The “pitch” to sell your speculative novel

So you’ve written a novel and you’re ready to sell it. First, celebrate that you’ve written a novel and you’re ready to sell it! That was a lot of hard work.

Next, you’ll need to write a “pitch”: a brief summary to intrigue and excite potential agents, editors, and readers. Is this hard? Yes. Everything about writing is hard. But here are some approaches that may make it less painful. Your goal is to show what’s special and different about your story and your writing.

(Some of these approaches may also help when you’re thinking about writing a novel. What story do you want to tell? Screenwriters sometimes use a log line, which defines the theme of the project, as both a writing aid and a sales pitch.)

Some possible approaches:

• Plot summary, the most common pitch: “A hired assassin earns parole – to another universe full of worse criminals than herself. She must kill or be killed, win the favor of the ‘boss,’ and all the while try to find her way home to the people she loves.”

• A question. One or two works best: “What if there were ghosts in every single house?”

• Connection to the agent or publisher: “Because you love supernatural romances…”

• Comparison with other works: “The racoon from Guardians of the Galaxy travels to 1984.”

• A very short excerpt if (and only if) it grabs the reader, sounds unique, and stands alone. Editors love unique, authoritative voices.

• A trope with a twist: “This novel is about an evil emperor’s grand wizard – but magic doesn’t really work in this world. Everyone just thinks it does.”

• Something relevant about you, if applicable. For example, with military fiction: “I’ve served in the armies of two different countries, and…”

• A unique, fresh, compelling setting or concept: “Mars is terraformed using time travel.”

• A fascinating character: “An old man runs a bar for leprechauns. He hates leprechauns.”

• The emotional journey of the characters within the events of the plot. Make sure the pitch anchors the journey to the events: “A princess learns humility when…”

• The protagonist’s choices, and the results of the choice taken. This is one way to approach a plot summary.

• The antagonist’s daring gambit and the protagonist’s reaction, another way to approach the plot summary.

• The reason for the novel’s title, if it leads into the plot and characters.

Based on my presentation for a workshop at the 2018 StoryStudio Chicago Writers Festival.

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