A Selling Pitch Is Short with a Strong Emotional Tug

“A Selling Pitch Is Short with a Strong Emotional Tug” by Joan Y. Edwards

How do you decide to go to a movie? A few people don’t have to know the story line, they go to see the movies of their favorite director, like Spielberg or Martin Scorsese. Some people go to see any movie in their favorite genre: comedy, horror, mystery, romance, etc. Most people check to see what the story is about before they make their final decision.

How do you decide to read a book? What hooks you? What fills you with so much curiosity that you “have to read it.” It’s the pitch. Your story’s pitch has an important job. Its job is to tug at the reader’s heartstrings and cause him to feel empathy, sympathy, compassion, respect, favor, understanding, and/or support for the main character’s predicament along with an unstoppable curiosity to find out if that character solves his problem and how he does it.

To get your book published, you have to get the attention of the editor or agent reading your manuscript. The best way to do that is to write a selling pitch that is short and has an emotional impact.

If you can’t think of what to write in your pitch, think back to the reasons why you wrote the story in the first place. Which emotion pulled you to write this story? This same emotion is probably the one that will compel others to read it. Use that emotion to write your pitch.

How much time do you have to grab a reader’s attention? Probably only 30 seconds…25 words or less…one or two sentences at the most. People read longer book summaries, however, the first 25-35 words must tell the story well and hook them or they will stop reading. A sentence of Charles Dickens length, more than 100 words is too long. Write your pitch on a 3″×5″ card. If you can’t get it all written on the front side of the card, it’s too long.

Whatever your write in your short pitch has to intrigue, fascinate, arouse the curiosity, compel, and appeal strongly to captivate the reader’s interest. In your pitch include what makes your story different from similar stories in the same genre. Show the distinctive twist (unusual character, setting, or situation) that makes your story stand out from the others.

Once you have the reader hooked, he’ll want to read more. When you hook an agent or publisher, he’ll ask for your full manuscript because he’s anxious to find out how the character changed to solve his problem. He’ll want to find out how the story plays out.

The best-selling pitches show and tell:

  1. genre
  2. main character with flaws (Doesn’t always do the right thing, the wise thing, the good thing. He exudes humanity with weakness, frailty, fear that frightens him to the core and stops him in his tracks)
  3. what main character want or need in this particular situation
  4. conflict/antagonist/problem (Why main character can’t get what he wants or needs
  5. has emotional hook (Why do I care?)(How would I feel if I were in main character’s shoes?) (Can I relate? How is he like me? How is he different from me?)
  6. shows change in character
  7. universal theme (universal want, need, or common emotion)

In Save the Cat, Blake Snyder, screenwriter and teacher, says in a sentence or two, a pitch should:

  • tell genre and audience (not included in word count)
  • situation should have irony in it
  • paint a compelling mental picture
  • have a catchy title

In TV Guides pitches/loglines that describe movies at the theaters are not usually long. They have to catch the reader’s attention in 30 seconds. They don’t have much room to put it. It’s got to get to the point quickly or the reader will skip over it and go to another movie instead.

An agent or editor may ask for a 300 word summary or an even longer synopsis, however, your query letter’s pitch and the pitch you tell people when they ask you “What do you write?” has to be short, catchy, and to the point with the main emotional impact of the book or movie. The first sentence anyone hears about your story must be a great stand alone pitch for the story so that it grabs the reader and holds him by his emotional heartstrings.  If it’s for a movie, he’ll watch it. If it’s a book, he’ll read it. Why? Because your pitch instilled a “need to see it” inside him.

Here are examples of a loglines from a TV Guide and ones from the internet.

American Beauty (1999 Comedy Drama) A man in his mid-life crisis and at odds with his wife begins working out to impress his teenage daughter’s friend.

The logline for American Beauty on IMDb (Internet Movie Database) stated: Lester Burnham, a depressed suburban father in a mid-life crisis, decides to turn his hectic life around after becoming infatuated with his daughter’s attractive friend.

Anywhere But Here (1999 Comedy-Drama) A flighty mother uproots her daughter and heads West

A mother and daughter search for success in Beverly Hills.

Rotten Tomatoes Pitch Summary Anywhere But Here

Coming of age comedy-drama. A Wisconsin mother who longs for a more exciting and glamorous life in Beverly Hills, California. So she leaves her husband and packs her reluctant daughter into a gold Mercedes Benz, heading for L.A. When a family tragedy provokes a crisis between mother and daughter, the irresponsible Adele is forced to become a traditional mom for once. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi (I summarized this)

Apocalypse Now

During the U.S.-Viet Nam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.

