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Learn How to Craft Engaging and Thought-Provoking Pitches

With #CanLitPit one week away, it’s time to write and refine your pitches! Creating an engaging and thought-provoking pitch while following the #CanLitPit guidelines will be a challenge. However, the entire team at DigiWriting and participating #CanLitPit publishers and literary agents know that Canadian writers are up for the task!

To help you get started, we have put together the following blog full of pitch writing tips. Once you have crafted your pitches, post them in a special post on our Facebook page for feedback from your fellow writers. You may also receive feedback from Canadian editor Julie Sadler. Based in Toronto, Julie is a substantive editor and author coach with plenty of experience helping writers craft effective pitches.

Don’t forget that any feedback you provide on another writer’s pitch(es) should be constructive with the intent to HELP them improve their pitch(es). Should anyone post a derogatory comment, it will be removed.

Once you have decided that a specific pitch is your best pitch, be sure to enter it in our Facebook contest for the chance to win a FREE professionally designed digital book cover. The contest will be open beginning Friday, August 5, 2016, until the end of #CanLitPit on Wednesday, August 10, at 10 PM EST. Visit the contest page on Facebook for additional details.

What Makes a Great Pitch?

Simply stated, a great pitch is a succinct summary of your manuscript that makes a reader want to know more.

How is Pitching like a Job Interview?

Perhaps the best analogy for participating in a Twitter pitch event is when you are applying for a job and you’re asked for your elevator pitch. Typically lasting only 30 seconds, this is your opportunity to tell someone about yourself and why you are the best candidate for the job. With #CanLitPit, the same principle applies, but to your manuscript. Through your 140-word pitch, you need to present something that will pique the interest of a publisher or literary agent. #CanLitPit is like a job interview for your manuscript, and as its writer, it’s up to you to make it shine!

Of course, as with job interviews, there is more than one way to make your manuscript stand out among the competition. Below, we have briefly outlined a number of techniques that you can leverage when crafting your pitches. Where possible, we have also provided examples from #Pit2Pub, a Twitter pitch event in the US, so you can see the technique at work.

Helpful Pitching Techniques

State your main conflict.

In the majority of fiction stories, there is a central conflict pushing the narrative forward. Driven by a compelling protagonist, the conflict is what is standing in their way and preventing them from achieving their goal.

In your pitches, you may choose to clearly define your manuscript’s central conflict to stand out. Here are some great examples:

She might flirt with a playboy billionaire if it means saving her nonprofit. But will her secret derail a chance at romance? #Pit2Pub #R

When a kidnapper threatens her adoption of 5yo Kady, Sofia turns to an old flame to help save her new family & her heart. #Pit2Pub #A #RS

Reference the Timely Nature of Your Manuscript.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that publishers and literary agents want to sign manuscripts that address a current trend or hot topic. Right now, an example would be anything on Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the U.S. Presidential election.

Here are a few examples that leverage this technique:

Juliet, daughter of a Democrat. Romeo, son of a Tea Partier. Watch tragedy be retold under the backdrop of American politics #YA #R #Pit2Pub

Compare Your Manuscript to Similar Books, Television Shows, or Movies.

By comparing your manuscript to similar books, television shows, or movies, you are giving your reader a mental reference point for your manuscript.

Be warned that, if you choose to use this technique, you should be able to clearly state what makes your manuscript different and unique from that to which you are comparing it.

Here are a few examples that leverage this technique:

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK+BREAKFAST CLUB. Suicidal teen didn’t expect to make great friends in hospital or mourn one post release #YA #PIT2PUB

Power of Five meets Breakfast Club w/a Joy Division soundtrack, as a telepath hunts for his brother in a world below Edinburgh #Pit2Pub #YA

#YA meets LOST when reality splits for Fiona & Miles and they face life threatening challenges in Berlin & a deserted island #Pit2Pub

Leave Your Pitch Open-Ended.

By leaving your pitch open-ended, you are placing more questions into the mind of a publisher or literary agent. Therefore, if your story is engaging and unique, they will likely want to know more via a submission.

Here are a few examples that leverage this technique:

Just before their 16th birthday, a dark faery returns Evie’s stolen twin to her doorstep. But she’s not the same girl… #Pit2Pub #YA #F

They’ve found a cure for cancer, but it’s hidden. Expose their secret experiment. Easy. Until you find you’re part of it. #Pit2Pub #YA #SF

Crafting Pitches with a Goal, Conflict, and Stakes (GCS Method)

If the techniques listed above do not get your creative juices flowing, there is another method that can put you on the path to success. We like to call this the GCS method or the GOAL, CONFLICT and STAKES method.

