Kristy Blank Makansi of Blank Slate Press gave an informative talk about pitching work to agents and editors at the Saturday Writer’s Workshop. She provided so much valuable information that I am going to break it up into three parts/blog posts. Because she has been on both sides of the “pitch” table, her advice can help those of us who don’t have much experience, or haven’t had feedback that can help improve our skills.
Part one contains the five elements of a good pitch. By incorporating these five aspects into your next pitch, the agent or editor will have the information he or she needs to make the right decision regarding your book.
1) Simple conflict – What is at stake for this person. What is the protagonist fighting for, and who or what is causing the conflict.
2) Get to the turning point – Use a beat sheet* to map out elements of certain turning points, events that happen to send the trajectory of story in a different direction. Those moments get you on the edge of your seat, or make you stay up too late reading. The big turning point is the ultimate choice he or she makes to decide if the goal can be met. Protagonist changes direction.
3) Resolution – The agent/editor needs to know what story is about. He or she is a partner, not a reader, and you are auditioning each other. Tell what happens (unless he or she doesn’t want to know).
4) What is the story (same only different) – Give the word count, genre and what makes it different from other books in this genre. This should make the agent or editor want to read more.
5) Setting – What is it about the setting that makes the story interesting? The setting affects characters, geography and language. Some settings can be a character itself. Use your talent as a writer to paint a little picture of what that setting means to the story, and how that setting roots that character to the place.
Use these five elements to improve your next pitch so editors and agents can determine if your book will work for them.
Next time, five elements that should not be included in a pitch.
*According to Wikipedia, a beat sheet is used in screenwriting to outline the major dramatic moments (beats) of a screenplay or movie.