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Don’t Kill Your Pitch: 5 Ways You Might Be Sabotaging Your Story

Nervous about pitching your work to an editor or literary agent? Just avoid these five deal-breaking mistakes and you’ll put yourself well ahead of the competition. 

Don’t kill your chances with a
literary agent or editor. Follow these
pitching tips and you’ll do fine.

1) Don’t name your characters.

Instead of using names, just refer to your characters by role: the detective, the mom, the killer clown, whatever. The person you’re pitching to has probably heard so many character names already that they’re starting to forget their own. So don’t add to the confusion. Leave out the names, and focus on the story.

2) Don’t hype yourself.

Don’t say, “You’re going to love this.” Don’t say, “This is better than ___.” All you’re doing is issuing a challenge to the person on the other side of the table. Instead, just tell the pitch, and let the story speak for itself.

3) Don’t go in without a logline.

A logline is a one-sentence summary of your story. It sounds something like this (Alert: shameless plug!): “It’s a thriller called Conspiracy of Angels about an ex-con who searches for his daughter’s killer, only to discover that the killer isn’t human.”

Here’s how you create one for youself: “My book is a [genre] called [Title] about a [character] who must [reach a goal], but faces [obstacle].” You don’t need to follow that format exactly, of course, just as long as you hit all of the major points. And yes, you need to keep it to one sentence

4) Don’t open your pitch with the logline.

The logline is a powerful tool. But whatever you do, don’t start your pitch with it. It’s just too much information crammed into too short of a space. If it’s a good logline, it’ll cause the reader to start thinking up questions, and you might lose them. If it’s a bad logline, it’ll kill their interest dead. So don’t lead with the logline.

Instead, put it last, after you’ve finished your pitch. That turns it into a memorable ending that leaves the buyer with a strong impression of your story.

5) Don’t try to tell the whole story.

This is the biggest no-no of all. But people try to do it all the time. Understandably, you want the other person to “get” all of the intricate nuances of your story. All of the cool plot twists and turns you’ve labored over. But you just don’t have the time.

Think about it: if you really could tell your entire novel in just a few minutes, you wouldn’t have much of a story, would you?

Instead, focus on unpacking that main logline during your pitch. Ask yourself some key questions:

• Who is the main character?
• Why do we care about him or her?
• What triggers the need to pursue the main goal?
• What stands in the way?
• How does it end?

Focus on answering those big questions, then wrap it up with the logline, and you’ll put yourself in a great position. Above all, smile and have fun with it. All things being equal, your enthusiasm might be just the factor that gets your manuscript requested.

Colorado Gold 2012:
Learn the secrets of Instant Plot

If you’re headed to the RMFW conference this year, come check out my Saturday class. I’ll be teaching Instant Plot: How to Plan Out Your Novel the Easy Way. Hope to see you there!

P.S. You can get the handout instantly here.

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