Pitch Purgatory

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked on this thing, but here’s my current pitch for the upcoming Crested Butte Writer’s Conference. Any suggestions?

I’ve created a land where ghosts are guides and heroes are traitors, where Liu Jie fights to free his country from the Imperial Chancellor’s civil war, but when the Chancellor captures Jie’s brother, how can Jie choose between sacrificing his family or his country?




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17 Responses to “Pitch Purgatory”

  1. laurel says:

    I'd suggest a few minor trims

    In a land where ghosts are guides and heroes are traitors, [short descriptor] Liu Jie fights to free his country from the Imperial Chancellor’s civil war. But when the Chancellor captures Jie’s brother, can he choose between saving his family and his country?

    In that descriptor, think of an adjective plus noun that perhaps indicates this guy's skill set or his social standing. For example, is he a young warrior? A disenchanted scholar? A cunning statesman? (You get the idea.)

    Good luck!

  2. Lisa K. says:

    I got a good feeling of story from your pitch, and found it compelling. The one thing that didn't sit well was the author intrusion as in "I created…" The other thing I'd mention — and honestly, I'm still not sure if I completely buy into it or not myself — is that I've read time and again not to use a question as a hook in a query or pitch because it leaves the reader open to saying, "Who cares?" My one (possible) suggestion would be to finesse the end of your pitch into a statement rather than a question, as: but when the Chancellor captures Jie's brother, he must choose between sacrificing his family or his country.

    Best of luck with your pitch! I hope you'll let us know how you make out.

  3. The Alliterative Allomorph says:

    Yep, Lisa K's right. I've heard that the rhetorical question is a major pet peeve. Good luck!

  4. Janet Johnson says:

    Not to just piggy back, but I agree with Lisa. Laurel's suggestion for the beginning was good. And making it a statement sits better with me too.

    Good luck! Can't wait to hear how it goes. 🙂

  5. Sandy Shin says:

    It's a great pitch, and I agree with Lisa, especially regarding changing the question to a statement. Maybe, if you can, include a short description of who Liu Jie is. 🙂

  6. Victoria Dixon says:

    Interesting that you all agree on the question as everyone else has agreed that the question works better. When it's written as a statement, it *sounds* flatter. I get the "Who cares?" vibe off of the statement, but not the question. Sigh. I will contemplate the descriptor idea and see what I can come up with. Thanks for the ideas! You all rock. 🙂

  7. Jeannie Lin says:

    I think it's good! My only suggestion would be to be very clear up front that's it's a historical fantasy based on the Han Dynasty. That immediately puts into context what sort of world you're in.
    "Ghosts are guides and heroes are traitors" sounds good for a back of the cover book blurb, but when talking in person, be very clear about what sort of book it is. It's in a way more important than trying to tell about your story or your hero. Then if they're interested, they'll ask for more details. Best of luck!

  8. Victoria Dixon says:

    An excellent point, Jeannie. I was able to add it and still maintain the pitch at one sentence in length. ;D


  9. Christina Farley says:

    This looks great! I can't wait to read the story. I'd take the personal pronoun out and start with In a land…

    The question is a good idea, but some people like and some don't. I suppose it depends on who you're sending the pitch to.

  10. Janna Qualman says:

    Ooh, best to you! I hope the conference is a wonderful experience for you.

  11. Victoria Dixon says:

    Okay, I've put in the book's title, which gave me an informal way of jumping in instead of the personal pronoun (when I started with "In a land" the rest of the statement got lost, but it works now) and I think it now sounds ok without the question. Thanks for all the help and good wishes! Three weeks and counting….;D

  12. Natalie Aguirre says:

    I like Laurel's suggestion too as long as the pitch can be 2 sentences. Or you might want to change the question to a statement. Just a thought. Good luck.

  13. Lia Keyes says:

    You've had great comments here. I agree with Jeannie Lin about describing the novel as a historical fantasy set in the Han Dynasty. It's a great hook, right there, and it helps us get situated, which colors everything else you tell us subsequently.

    I agree with removing the opening phrase and suggest you consider using the pitch to illustrate the emotional arc of your main character from beginning to end.

    Why is the choice between family and country particularly hard for Liu Jie? What was his (perhaps flawed) belief system at the beginning of the story that is forced to change due to the choice he has to make by story's end?

    Good luck at the conference—sounds like you have a wonderful story to tell!

  14. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks for the awesome suggestion, Lia! I can use that for the longer pitch I still need to write. And memorize. ARGH! Seventeen Days….

  15. Cat Woods says:


    I agree with the comment about adding in your historical fiction. I think this in and of itself is a hook and will strengthen your pitch.

    Best luck and go with your gut. Being comfortable with what you are saying is almost as important as what you are saying.

    You'll do fine!

  16. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks, Cat. ;/ I think I'm getting myself increasingly uncomfortable just fretting over it, but I know I need to have certain things firmly in mind and I can't do that without practicing, so…

  17. Sangu says:

    Laurel's version above, which only slightly tweaks yours, is great because it makes the narrative sound more active. I think yours really works for a verbal pitch, though, and I don't think it necessarily needs changing for a conference!

    Thank you for the lovely comment on my blog!

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