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Thoughts On Pitches

by Casablanca Editor Deb Werksman

I loved the pitch contest that we did last month. It was a blast to see all the creativity, and a lot of people did a fabulous job of pitching their book in just 50 words.

I haven't received all of the submissions I asked for--besides the original 3 winners, I had asked for about 14 more--so please go back and see if you're one of them.

Here's what's interesting about the submissions I am seeing--sometimes, the experience of reading the book doesn't match the experience of reading the pitch!

I've got pitches that are hilariously funny and clever, but then the book itself is serious, straight contemporary romance. I've got pitches that are historical and the world-building is fascinating, and then the book is character-driven. Make sure your pitch matches your book! It's so much easier to rewrite the pitch to match the book, than to rewrite the book to match the pitch...

And, if I didn't choose you as a winner in the pitch contest, you can still, of course, submit to me, if you believe that your book fits our criteria, which are:

  • c. 90,000 words
  • single title romance in any subgenre
  • a heroine the reader can relate to
  • a hero she can fall in love with
  • a world gets created
  • I can sell it in 2-3 sentences!

Also, in the back of my mind, are Philip Larkin's criteria for the Booker prize--he was a poet laureate, and the Booker prize is one of the most prestigious in literature, so how can I go wrong? I'm paraphrasing here--

  1. can I read it?
  2. if I can read it, can I believe it?
  3. if I can believe it, do I care?
  4. if I care, what is the depth of that caring and how long will it last?

So those criteria speak to the quality of the writing, the plausibility of the world/characters, and the depth of the appeal of the story.

Thank you all, and I look forward to hearing from you!


  1. Wow, Deb, learn something new every day! I've been doing this a long time and I never once thought... "make the pitch match the book!"

    I may have been doing that anyway, but I never consciously thought it. Superb advice.

  2. No matter how hard I try, I can't get away from pitching. I found myself doing just that on a NY sidewalk this weekend. And yes, I was pitching to Deb.

    Pitching is something that we as authors need to be able to do well. Thank you, Deb. This is a good lesson (or refresher course) for all of us.

  3. there were some great pitches; I so hope there are some great stories to go along with them!

  4. Larkin's criteria says it all--for a lot of things.

  5. That's really interesting Deb and so true about changing the pitch to match the book. No sense making it harder on yourself by rewriting the major component (aka the book). Great advice!

  6. I know you're right when you say the pitch should match the book. It's a no-brainer. But it's not easy.

    In fact to me, it's the hardest part. Factor in retaining the voice--in far fewer words than I would ever usually use :-)-- and it becomes even harder.

  7. It's just like writing a commercial for your book and you have limited time.

    You want that pitch to stand out.


  8. Pitches and queries are the bane of my existence. I know I have to get good at both but I feel like *epic fail* every time.

    Thanks for taking the time to put some good advice out there, Deb. I'll keep working and hopefully will get it "write" sooner than later.

  9. I have to rework my pitches over and over again. Then I give them time to marinade and work on them some more. They can always be improved. Now I'll also be thinking about how well they capture the gist of the books.

    Thanks. Great advice.

  10. I think I learn more from agents and editors blogging than I do from any my college courses.

    Thanks, Deb, for the information.


  11. I loved those Booker Prize comments. Thanks for posting them. Concise and so useful. Thanks.


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