If you’ve read Fix My Story for very long, you probably know that I’m big on story pitches. I call them by their Hollywood name of loglines. I’ve even written a book or two about how to make your story pitch amazing. It’s a passion of mine to make sure every storyteller who comes into my sphere of influence knows how to write a great story pitch.
Today, I want to go back to basics on story pitching. To do that, let’s look at the top three mistakes I see most often in story pitches.
Mistake #1: Too Many Sentences
Your story pitch needs to be snappy and attention-grabbing. That means you need to keep it to a handful of sentences. The longer your pitch, the less likely you are to hold your potential reader’s attention and convince them to buy the book. And with so many books for a reader to choose from, you don’t really want to lose their attention, do you?
I strongly recommend that you try to make a version of your pitch that is just one sentence. That’s what I mean when I say I want you to write a logline.
Now, let me quickly address two frequently asked questions I get when I say you should have a one-sentence version of your pitch:
- Why? Because forcing yourself to distill your pitch to one sentence lets you focus on the bare essentials of your story. That can help you write a compelling Amazon description, tighten your final draft, and more.
- Does that mean I can’t ever write a pitch with more than one sentence? Absolutely not. I recommend starting with the one-sentence logline version, then expanding it to make that basic pitch even stronger.
Mistake #2: No Adjectives for Characters
Here’s something that always makes me scratch my head: The number of authors I talk to who will tell me all about how they’ve worked to make their characters have unique personalities, yet how those same authors don’t think to include a hint of those personalities in a story pitch!
I think it has to do with not quite knowing how to condense a character’s personality down to the basics, so most authors trying a pitch for the first time will simply talk about the “man” or “woman” who is the star of the story.
But authors are word-lovers! So make a list of adjectives, or descriptive words, that fit your deep, unique characters. Now we might have a “desperate man” or a “compassionate woman.” And now the reader has an intriguing glimpse into those unique characters of yours that you’ve worked so hard to create.
Maybe that’s what makes it so tough to do this step: We authors want to show our readers the whole character at once, but a pitch forces us to merely hint at the amount of character development we’ve done. Just remember that once you get the reader interested with that little hint, they will meet your characters once they read the book.
Mistake #3: No Hook
I’ve saved this one for last because it’s the most subtle and the most difficult to do. What separates a good pitch from a great one is this: Great pitches leave the reader saying, “I can see where this is going! What happens next?”
Let’s break that response down. First, “I can see where this is going!” A lot of people see that as a bad response, thinking it means your story is too predictable. But one of the strangest things about marketing a story is that readers subconsciously want to feel like they can predict where it’s headed—to a point. With that in mind, you make your pitch shine when the reader can see that the desperate man is going to have to confront his past—”I see where this is going!” How will the confrontation happen? That’s what the reader can’t predict, and that’s where the second half of the response comes in.
“What happens next?” A well-crafted pitch predicts the direction of the story, but leaves the details to the reader’s imagination. That gets the reader hooked on the premise, making them want to read the book.
Let’s do a workshop!
I love helping people write single-sentence story pitches, or loglines. So let’s do a workshop! Post a comment with your one-sentence story pitch and I will try to reply to everyone with feedback.
(Need help writing your pitch? Start with this crash course. If you want more after that, check out my books.)
3 thoughts on “The Top Three Story Pitch Mistakes”
Here’s my logline for The Amazing Wolf Boy: When a pack of lycanthropes kidnaps his girlfriend, a teenage nerd/newbie werewolf must harness his newfound superpowers to save her life.
Good start! A few thoughts:
1. Make sure your audience is familiar with the word lycanthropes. I had to look it up, but that doesn’t mean your audience doesn’t already know what it means. It’s important to use words that will grab your intended audience, so do your research and find out if people who should like your book know the words you use to market it.
2. I’d give the lycanthropes an adjective. Are they desperate? Are they renegades? Freedom fighters? Outcasts? Each of those adjectives gives a different flavor to who they are, and hints at the type of opposition our hero will encounter.
3. I’m curious what it would look like if you made the newbie werewolf’s newfound powers the focus of the opening clause, then had the lycanthropes show up and kidnap his girlfriend.
4. Is the girlfriend a werewolf too? I know you’re running out of room in just that one sentence, but if she’s not a werewolf, that should be in your expanded version of this pitch, because then I start thinking she doesn’t know her boyfriend is one… Is he trying to keep it a secret? Or does he want to tell her?
Thanks for your advice.