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A Great Example of What a Pitch Should Not Look Like

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Guest Columns, Pitching, What's New.

Consider this pitch below. I wonder what you think of it.

Story Title pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Main Character against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Main Character finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. With his back against the wall, Main Character is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Main Character discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?

In my opinion, it couldn’t be much worse. Why? Because it doesn’t tell us anything. The pitch is not far from something like, “There’s a good guy. Bad things happen. Good guy changes so he can fight. Oh yeah, — there’s a question that needs answering.” That’s about it.

(New for 2013: MORE Tips on Writing a Query Letter.)

One of my biggest tips when teaching people how to pitch to literary agents is to avoid generalities. Because a generality could mean anything, it fails to draw us in to the story because it’s not clear what you’re getting at. If you’re ever wondering about what constitutes a generality in a pitch, look no further than this example. Do not do what they’re doing. General = bad.

Oh, and you’re probably wondering what this pitch actually was for, and you may have guessed it already by the very few details that were in it … but this is the official plot summary for IRON MAN 3. Seriously. All I did was change Tony Stark’s name to “Main Character” and took out the title. Otherwise, it is word for word.

 

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6 Responses to A Great Example of What a Pitch Should Not Look Like

  1. nelbot says:

    That could seriously be any of 100s of books, movies, what-have-you. With 10 minutes of concentrated through I could probably come up with a good dozen or two examples that fit. Eliminate Industrialist- make that even MORE general- and it is nearly all of hollywood and probably the entire mystery/suspense genre of commercial fiction.

  2. halreichardt says:

    Ouch. At first reading, I was thinking this is pretty good. What’s the problem here? But your advice makes perfect sense. Felt a little better after seeing that a pitch like this was actually used for a big-time movie. Thanks for the great tip.

  3. dleos91745 says:

    What’s an example of a “good pitch?”

  4. Chuck Sambuchino says:

    Thanks, Karen!

  5. Lisa Loewen says:

    Very timely article for me. I’m at the SWiC and I pitch to an agent tomorrow! I will not use Main Character.

  6. KarenLange says:

    Pitches and queries and the like – not my favorite aspects of the writing life. Appreciate the insight and advice!

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