Last week, I talked about creating a pitch that reflects the heart of your story
. A couple of you asked for examples, so this week I’m going to take two published works and condense them to the single sentence and paragraph pitches. I’ve also included the jacket flap summary so we have something to compare to.
Disclaimer: These are my personal takes on the hearts of these stories—as in, this is the single most important thing I walked away with after I finished each book. Someone else might come up with something completely different.
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
: In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota--and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life.
: This is a story about survival, whether you come from the very rich or the very poor.
: The ice caps have melted and the world has become a place of Have’s and Have Not’s, where the gap between them is infinite. One teenage boy, Nailer, has spent his whole life struggling to survive on a filthy beach in the Gulf Coast region. Loyalty and survival are synonymous in his world, and the ability to depend on your crewmates is assumed (and required). Then we meet Nita, a teenage girl from the opposite economic spectrum, where assuming another’s loyalty could lead to death. When Nailer’s and Nita’s worlds collide, sparks fly in ways that neither could have imagined.
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
: Gemma, 16, is on layover at Bangkok Airport, en route with her parents to a vacation in Vietnam. She steps away for just a second, to get a cup of coffee. Ty--rugged, tan, too old, oddly familiar--pays for Gemma's drink. And drugs it. They talk. Their hands touch. And before Gemma knows what's happening, Ty takes her. Steals her away. The unknowing object of a long obsession, Gemma has been kidnapped by her stalker and brought to the desolate Australian Outback. STOLEN is her gripping story of survival, of how she has to come to terms with her living nightmare--or die trying to fight it.
: A kidnapped girl recounts how she was stolen away to Australia’s outback.
: Stockholm Syndrome is a powerful thing. Most often, it’s associated with kidnappings, political causes, and some forms of abuse. But what about a situation where there is no abuse or coercion? STOLEN is a story that starts out with obsession, evolves into a kidnapping, and grows from there. Gemma is kidnapped by Ty, whose obsession with Gemma provokes him to steal her away so he can keep her to himself. He’s not abusive in any way; he simply intends to be the prominent figure in her life. He insists she will have all the freedoms and choices she would have had in her old world. More so, because she can do whatever she wants. Except for one thing—she can never leave. Gemma grows to understand where Ty is coming from and why he is the way he is, ceasing to see him as horrible and evil, and falls into Stockholm Syndrome. How can she leave when he becomes so reasonable? So human? And yet, she has to leave or she risks feeling trapped for the rest of her life.
So, what do you think of the differences between the Pitch and the Jacket Flap? Since the target audience for each is different, it makes sense to me that they would focus on different things. A reader is looking for an enticing story, so that’s the focus of the jacket flap. An agent or editor is looking for an enticing story, too, but they’re also looking at how well you can craft that story. Giving them the heart and soul shows how deep you want to go with your characters and themes, how ambitious you are, and how hard you are willing to work in order to write the best possible piece you can.
The core of your story may include key pieces of the ending, because that may be where the most important element is. Keep that in mind as you write your own pitches. It’s okay to include aspects of the ending in your pitch, because it may entice the agent or editor and make her look forward to reading the entire manuscript.
For any of you interested, here’s a challenge. Pick five or so books you’ve read recently, making sure that some of them aren’t high concept with an easy and obvious hook, and do what I just did. Write a single sentence that captures the essence of the book, then write a pitch paragraph. Don’t be surprised if it’s completely different from the jacket flap summary—a query pitch and a jacket flap summary are not always the same things.
Who’s up for the challenge?