Posted by: Kathy Temean | February 19, 2013

When a… 1,2,3… Hollywood… Save the Cat… Pitches for Your Book

One of the assignments the writer’s attenting the Writer’s Retreat in March are facing is putting together a pitch for the novel they have written, so I decided to write something up to help. I think it could help you, too.

Goal is to pique interest in what you wrote and hear, “Tell me more!”

A pitch is a two or three sentence summary of your book. You want to: indicate the genre, the basic premise, and to generate interest to the point where the agent or editor wants to read your manuscript. A pitch should tantalizes the listener with a hook that sets your manuscript apart, so choose your words wisely.

To prepare you can:

1. Read movie descriptions.
2. Read the jacket of a few of your favorite novels – that’s the level of detail you want.

It should be a short and snappy, only be about 2-3 minutes long. Here are a few types of pitching techniques you can use:

1. The When a… technique brought to you by Craig Lewis

2. Hollywood-style: This is where you describe your novel as a mix of two other well-known books or movies. Hint: make sure the two you use were both profitable. For example: “It’s Twilight meets Harry Potter.” Then explain in the rest of your pitch.

3. The “Save the Cat” method: The idea is to come up with a sentence or two that describes your novel and includes the following:
• It should be at least somewhat ironic.
• It should paint a compelling mental picture.
• It should give an idea of genre and audience.
• It should have a killer title.

Blake Snyder, screenwriter and teacher, describes this method for coming up with loglines for film ideas in his popular screenwriting book Save the Cat, but it works for pitches, too.

Here are a couple from Blake’s book Save the Cat. They should be movies you know:

“A cop comes to L.A. to visit his estranged wife and her office building is taken over by terrorists.” – Die Hard
“A businessman falls in love with a hooker he hires to be his date for the weekend” – Pretty Woman

Start here, add some interesting details like who your hero is, what his goal is, why he needs it, what’s stopping him from getting it, then focus on the heart of the conflict and you’ll end up with a “knock their socks off” pitch. You cannot go wrong with this formula.

4. The 1,2,3 Log Line Approach:

First log line: a single sentence that includes:
The hero
The hero flaw
The life changing event that starts the story
The opponent
The ally
The battle or conflict

The second log line:
The character who changes & what changes

The third log line:
includes a sentence about the book’s theme. What the character learns? How he or she changes.


Since so many of us are using social media and are used to packing in lots of details in short sentence, you could hone into this mind thinking when start. Maybe going to Twitter and writing something or using your cell phone to text your pitch to see how it feels.

You can even get an app for your iphone to help you pitch. Here’s the link:

Write and Revise: Try writing 10-15 short intros to your pitch. This is the hook. When done pick the best and polish it. If you nail this part you are almost guaranteed to be asked to submit.

Now it is time to describe your book in a bit more detail. Be natural, be excited, be funny (if that is you or part of the book) describe the key turning points of your story, but make it short.

Practice Make Perfect: Pitching can be nerve-wracking, but it gets easier if you do it often, so practice on your family, friends, and anyone else who will listen. The more you do the more relax you will be.

Formal Pitches: If you are doing a formal pitch to an agent or editor at a conference, then finish by asking if your novel sounds like something they’d be interested in and let the discussion evolve. If they request a portion of your book, then make sure you clarify what they are asking for – the first few chapters – the entire manuscript? Remember to ask for a business card and contact information.

Hope this helps! Even if you aren’t attending the Writer’s Retreat or a conference in the near future, you still should be prepared. Opportunities are all around. Don’t let one slip pass you by not being prepared.  I can’t get the memory of a writer I know meeting a publisher in line at a funeral and letting him know about her book, which ended up being the catalyst of her first published book. 

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Another helpful way of explaining the components of a great pitch! Thanks for finding it for us, Kathy 🙂


  2. This is a great post, Kathy. Thanks! I will be posting a link on my blog.


  3. Great post, Kathy. I just purchased “Save the Cat” and I can’t wait to read it.


  4. Perfect timing, Kathy. I need to prepare my pitch before I go to a Highlights Foundation workshop soon.


  5. Thank you so much for this great resource on pitches. I’ve read Save The Cat, and love it, but I haven’t seen some of the other ways of doing pitches. It’s very nice having them all in one place. Thank you for this. I am going to post a link to this on my website!


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