s X meets Y.”  And six months later, when I’m referring to the WIP I’m working on, they always ask “Oh, is that the one that’s like X?”  They remember.

A pitch that compares your work to other, existing works gives people a frame of reference.  Sometimes, books are easily categorized.  I think you could safely call THE HUNGER GAMES as a “post-apocalyptic Survivor” and people would get a solid sense of what you were going for.  The Amazon review for BEFORE I FALL (which is totally amazing and you should pick it up) calls it GROUNDHOG DAY meets MEAN GIRLS.  A little on the fluffy side, but you get a solid sense of what the premise is.  That’s all a pitch or a logline should do.

When people ask me to describe WITCH EYES now, I have my summary down to eight words.  “It’s a gay ROMEO and JULIET with witches.”  That’s all people need to hear to understand what my book is about.  And the fact that I can summarize it so quickly works in my favor.

I usually avoid using other books in the pitch.  With the above example, I could say that it’s ROMEO AND JULIET meets HARRY POTTER.  But honestly, comparing your book to a bestseller is nebulous territory.  I usually stick to movies, or tv shows: things that are in the pop culture sphere that won’t immediately turn an agent/editor/whoever off.  Be warned though: if you’re going to go this route, make sure the source material is fairly well known.  I can call a book a modern day OUT OF THIS WORLD (points if you even remember that show) meets DEXTER.  But unless you get both of those references, the comparison is lost.

You know you have a good pitch when you tell someone and their immediate response is an eye-widening, smiling “Oooh.”  That’s the sort of thing you WANT: to whet peoples’ appetites and make them want more.  A good pitch can get you a lot of mileage.

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4 thoughts on “Work That Pitch

  1. I usually stick to movies, or tv shows: things that are in the pop culture sphere that won’t immediately turn an agent/editor/whoever off.

    That’s really interesting. Subconsciously, I think I try to do this as well. One project had a pitch which used book titles but only because I had a hard time thinking of equivalent media. I think the pitch for Hemlock was “Pretty in in Pink and An American Werewolf in London make out with Veronica Mars playing in the background.”

  2. This is so true! People only want to listen to you talk about your book for 10 seconds or less, so having a pitch is essential. As is relating it to something they already know/understand.

  3. I hear ya. I used to be on a sketch writing team, and people used to try to pitch ill-conceived ideas by saying, “Well, you really need to see it for it to be funny.” 99% of the time, if the premise didn’t make us laugh, the sketch wouldn’t either.

    But I wonder: Is there a danger to trying to sell your pitch by comparing it to other works? Doesn’t that undercut the originality of your work? I understand that writers unintentionally take inspiration from everywhere, and that true originality, if there is such a thing, is extremely rare. But I feel like describing the script of “Inception” (to borrow a recent example) as “The Matrix with dreams” leaves out everything that is fun and exciting about the film’s concept.

    I enjoy your writing!

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