Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 28, 2011

Are You Pitch Ready?

Even if you aren’t planning to pitch at the conference or even if you aren’t attending the NJSCBWI conference, you should always be ready to give someone a one line pitch.  I know it sounds funny to say you should always be ready to pitch your story to someone even in an elevator, but we actually had one of our members sell his book in an elevator.  So it is important to be ready.

Here are some one line pitches you might recognize:

A cop comes to L.A. to visit his estranged wife and her office building is taken over by terrorist. – Die Hard

A businessman falls in love with a hooker he hires to be his date for the weekend – Pretty Woman

This is something everyone who has written a book should try to perfect.   You shouldn’t say, “Oh, I’ll wing it, I like to talk.”  Not a good idea.  It is better to prepare and practice, so what you want to say is clear and hits all the points you want to make. 

After you perfect your one line pitch, try it out on ten people and use the feedback you get to improve it further.

At the June conference attendees who checked off that they wanted an agent pitch will have almost 5 minutes from when they sit down to when they get up to leave with an agent.  So to get ready you now need to expand on that one line pitch.  Please do not show up with a piece of paper in hand and proceeded to read it to the editor.  That doesn’t work. 

Here’s why: 

1.  If you are reading, you are looking down at your paper and your voice is not directed towards the editor.  There are other people in the room giving pitches, so the noise level is high and if you are looking down it will be harder for the editor to hear what you are saying.

2.  If you are looking at your paper, you are not making eye contact with the editor.  Personality is important, so if you are looking at your paper, you are not letting your personality shine through to the editor.

3.  You give the appearance that you don’t know your own story, when you have to read prepared text.

Okay, so what do you do?

1.  Write down what you want to say about your book.

2.  Ask yourself the following questions:

            A. What’s the genre of your book?

            B. What’s the hook, or what’s most unique or special about your book?

            C. Who is the protagonist and what’s the most interesting thing about him
or her?

            D. Who is the antagonist and how is he/she standing in the way of
the protagonist’s goal?

            E. What conflict, dilemma or choice does the protagonist face? (Central
story question.)

            F. What is at stake? What are the consequences of the choice or conflict?

            G. What is the catalyst, or the main event that gets the story started?

            H. What are the main points of action that drive the plot?

            I. What is the setting of the story?

            J. What is the interesting backstory that affects your characters in the current story?

            K. What is the book’s theme?

3.  If you have a synopsis you can start with that and pare down.

4.  Read and time it, so you leave a minute for the editor to respond.

5.  Now e-mail it to a few writer friends to get their opinions.

6.  Tweak your text accordingly.

7.  Practice using someone in your family or critique group to help get you comfortable.

8.  Pull a Sarah Palin and write a few key points on the inside of your hand, so if you choke you can take a quick glance.

9.  Don’t rush your words.  Pretend you are talking on the phone with a good friend.

10.  Remember that it is just a pitch, so don’t get nervous.  If you do all the above things in advance, you will have more confidence going in and that will help keep you from going off course.

Think television commercial; you don’t want the editor or agent to want to sneak out to the refrigerator while you are pitching, so work on delivering an entertaining or interesting commercial for you book.  It will even help you with the book trailer down the road.

So prepare and practice, you’ll be glad you did.  Even if you aren’t joining us at the conference, this is still a great excercise.  I just ran into another writer who was able to sell her book in the reception line at a funeral.  Now that is a story.  I am sure she only had a few minutes to peak their interest and get them to want to talk further about her book.  Being prepared at all times is a good idea. 

And remember 5 minutes goes by in a flash, so stay focused.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. What can I say? I just love all this stuff! 🙂


  2. Very helpful post. Thank you!


  3. Very comprehensive post. Thanks.


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