What's In a Pitch? Examining 'The Undomestic Goddess'

What’s In a Pitch? is a new series that takes actual novel pitches and examines why they work successfully. This series is designed to help writers who need help composing the pitch paragraph of their query letter, or pitching an agent in person.

By the way, since I read mostly kids fiction, it will be mostly kids fiction here, too, but the framework of a successful pitch is the same no matter what category or genre you’re writing. Today’s pitch to dissect is (women’s fiction!) Sophie Kinsella’s The Undomestic Goddess. Women’s fiction is not a category that really interests me, but I read the flap of the book when my wife was reading it, and was intrigued. That’s a successful pitch.

THE UNDOMESTIC GODDESS:

Workaholic attorney Samantha Sweeting has just done the unthinkable. She’s made a mistake so huge, it’ll wreck any chance of a partnership.

Going into utter meltdown, she walks out of her London office, gets on a train and ends up in the middle of nowhere. Asking for directions at a big, beautiful house, she’s mistaken for an interviewee and finds herself being offered a job as a housekeeper.

Her employers have no idea that they’ve hired a lawyer—and Samantha has no idea how to work the oven. She can’t sew on a button, bake a potato or get the %&#! ironing board to open. How she takes a deep breath and begins to cope—and finds love—is a story as delicious as the bread she learns to bake.

But will her old life ever catch up with her? And if it does … will she want it back?


Why Does This Pitch Work?

The main character is immediately introduced. Her name is Samantha and she is workaholic attorney.

She has done something badbut what? We don’t know, but whatever it is, it’s big enough to wreck her career and get her to walk out of her office (and life). Naturally, I’m curious as to what happenedand you just know that she will eventually have to confront her London problems no matter how far she runs. 

The hook is introduced: Samantha, by sheer luck and accident, gets a new life. The city workaholic is now a country gal doing laundry and dinner.  Once again, we have a unique “fish out of water” story. The turn from Act I to Act II is obvious and seems to work.

Then the “promise of the premise” is unveiled. (Screenwriter Blake Snyder came up with this term.) What it means is this: When you or I hear the big hook (“…lawyer is now a housekeeper!?”), what scenes start to pop into our minds? Samantha burning dinner; Samantha making up lies; Samantha screwing up her dutiesthese are ideas that popped into my head. And as the pitch continues, it lets us know that those scenes are indeed in the story, thereby delivering on the promise of the premise.

Then you have that line“delicious as the bread she bakes,” blah blah blahwhich is the weakest part. This is something you can get away with on the inside flap of a book of a proven women’s fiction author. Leave this stuff out of an actual query.

And then the last line reminds us that even if Samantha survives country life, her problems will find her no matter where she hidesand what happens then?

The quickest way to get an agent’s attention
is a professional submission. That’s why you need
Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, 3rd. Ed.
It has dozens of query letter examples (novels,
nonfiction, short stories, kids books and more).


Want more on this subject?

You might also like:

  • No Related Posts

5 thoughts on “What's In a Pitch? Examining 'The Undomestic Goddess'

  1. Jim Fisher

    In LA I learned from old pros and then used the "mini-pitch." No more than five sentences, it consisted of a couple of adjectives describing the protagonist, his/her goal and the obstacle placed in their way which contained, what you call "the big hook." The sole purpose of the mini-pitch being to intrigue someone so much, they just had to read the script.

  2. Jim Fisher

    In LA I learned from old pros and then used the "mini-pitch." No more than five sentences, it consisted of a couple of adjectives describing the protagonist, his/her goal and the obstacle placed in their way which contained, what you call "the big hook." The sole purpose of the mini-pitch being to intrigue someone so much, they just had to read the script.

  3. Martha Nichols

    Excellent analysis of what makes that short pitch go. Really helpful. One question, though: What about the value of novelty in a story? I understand the "promise of the pitch," but what my mind first generates is pretty predictable in response. I’d rather the writer comes up with something I’m not expecting. But that probably means I’m not part of the target market, even if I’m female…

COMMENT