The Art of the Pitch

Over on his blog, Lucien Soulban asks about novel pitches and submissions, “How do you approach submissions and is rejection our constant companion?

Among the other excellent answers, I replied:

It’s always a crapshoot. Not only do you have to have a great idea, but it has to be one that catches the editor’s attention, hasn’t been done before (or isn’t in production), doesn’t conflict with anything else, and seems fresh and original while firmly grounded in what’s gone before. It’s a tall order and nearly impossible to get right.

When I get asked to pitch something, I like to come up with anywhere from three to ten ideas and write an elevator pitch for each of them. None of these are longer than three paragraphs, and they each usually incorporate a high-concept zinger that attempts to reduce the idea to its base elements.

I’m lucky if the editor likes one of them. When an editor asks for more about a pitch, though, I counter by asking exactly what they’d like to see. It seems like everyone’s different, and I don’t want to waste their time or mine by giving them anything that deviates too far from what they’re most comfortable with in terms of content, format, and so on. Most times, the editors are only too happy to guide me in the right direction.