Dec 24, 2013

How to Turn Your Novel into a Pitch for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards

Congratulations, fellow writer friend!  If you’re reading this, it must mean you finally finished drafting your novel and are wondering “how do I get this thing out into the world?”

Honey, I shrunk my book!
The first thing you’ll need is a great pitch, but that requires a dozen scientists who can operate a shrink ray machine that can reduce your book down to size, or about 300 words.  You could go the traditional route and send query letters to literary agents or you could see if the odds are in your favor at the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards (submission date soon to be announced…hopefully).  Either way, you’ll still need a pitch that can awaken an editor from drooling all over the slush pile.

For the purpose of this blog, I am gearing my advice towards those who are creating a pitch for ABNA by following their 2014 contest submission requirements and sharing from the knowledge I gained by making it into the Third Prize level in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards with my novel pitch for Eternal Feud: Reunion at Walnut Cherryville.

Here are six things I suggest you do first before really cracking down on that pitch.

1. The Synopsis: An 80% Reduction
When I finish writing a chapter, I create a chapter summary, which is like writing a book report.  This involves rereading the chapter, taking note of details that are pivotal to the main plot, sub-plots or characters.  I also list unanswered questions posed in the chapter that will need to be addressed later because this will eventually reveal plot holes and other inconsistencies in the manuscript.  Creating chapter summaries was the first step I took towards making my pitch because they became my outline, or synopsis, for the entire book.  Through this process, I reduced a 400 page book into 20 pages.  Click here to see the chapter 1 summary below from Reunion at Walnut Cherryville to get tips and view the process in action.

2. Remember, math is not for novelists.
Since the synopsis had driven my book down to its most important points, I thought writing the pitch would be peachy…I guessed wrong.  I ended up rewriting my pitch five times until I developed the 180 word combo that won third prize in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards.  If you’re keeping track of the math, I’ve just reduced 20 pages down to 1/3 of a page..ta-dah!  There is no exact formula for how to write the best pitch and I’ve seen it done in infinite ways.  After scouring the internet for examples, I found hidden details encrypted in clouds of creative fluff.

3. Express the originality of your book idea indirectly. 
Every book has its own identity, so I wouldn’t compare my book to another or say “it’s different because…”  I showed how my story was unique through my perspective, while allowing room for readers to make their own inferences and comparisons to other things they’ve read.  

4. Define your target audience.
When reading a pitch, you should be able to tell which audience it appeals to solely on the main character’s demographics, challenges and themes.  Without stating it, I targeted the young adult audience by making my main character a high school student who is tasked with making difficult decisions future.  It’s important to focus on discussing conflicts, challenges and life lessons that are relatable to your target audience.  

5. Imply your genre and theme.
Use descriptive language to suggest your book’s genre and a theme will emerge based on that language.  In Reunion at Walnut Cherryville, speaking about intolerable governments suggests the book is dystopian themed with a hint of western (due to roots of an ancient family feud) and general science fiction (futuristic produce factory located in a desert).    
6. Set the stage for the reader.
Introduce the main characters, plot, conflict, and “take home message.”  State or give an idea about where and when the book takes place.  Don’t reveal all your secrets, just enough to spark interest and curiosity about the book.  Click here to see the breakdown of my pitch as an example.

For those of you struggling to write your pitch for the first time, I hope you find these suggestions helpful.  Looking back at my own 2013 ABNA submission, I wish I had a more straightforward way of saying that the book was narrated from multiple perspectives, though I couldn’t think of how to fit that in gracefully without disrupting the flow of the pitch.  If you think you can solve that puzzle, let me know in the comments!

Keep in touch and let me know how your ABNA pitch is coming along on Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter @EternalFeud.

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