Whether we’re aiming for traditional publishing, small/ebook publishing, or self-publishing, we have to pitch our stories. We might call it a query letter or a back-cover blurb, but in essence, a pitch is a pitch.
Those who regularly read my blog have probably heard my woes of coming up with pitches. It doesn’t help that much of the advice out there for how to write pitches doesn’t apply to romance.
Unlike most genres, which focus on one protagonist and one antagonist, romance pitches need to include both the hero and heroine. How do we put it together? I’m thrilled to welcome the phenomenally talented Marcy Kennedy, who’s here to rescue us. *smile*
5 Essential Elements of a Romance Novel Pitch
Whenever we finish writing a novel, it can come with a rush of exhilaration. We’ve finally done it. The hardest part is behind us…and then we realize we still need to write our pitch.
No matter what publishing path we take, we’ll need a pitch to use when meeting with agents or editors at a conference, submitting query letters, designing our back cover copy, or posting the Amazon description of our book.
Suddenly writing 50,000 to 100,000 words seems like the easy part.
I’m so glad Jami allowed me to guest blog for her today so that I can make writing your pitch a little less intimidating. Romance pitches need to include five essential elements. If you can remember to add in these elements, you’ll set the foundation for a great pitch.
Essential #1 – Introduce both the male and female leads with a detail that makes the reader go ooo.
Most of the advice you hear about pitching says “only tell us about your main character and keep it brief.” That works great for every other genre but not for romance. In a romance, you’ll often have two main characters. That means you need to introduce them both equally and in an interesting way. Romance pitches are heavy on character introductions, and that’s okay because what we come to a romance for is the relationship between those two characters.
Throughout this post, I’m going to use Jami’s pitch for her paranormal romance Treasured Claim as an example because she’s done a fantastic job on it.
Let’s look at how she starts her pitch:
A shapeshifting dragon on the verge of starvation…
For Elaina Drake, sparkling jewels have lost their luster. Her father’s obsessed with killing her, and her hoard needs more treasure or she’ll starve. On the run, she’s desperate enough to steal—er, acquire.
A modern-day knight seeking redemption…
At his latest fundraiser, Alexander Wyatt, Chicago’s biggest corporate titan, catches an exotic beauty with a stolen necklace.
So we now know that our main characters are a starving dragon who can shapeshift into human form and a rich philanthropist with a secret in his past. Better yet, Jami makes a clear juxtaposition between them by calling him a “knight.”
Essential #2 – Tell us what they want/need when you introduce them.
Elaina needs two things—more treasure so she doesn’t starve and a way to hide from her murderous father.
Alexander needs redemption from his past.
Why is it important to tell us what they need? Each character’s need contributes to the tension in the story, and often those needs end up being in direct conflict. How they each meet what lies at the core of these needs defines the relationship. (Jami talked more about this in her post “Are These Characters a Perfect Match?“)
Essential #3 – Tell us they’re attracted to each other.
This makes it clear to everyone that, yes, this is a romance. You don’t need to give a lot of space to this (one sentence will do it), but it does need to be there.
Passion between them ignites a game of temptation where jewelry is the prize.
Essential #4 – Make it very clear what’s going to keep them apart.
Make it big. It needs to seem like a lose-lose, unsolvable dilemma. In a romance, we technically know that the hero and heroine will end up together. But while we’re reading, we still need to feel worried that maybe, this time, they might not.
Listen to how Jami does this.
A predator made prey…
Their love affair turns dangerous when her father discovers her location. No match for the dragon who murdered her mother, Elaina must now choose: succumb to fears of her father and run again, or surrender to love—and forfeit both their lives.
The lose-lose dilemma is that Elaina will lose Alexander no matter what she chooses. How can this possibly end well?
Essential #5 – You still need an antagonist or villain.
Your two protagonists aren’t each other’s antagonist. It needs to be an outside force that will stand in the way of them finding their happily ever after.
In Treasured Claim, this is Elaina’s father. In Abby Niles’ Defying Convention, it’s bloodthirsty fans and rival reporters.
If you want other examples of excellent romance pitches, you can also go to Amazon and read the descriptions of Wait for Me by Elisabeth Naughton and Time’s Enemy by Jennette Marie Powell. One of the best ways to improve your own pitch writing skills is to dissect pitches that would make you buy the book.
Want to learn more about creating loglines, taglines, and pitches?
On Saturday, September 21, I’ll be teaching a 90-minute webinar ($45) where I give even more tips on crafting awesome loglines, taglines, and pitches. You can get 15% off by using the discount code MarcyLogline15. Sign up or learn more by clicking here. If you can’t make it at the time it’s scheduled but still want to attend, sign up anyway. The webinar will be recorded and sent to registrants along with a PDF of the slides.
I’ve also put together something special as a thank you to people who sign up for my newsletter where I let you know about my upcoming classes and books. I’m offering a free PDF called Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Hiring a Freelance Editor But Were Too Confused to Ask. Click here to sign up for your copy.
Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy) is a speculative fiction writer who believes fantasy is more real than you think. Alongside her own writing, Marcy works as a freelance editor and teaches classes on craft and social media through WANA International. You can find her blogging about writing and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth at www.marcykennedy.com.
Squee! Thank you, Marcy! Okay, no joke, I had no idea that Marcy was going to analyze my pitch for the topic of this guest post. After all my self-doubt and struggle with the darn thing, I can’t tell you how happy I am that she liked it.
But more importantly, I’d never thought of all the ways romance pitches differ from normal pitches. That probably wasn’t helping my attempts. *grin*
The multiple protagonists, romance genre “formula,” and reader expectations all require subtle—but important—changes to our normal approach for pitching. I especially loved her point about taking our time with character introductions, even though that’s the opposite of most normal advice. But in a romance, the additional information helps readers get a sense of the characters’ relationship, which is why readers read the story.
I’m so grateful to Marcy for her insight and ability to analyze and break down the elements of pitches. She’s this good with non-romance stories too. Anyone who struggles with pitches should definitely take advantage of her knowledge and sign up for her class.
Thank you for sharing, Marcy! Er, now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go do a happy dance. *smile*
Registration is currently open for my workshop on how to do just enough story development to write faster, while not giving our pantsing muse hives. Interested? Sign up for “Lost Your Pants? The Impatient Writers Guide to Plotting a Story.” (Blog readers: Use Promo Code “savethepants” to save $15 on registration.)
If you write romance, had you thought about how those pitches differ from the norm before? Which of those essential elements do you struggle with the most? Do you have any questions about Marcy’s tips or her upcoming class? Do you have questions about how another genre might differ from the norm? (You might give her ideas for a new class!)Pin It