How To Pitch Your Book — and How Not To

It’s just as important to know what not to do as it is to know what to do (and who it works for, no matter what)


Editors Blog

A Great Example of What a Pitch Should Not Look Like

Consider this pitch below. I wonder what you think of it.

Story Title pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Main Character against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Main Character finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. With his back against the wall, Main Character is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Main Character discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?

In my opinion, it couldn’t be much worse. Why? Because it doesn’t tell us anything. The pitch is not far from something like, “There’s a good guy. Bad things happen. Good guy changes so he can fight. Oh yeah, — there’s a question that needs answering.” That’s about it.

(New for 2013: MORE Tips on Writing a Query Letter.)

One of my biggest tips when teaching people how to pitch to literary agents is to avoid generalities. Because a generality could mean anything, it fails to draw us in to the story because it’s not clear what you’re getting at. If you’re ever wondering about what constitutes a generality in a pitch, look no further than this example. Do not do what they’re doing. General = bad.

Oh, and you’re probably wondering what this pitch actually was for, and you may have guessed it already by the very few details that were in it … but this is the official plot summary for IRON MAN 3. Seriously. All I did was change Tony Stark’s name to “Main Character” and took out the title. Otherwise, it is word for word.


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