Wednesday, January 16, 2013


The legendary Alice Orr spoke about the perfect pitch to the Liberty States Fiction Writers meeting in Edison, New Jersey last weekend. The author of No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript that Sells, published by Writer’s Digest Books, Ms. Orr is past president of the New York City Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and past Vice-President of Sisters in Crime Mid-Atlantic Chapter. She was named Agent of the Year by both the New Jersey and New York Chapters of the Romance Writers of America, as well as Editor of the Year by the National Booklovers Convention.

Intensity. Power. Drama.

Those are the qualities your pitch needs when you are offering your book to an agent or editor, according to author, agent and editor Alice Orr.

You’re sitting next to an agent in a “pitch session” at the conference. Or the only person in the elevator with you says, “So tell me about your story,” and she’s the elusive editor you’ve been dying to meet. If you can’t encapsulate your story in two or three sentences, you’ll lose their attention and that offer to read your manuscript.

So how do you make the perfect pitch?

Use three or four high-impact words, what Ms. Orr calls “WOW” words. If your story is dark, consider words like rage, brutal, savage, ordeal, snarling and the like. Action? How about plunge, rip, burst, agony/agonizing, et cetera. Positive impact? Magnetic, electric/electrify, fascinate, enflame. Negative impact? Shatter, paralyze, cripple, devour. And of course, for romance authors, words like lure, quench/unquenchable, torrent, lash, vibrate, hunger.

Get the picture? Intensity. Power. Drama.

Ms. Orr’s handouts included a sheet from which I chose the above words. The sheet listed columns of positive, negative, action, love/lovemaking, dark emotion, and danger words. You can compile your own list as you come across words that make your adrenaline surge.

Although the Hollywood pitch (Godzilla meets Pretty Woman) has been overused, it’s possible to convey your story in this way. Just be sure the citations you use are universally known (for example, someone suggested Inception, but many in the audience went, Huh?).

For a hands-on exercise, we broke into pairs and listed these story points in our completed manuscript:
  • short description of the main character
  • his/her love interest, if germane to the story
  • the antagonist or villain—who or what is fighting your character
  • the time and place of your story
  • the intense conflict between character and antagonist
  • what motivates your character to act on this conflict

Then each pair brainstormed to construct a two- to three-sentence pitch using WOW words, remembering that, as Ms. Orr stressed, “conflict is the essence of story”. Here are two results:

* Pitch for Cris Anson’s Redemption and Glory (I cheated. This isn’t a completed manuscript; it’s my work in progress, the sequel to Mercy and Redemption).

Tormented by his attraction to a bewitching Domme, groupie-magnet Adam fights his inclination to submit to any female. Yet the famous sculptor can’t turn away from the fiery redhead, and his obsession becomes a journey to self-revelation.
(red = WOW words)

* Pitch for Rose Carole’s Sanctuary (a completed manuscript I’ve read that is, in my opinion, worthy of publication)

Having fled her brutal husband, Georgia socialite Suzanna Brown captivates her new employer, Matthew Turner. As their passion grows under the backdrop of New York City, Suzanna fears what will happen if her terrible secret is revealed.
(red = WOW words)

Caution: a pitch is not a blurb. A pitch is meant to lure an editor or agent. A blurb is back-cover copy to lure the reader. Here’s an example of a blurb (for Mercy and Redemption):

While searching an old cemetery for likely gravestones to illustrate her colonial cookbook, Mercy Howe meets two hunks who are tracing their ancestry, and sparks fly. Literally.

When Mercy casually touches Seth and Adam, her vividly erotic vision involving all three of them feels like a memory, not a dream, and awakens long-dormant sexual urges. Their kisses are achingly familiar, and she welcomes each in turn into her body. Then she spends a no-holds-barred weekend with both men in her bed and discovers an intimacy—and a past—that blows her mind.

As memories resurface from three hundred years ago, Mercy will have to choose whether to relive the experiences from their joint past or forge a new bond with either Seth or Adam. Or both.

Do check out Ms. Orr’s  No More Rejections. If you are a serious writer, consider attending the Liberty States Fiction Writers conference to be held Saturday, March 16, at the Renaissance Hotel in Woodbridge, New Jersey. And of course, every reader should have a copy of Mercy and Redemption, available here (Ellora’s Cave), here (Amazon), and here (All Romance eBooks).

What's your perfect pitch?


  1. Thank you! This is a great suggestion. I'll keep her thoughts in my mind!

  2. Thanks for your overview of Alica Orr's presentation, Cris. Very helpful!


  3. Thanks, Melissa and Adele, for your kind words. Happy writing!

  4. Too bad I missed the meeting, but one of these days I'll get there...I don't have anything really to pitch at the moment, but it all makes sense...


  5. Thanks Cris...what a great blog! I'm following! Just ordered her book on Amazon.

  6. Thanks for the article, Cris. I'll be pitching so this was a big help.