Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Three Ways to Start Your Novel Pitch

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She has a podcast/vlog at You can also find Jill on InstagramFacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website. Tagboth (Tag for short) is a goldhorn dragon from Belfaylinn, a hidden fantasy realm on the western end of the Sargasso Sea. Jill is working on the first book of this tale for this year's Grow an Author series.

Since Shannon and I are currently at the Mount Hermon writers conference, I thought it would be appropriate to interrupt my Onyx Eyes series to talk about how to pitch your story. Because that's what many writers do at a writing conference--it's why many go in the first place.

Side note: If I wanted to try and sell Onyx Eyes to a publisher, since I'm a multi-published author, I could pitch the story at this point. I would write up a pitch, then work with my agent to perfect it. Then, if I saw one of the editors I was interested in working with while I was at the conference, I would strike up a conversation with them and either tell them about my story if the opportunity arose or I would ask to make an appointment with them to pitch a new idea.

In the past, pitching has never gone well for me. Watch this video to hear my story and to learn three ways to start your pitch that will be easier than trying to memorize a long speech.

Again, here are three ways you could start your novel pitch:

1. Start with your assets (if you have any). If you don’t, that’s okay. Most beginning writers don’t have any assets worth sharing.

2. Start with your logline, a tagline, or a high concept. Something to hook the listener enough that they want to hear more. Click here for a post I wrote on how to write a logline for your novel.

3. Start by telling the story of how you came up with this idea. This is a nice, casual way to start a conversation that doesn’t include you trying to recite something you’ve memorized. Recitation often comes off stiff. Plus, many author's minds go blank when facing an agent or editor, and they forget what they’d memorized.

If you're gearing up to attend a conference where you will have the opportunity to pitch your novel, practice before you go. Find someone to help you and practice again and again. Do what you can to turn the pitch into a conversation. You will be a lot more memorable that way, it will come off more natural, and it will help you stay calm and keep away the stress.

Have you pitched before? If so, what worked for you? What didn't work? Share your pitch in the comments if you'd like some feedback.

*This video was first posted on my writing website and on my YouTube channel.


  1. Jill, how many books constitutes multi-published? It's a term I hear thrown around a lot, but I don't really know how many books makes an author "multi-published." Two? Ten?

    Great post, BTW! You make me want to go pitch something XD

    1. Good question, Taylor. There is no one number for this. Technically two books would qualify, but most agents and editors use the term for authors with many books out.

      The way I used it above--the reason I am able to sell books off ideas rather than writing the full book--is that I have proved myself by writing several full books that I sold. For example, I had written the full book of By Darkness Hid, then I sold the next two in the series without having to write them first. And that's a little different, since they were in the same series. But when I wanted to write another book for that same publisher, I was able to sign a contract just on the idea. By then, the publisher trusted me.

      The same scenario happened with Zondervan. My agent sold them Replication by sending them the book to read. And they bought it. Then I was able to pitch them ideas, and I signed a contract for the Safe Lands trilogy before I wrote those books.

      So in that regard, "multi=published" means having proved yourself with your publishing house or within the publishing industry.

      And as a side note, I'm established enough now that I could sell fiction to any Christian market house without having written the book first. But if I wanted to sell a book to the general market, I would have to start over and write a full book and prove myself. So there are exceptions based on which industry you're in.

    2. Okay, thanks for the info! I was just wondering when I can start selling stories based on ideas :) So probably NOT after my trilogy releases, but maybe after I (traditionally) put out another series?

    3. My guess is that once your trilogy releases, you could possibly sell Miralee a new book off an idea, if she is wanting more YA. For other trad publishers, you might have to prove yourself with one full book first. And then once you've written for several publishers, you likely won't have to prove yourself anymore.

  2. Thank you, Mrs. Williamson! This was very interesting and something I will keep in mind for the future. I recently rewrote my hook sentence to help me hone in on the main plot, and some feedback on how well it sets up the book would be great! It is:
    A seventeen-year-old archer named Uriah stumbles upon a peaceful Roanoke village under threat and foils their enemies on a whim, only later to realize that the God he despises may have orchestrated his arrival for the salvation of the Roanokes… and may demand Uriah's life before the war can end.

    1. That's a great start, Olivia. I am intrigued by this pitch. So, good job! Here is my feedback:

      First, it’s always a good idea not to use any fantasy words, places, or names in your pitch. The human brain has the tendency to latch onto them and try to remember, which is distracting and sometimes confusing in a pitch sentence. Try to keep things generic. Also, the word “Roanoke” makes me think of Virginia, though I think this is fantasy, so that is also confusing.

      Also, while the “on a whim” and the “God orchestrated this” parts are likely important to the story, they make the pitch wordy. With pitch sentences, trim, trim, trim. Here is my edit on your sentence:

      A seventeen-year-old archer sets out to defend a peaceful village from the threat of their enemies, only to realize that the God he despises may demand his life in order to succeed.

      Here is a post I wrote on writing a logline that you might find helpful:

    2. Thank you, Mrs. Williamson! I like your rewrite of my pitch sentence. It does read a lot smoother. :)

    3. Okay, so I read through your post and worked to trim it down even further.
      A seventeen-year-old archer defends a clueless village from invasion, but his heroism drags him into a war in which victory may require his death.
      24 words. How's that?