Fried Tomatoes.com: Apocalypse Now Movie Info
In the Vietnam War,  Capt. Willard , already on the edge, is assigned to find and deal with AWOL Col. Kurtz, rumored to have set himself up in the Cambodian jungle as a local, lethal godhead. Along the way Willard encounters such odd experiences that by the time Willard sees the heads mounted on stakes near Kurtz’s compound, he knows Kurtz has gone over the deep end, but now Willard almost agrees with Kurtz’s insane dictum to “Drop the Bomb. Exterminate them all.” -Lucia Bozzola, Rovi shortened by me.

Can you improve these pitches?

Choose three movies or books similar to yours. Copy the pitch from the cover, www.Amazon.com, www.IMDb.com, or www.friedtomatoes.com

Write each one on a 3″x5″ card. Then change it to make it refer and fit for your story on another 3″x5″ card.

In case you want to read more, here are other pitch articles written by me:

  1. How to Deliver a Short Gutsy Pitch to Entice Editors, Agents, and Readers
  2. Which of These Best-Selling Romance Pitches Is the Best? Why?
  3. How to Entice an Editor/Agent with a Pitch (Logline)
  4. Pitch Exercise #1 – Would you accept or reject these pitches?
  5. How to Write an Effective Selling Pitch for a Romance Novel
  6. Pitch Exercise #2 Romance – Would You Accept or Reject These Pitches?
  7. Will Your Query Letter Sell Your Manuscript?

Other Resources to help you get a grip on your pitch.

Blake Snyder. Save the Cat.
Cliff Daigle. About.com. How to Pitch Your Novel
Joel Friedlander. Why Your Book Pitch Matters
Thomas Phelps. About.com. Developing Your Elevator Pitch

Thank you for reading my blog. I’d love to hear from you. Write what you believe is a great selling pitch with an emotional tug in a comment.

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Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards, Author
Copyright © 2014-2019 Joan Y. Edwards
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19 thoughts on “A Selling Pitch Is Short with a Strong Emotional Tug”

    1. Dear Linda,
      Thank you for writing. I am glad you believe my post is a great reference to use when writing a pitch. You’re welcome for the links to help with the process. Good luck with each pitch you create for your wonderful fun-filled stories that are going to be published.

      Never Give Up

  1. Thanks for this, Joan. As you know, I am just doing this exercise for my just finished novel, “Hit and Run.” I am struggling with a tag line, but my 100 word blurb is:

    Charlie hates everyone, especially himself, so murders six children and the crossing supervisor, narrowly missing old Sylvia. Through repeated contact, she gradually influences him to reject the only things he knows: self-hate, drugs, crime, and violence. The story is based on the author’s expertise in psychology: how people become apparent psychopaths, getting their kicks by causing harm — and what can turn a violent drug and alcohol abuser into the kind of boy you’d welcome into your family.

    That’s 78 words.

    I have quite a good 300 word synopsis too.

    If any of your readers want to comment on this blurb, I am happy to reward them with a free short story.


    1. Dear Dr. Bob,
      Thanks for writing. What is the genre?

      A teenage boy longs to be welcomed into homes, but self-hate and drugs lead him to kill six children and a school crossing guard for kicks. Can one old woman’s acceptance stop this serial killer? (35 words.)

      I think the first 26 words would rope people in enough to read the next sentence.

      I hope this helps.

      Never Give Up

      1. It’s inspirational fiction with paranormal elements. And no, he doesn’t wish to be welcomed into homes. He wants to die, and take as many with him as he can.

  2. I loved this Joan. I am saving this link as I’m about to work on my proposal etc for my latest book. The suggestion of working with cards and existing loglines is brilliant! Thank you! Shirley

    1. Dear Shirley,
      Thank you for writing. I am glad you are saving this link to help you work on your proposal for your latest book. Awesome. I’m glad that you like the idea of working with index cards and existing loglines.
      Good luck with your new book..

      Never Give Up

  3. Right on, as usual! Great advice, especially the note card trick.

    A pitch for Joan Edwards’s blog: A great resource for anything and everything a writer needs to know.

    1. Dear Sandra,
      Thank you for writing. Thank you for your encouragement. I’m glad you like the note card trick. Thanks for the pitch for my blog. May I use it to promote my blog? I’ll use your name in the quote.

      Never Give Up

  4. Thanks so much for posting this, Joan… What great inspiration for a Monday morning! You’ve included specifics like the reason for your story and the emotion that pulled you to it, these two things help tremendously in better understanding how to write a great pitch. You are the BEST!!!

    1. Dear Karen,
      Thank you for writing. You are welcome for my posting this article. I’m glad it’s great inspiration for a Monday morning. Thanks for telling me which that the reason you wrote your story and the emotion that pulled you to it were two things that helped you tremendously. I appreciate your compliment, saying that I am the best!. Those words brought joy to my heart.

      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

  5. Thank you, Joan, for this wonderful piece on pitching! As always, you are a great resource for all of us.

  6. Dear Ann,
    You are very welcome. I’m glad you think this is a wonderful piece on pitching. I appreciate your compliment. I love being a resource for my fellow writers.

    Never Give Up

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