There are so many pitch events, you'd think it would be easy to find lots of information on how to pitch.
But I couldn't find any details about Bloody Scotland Pitch Perfect pitches.
Did pitchers use Powerpoint?
Did they hand out chocolates to bribe the judges and entice the audience?
Did they take the Pitch Perfect title to heart and start performing the 'Cups' song?
After extensive research (a few hours on Google) I came to the conclusion that
what happens at Pitch Perfect stays at Pitch Perfect. It's the Fight Club of literary pitching.
Youtube is full of pitches from American events. Search for Pitchapalooza and you will find numerous pitches, critiques and tips. But, to be honest, I wasn't sure they would help. Sometimes the UK and the US can diverge wildly. Look at our different reactions to the following: pants; fanny packs; making the guy from The Apprentice the leader of your country.
Then I realised why there were so few pitches online. Authors don't want their ideas to be stolen.
That seemed fair.
I needed to make my own format for a pitch.
I grabbed my flipchart and started writing headings: Character details; Character themes; Plot; Plot themes; Novel themes; Title.
Then I started to break each heading down, writing snappy one-liners as I thought of them, drawing arrows and circles to connect ideas, using colour-coding to identify links.
I should point out here that I am not a star pitcher. Sure [SPOILER ALERT!!] I went on to be one of the Pitch Perfect 2017 winners but there were some amazing pitches at the event (no Powerpoints, candy or audience bribes though).
What I'm sharing is how I approached writing a pitch because I'd have found it helpful to find a blog like this when I was working on my pitch. The questions I asked myself were:
1) Who are my main characters? names, ages, connections between them
2) What happens in the novel?
3) What are the themes/challenges for the characters?
4) What are the main plot points?
5) What are the main themes of the plot?
6) Are there overarching themes?
7) What is my title and why did I choose it?
8) What is my connection to the story?
9) Do I have writing experience?
10) How do I want to engage the audience at the beginning and how do I want to leave them at the end?
It's a lot to fit into three minutes! Not every question was answered in my pitch but knowing the answers helped me to distil my message down. Some other pitchers included details on their target market and on how the book would fit into a series. If you can fit these points in, then panels will love you.
I found the pitch planning process invaluable for solidifying my thoughts about my novel. It tightened up my planning and plotting.
I'd had some vague ideas about how different plot points would fit together but a combination of the three-act planning process and trying to write a pitch, gave me the focus to work out how the main strands would connect. It was like finding the missing piece of sky in a jigsaw puzzle.
It meant that when I went to Pitch Perfect, I not only knew my characters but I knew my plot and the purpose of my book. Although I still didn't know if I should have brought cakes or practised the cup song.