After mentioning my pitch in the last entry, I thought I should expand on that a bit. Last year's ABNA contest was the first time I'd ever been asked to pitch my work, so I spent a fair bit of time researching how to write a good one ("researching" in this case being synonymous with "worrying myself sick over"). The ABNA forums were helpful, as were any number of other writers' blogs, but there's a lot of conflicting information out there. In the interests of throwing a little more into the mix, here are a few bits of advice that worked for me.
1. Know your story's most unique feature. Stuff of Legends brings together fantasy heroes and talent agents, so the opening of my pitch was about the setting: picture this world. If your story's best feature is the strength of its characters, don't hang the pitch on that alone -- sell what makes them stand out from everyone else's strong, well-written characters.
2. Let your style show through. If you've written a serious literary piece, show that you can turn out a smart phrase. Pitch comedy with a bit of humour. Example from my pitch: "Eliott wants an adventure with his hero, Jordan the Red, whose greatness rivals Beowulf and sliced bread."
3. Don't tease. Anything that boils down to "and if you want to know how it ends, you'll have to read the book" should be lanced. You don't have to spell everything out, but most people on the receiving end of a pitch have so many to choose from, they don't have time to be teased -- they want to know that you can bring the book to a strong conclusion before they commit themselves to reading it.
4. Clarity. Okay, this one's a tip from my theatre days, but really, a pitch is a lot like an audition, so it applies: Whatever approach you take to pitching your work, whatever you may choose to say, be clear. Say what your story is about succinctly. Cut out any details from your plot synopsis that veer away from the core storyline. Choose each word for the precise meaning it needs to convey, and have clear in your own mind the exact impression you want each word to make.
Writing a good pitch isn't easy. If I've learned anything from my research, it's that there's no magic formula; what will hook one reader may be rejected out of hand by another. But if I'm that reader, those four tips cover the areas where a pitch will catch or lose me.
On the creative side, I discovered a new character for the next book today: Caulix, the Halitotian (from the island of Halitos).