While we could provide you with a long, detailed description of how it works, we figured it would be best to show you through a sample scenario:

You are an emerging Canadian writer who recently finished your first full manuscript. With a rough title of “The Hunger Games,” it has just been edited by a professional editor and you are now looking to give your manuscript a home with a Canadian publisher or literary agent. Your manuscript is a young adult, science-fiction (dystopian) story.

(Note that we are aware of the fact that The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is not a Canadian title. However, given many writers are familiar with this book, it will make our example easier to follow.)

To employ the GCS method of pitch writing, you need to be able to clearly state:

  • What is the main goal of your main protagonist?
  • What is the central conflict your main protagonist must overcome?
  • What is at stake should the main protagonist fails to overcome the central conflict?

Let’s apply these questions to our example scenario. Please note that while many have analyzed The Hunger Games, the following examples are one interpretation we are using for the purpose of creating an example pitch using the GCS method:

Katniss Everdeen’s main goal is to survive the post-apocalyptic Hunger Games and return to her family after she volunteers herself as tribute.

The central conflict in the book is caused by the evil Capitol and a conniving President Snow who relishes in controlling the Districts and its residences – especially Katniss’ home District 12.

If Katniss does not survive the Hunger Games, the stakes include her death, her sister’s death, and the possibility of the destruction of her entire District.

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Now that you have determined your GOAL, CONFLICT, and STAKES, you can begin to write your pitches. Remember, this is only our interpretation – there are many ways you could be writing your pitches. Also, don’t worry if it takes a few tries – this is the tough part.

Pitch Attempt #1: In a post-apocalyptic world, heroine Katniss Everdeen protects her sister by volunteering herself as tribute to participate in The Hunger Games. With the evil Capitol and its President looking to cause as much destruction as possible, if Katniss does not survive, her family and District are in great danger.

Notes on Attempt #1:

  • It is too long and over the 140-character limit.
  • It is a bit too “wordy” and needs further refining to hook a reader.
  • The mandatory hashtag of #CanLitPit and your manuscript’s age and genre hashtags still need to be included.

Pitch Attempt #2: Katniss Everdeen volunteers for her sister in the deadly Hunger Games. But with the Capitol’s vengeful leader in control, her survival is unlikely.

Notes on Attempt #2:

  • It is much stronger and offers a reader a better hook than attempt #1.
  • The manuscript’s GOAL, CONFLICT, and STAKES are clearly addressed.
  • The pitch is still 8 characters over the 140-character limit and that does not include the mandatory #CanLitPit hashtag.

Pitch Attempt #3: Katniss volunteers for her sister in deadly Games & when she fights back, the vengeful Capitol threatens her survival #YA #SF #CanLitPit

Notes on Attempt #3:

  • This is a near perfect pitch!
  • This pitch includes the event hashtags, fits the 140-character criteria, and addresses a goal, a conflict, and stakes. Most importantly, it also grabs your attention and leads to more questions in the reader’s mind such as:
    • Who is Katniss?
    • What are the “Games”?
    • What is the Capitol?

If a publisher or literary agent have these questions as they read your pitch, they may “like” (favourite) it, as they want to know more!

The next steps are to follow this same process to create 2-4 unique pitches that can be posted throughout #CanLitPit on Wednesday, August 10, 2016.

General Pitch Writing Tips

Now that we have demonstrated a pitch writing method and provided you with a few techniques to use, we want to leave you with the following brief tips:

  • Try and craft 2-4 unique pitches to post during the event. While this may seem like more than what’s required, having more than one pitch will demonstrate the complexity of your manuscript and your skill as a writer.
  • If possible, avoid using last names of your characters. These names only use up valuable characters.
  • Avoid spoilers in your pitches!
  • Do not be vague in your wording. Try and get to the point as quickly as possible.
  • DO NOT FORGET TO USE THE HASHTAG #CanLitPit and your age and genre hashtags. Age and genre hashtags can be found below:

Age Group Hashtags

#PB = Picture Book

#C = Children’s

#CL = Children’s Literature

#MG = Middle Grade

#YA = Young Adult

#NA = New Adult

#A = Adult

Genre Hashtags:

#CON = Contemporary

#E = Erotica

#ER = Erotic Romance

#ES = Erotic Suspense

#GN = Graphic Novel

#H = Horror

#HF = Historical Fiction

#HR = Historical Romance

#MR = Magical Realism

#M = Mystery

#Mem = Memoir

#LGBT = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transsexual

#LF = Literary Fiction

#NF = Non-fiction

#P = Poetry

#R = Romance

#PNR = Paranormal Romance

#RS = Romantic Suspense

#SFF = SciFi/Fantasy

#S = Suspense

#T = Thriller

#W = Westerns

#WF = Woman’s Fiction

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Don’t forget to post your pitch(es) to the official #CanLitPit Facebook post for feedback from your fellow writers and Canadian editor Julie Sadler. Find the post at the top of our Facebook page! 

Good luck during #CanLitPit!