Pitching your book effectively is like going to a very large and tempting buffet with only a tiny plate. You can only fit so many morsels on your plate, but whatever you pick has to constitute a satisfying feast in itself. If you get too greedy with the Character Salad, you won’t have room for the Conflict Confit (not to mention the Story Goal Goulash—OK, I’m done!)
One easy way make a big pitch using not very many words is to experiment with well-known and well-loved formats. Using a format for your pitch forces you to stay within the bounds of your “tiny plate” and stay away from including rambling sentences or unnecessary information.
Here are a few tried-and-true formulas for making your book pitch sparkle:
Non-fiction Pitching Formulas:
1. The Bullseye
Format: It’s (target audience) guide to (subject or promise).
Example: “It’s the hipster’s guide to acing job interviews.”
This formula is effective because it makes it clear that you’ve thought about your target audience, written this book just for them, and maybe even identified a previously untapped market for books on this particular subject.
2. The Secret
Format: It’s about the (number) secrets (target audience) needs to succeed at (problem).
Example: “It’s about the seven secrets savvy women need to succeed at auto repair.”
The promise of finding out “secrets” is practically impossible to resist (at least if you’re a younger sibling like me). It’s even more irresistible if you’ve successfully identified your target audience.
3. The Revelation
Format: It’s about the (adjective) ways that (x) affects (y).
Example: “It’s about the surprising ways that soy products are affecting the health of our daughters.”
The “Revelation” formula is effective because it promises to cast light on a previously unexplored facet of a subject or problem. Books like Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt’s Freakonomics which promise to explore “the hidden side of everything” use a “Revelation” hook to get readers interested.
Fiction Pitching Formulas:
1. The Twister
Format: It’s (well-known book or movie) with an (adjective) twist.
Example: “It’s Romeo and Juliet with a sci-fi twist.”
What’s your twist? If you’ve written a novel that plays with conventions, a Twister-style pitch can give readers or listeners an instant idea of what your book will be like without the need for lengthy explanations.
2. X Meets Y
Format: It’s (well-known book or movie) meets (well-known book or movie).
Example: “It’s Star Wars meets Juno.”
Yes, it sounds like Hollywood jive, but an X Meets Y pitch can be a quick (if slightly cocky) way to arouse curiosity in your story. Like the Twister formula, it gives you an instant snapshot of what the book might be about, but leaves a lot to the imagination.
3. The C-G-C
Format: It’s about a (character) trying to (goal) while fighting for/against (conflict).
Example: “It’s about a Balinese orphan trying to find her younger sister in the wake of the 2006 tsunami.”
This formula states the most basic elements of your novel in a clear, concise, and intriguing way. It won’t work for all novels (try using it on Infinite Jest) but for many novels, it’s the best way to get your message across without mincing words.
These are only a few examples of ways you can talk about your book in a way that will intrigue, delight, and entice people. Fill your plate carefully—and enjoy.