Having had a couple of days to digest the pitch workshop I went to, organised by the lovely Jude and Alex - www.writingeventsbath.co.uk - and given by Imogen Cooper, senior editor of Chicken House publishers - www.doublecluck.com - I want to summarise the main points Imogen identified with our pitches.
Firstly, get the title right
The title of your book is the first thing any potential agent / editor / reader sees. Really think about the title, the way it sounds when you say it aloud, the way it looks on paper. It needs to really express something about your manuscript, be it lyrical, or hard-edged, or funny. Think of titles you love and why they work so well. One of my favourite book titles is The Remains of the Day which encapsulates Kazuo Ishiguro's tale of a tightly repressed butler and his selfless dedication to his profession so profoundly.
Secondly, what is a pitch exactly?
The pitch is a brief description of your manuscript that should entice the agent / editor / reader with its unique and best qualities as well as your own - all in just a few paragraphs! It's worth spending as much time working on it as you can as it is what sells your book - before you're published and after. Read the blurbs on the back of books and on Amazon as this is what you're aiming for. Imogen showed us printed blurbs, like advertisements, that are shown to bookshops as a marketing tool. These pitches, if good enough, are used far down the line in publishing.
Thirdly, the spine, key moments and unique selling points
A good strategy is to think of the pitch as a film trailer. What are the key moments? What is the central theme, or as Imogen describes it, the spine of the story? In your manuscript, everything should relate back to the spine so it should be very clear in your pitch. As the writer, it's often very difficult to identify the key moments in your manuscript - it's all important! It's worth trying to explain to a friend your novel. What pricks their interest, what's unclear? If something in your novel is unusual, or your central character is in a unique predicament, that's often a good place to start. What is the main conflict or the main goal in your manuscript?
Fourthly, what is its genre and what is it comparable to?
It's useful to compare your novel to other books or authors, such as: It's a cross between Jane Eyre and Twilight with a dash of Hansel and Gretel. Something intriguing as well as informative. This allows an agent / editor to immediately understand where it might fit on a book shelf. Understand genre and what genre your novel is in. Also, if it's targeting Adults, New Adults (18 - 30), Young Adult (13-18), Children.
Practice giving your pitch, off the cuff or reading aloud. And remember to breath - which is something I forgot to do when I gave my pitch to Imogen!