Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The One Thing a Pitch Must Do


There’s a notion universally acknowledged that the one thing a story must do is arouse the listener/reader’s curiosity.


This goes triply for a pitch. A pitch must wake up a part of the mind and have it scream, “TELL ME MORE!”


Which is precisely what my first ever effort at pitching did not do.

(Does this 👆 wake up your curious bone?)


My first effort writing a story for publication was a noble failure. I had no idea what I was doing on the publishing front. That’s the way it is when delving into a new field.

It did get some lovely personal responses from busy editors, so I know it was not a complete dud as stories go. But I mis-labeled it, (a six-thousand word manuscript is not a picture book) it was episodic, (by then, out of fashion in publishing) and the pitch was as bad as can be.


The story itself was about the time in a five-year-old’s life when his sister is born and his beloved grandparent dies. Things happened. Things that mattered.


But from my point of interest, the real story was an interior coming-of age journey. The boy was a contemplative, imaginative dreamer who wondered about the meaning of it all. To me the real happenings were interior.


And so I came up with a pitch that went something like this:

“In a year in which nothing much happened, Isaac grows inwardly.”

I mean, really. Would you ask to read the rest of it? I’m amazed at the few positive encouraging replies I did get.


Okay. This 👆 is what not to do. For goodness sake, there was a ghost in Isaac’s house, and the most beloved person in his life was dying, and the new baby was taking all his parents’ attention and...

So just remember that a pitch has one job to do. That job is to make the recipient shout even before the end, “I must know more!” 


Evelyn said...

Well said, Mirka. Pitches are something I need to work on.

Kelly Hashway said...

You definitely unsold your story with that pitch, but you learned from it. That’s what really matters.

Vijaya said...

“In a year in which nothing much happened, Isaac grows inwardly.” LOL Mirka.

MirkaK said...

When I worked as a freelance writer/editor, I had to write many query letters (AKA pitches) to get writing assignments. During a period when I lived on Maui, I belonged to a great writing group. I would read them drafts of query letters and get immediate feedback. It's how I learned to make that first paragraph more alluring. If I could get the magazine/journal editor's attention right away, I had a chance of writing the article I pitched. Yet, keep in mind that sometimes, even if your opening is less than sparkly, the editor might be interested in the topic and inquire further. No matter how well we do something or don't, in the end, it's timing that counts, not to mention whether the editor woke up on the right side of the bed that morning and didn't have a fight with spouse or children!