How to Pitch Your Book, from Linda Rohrbaugh

linda rohrbaugh At this year’s Pikes Peak Writers Conference, writer and speaker Linda Rohrbaugh gave a fantastic presentation on how to pitch your book. With her permission, I am sharing here her three step formula for crafting a great book pitch—which she created after years of listening to how best-selling authors pitch their books.

I’ll give you a hint: despite what you may hear to the contrary, they don’t use a single-sentence log line.

Step 1: The First Log Line

The first log line is what we usually hear about: a single sentence that includes the following:

  • The hero
  • The hero’s flaw
  • The life-changing event that starts the story
  • The opponent
  • The ally
  • The battle or conflict

This, Linda says, is a great place to begin your pitch: it sums up the basic story elements. For example, the log line for 50 First Dates could be

A womanizer veterinarian falls in love with a girl with short-term memory loss.

Step 2: The Second Log Line

However, when a best-selling author describes their book, they almost never stop with that first sentence. Instead, they add what Linda has dubbed the “second log line.”

The second log line includes:

  • The character who arcs (or changes)
  • And what that arc or change is

Using 50 First Dates again, the second log line would be something like this:

His challenge is to win her heart anew every day.

Step 3: The Third Log Line

Step 3 is to add a sentence about the book’s theme. What does the character learn? How does he or she change? From 50 First Dates:

He learns that the fun, for him, is in the chase.

imageI think that examples—and trying the process for yourself—are key to learning how to use Linda’s formula to create your own book pitch. You can find more examples in her new iPhone app Pitch Your Book (which is, gotta say, pretty amazing). Do you struggle with crafting the perfect pitch? You might find this app helpful.

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  1. says

    This is such a great explanation! If you don’t mind, I’d like to link to it from my blog. I run a weekly series called Would You Read It where people send in pitches. They are meant to be brief, but I think people could learn a lot about how to do them well from this post!

  2. says

    Of course you can link to it! I’m so glad you found it helpful.

  3. says

    Thanks so much for sharing this! Very timely for where I am in the process :-)

  4. says

    Thanks for the explanation and the example. Linking the example to a well known movie clearly shows how this method works. I’m saving this one for my notes.

  5. says

    Thanks for your pitch formula. I am a newbie and still learning. Well, back to editing my book…

    • says

      So glad it was helpful! And no worries–I’m *not* a newbie and I’m still learning! (And still editing books, too…)

  6. Serena says

    Pardon my ignorance but how can this apply to non-fiction books? I would love it if someone could please help me understand. Thanks.

    • says

      Hi Serena, what sort of nonfiction book? It can apply to a memoir or biography in a fairly straightforward way, because those sorts of books have a clear story arc. For self-help books, you can craft the pitch with the *reader* as the “main character.”

      For instance, for a book about overcoming a fear of flying might be pitched something like this:

      1st log line: “For thousands of people worldwide, the fear of flying limits their career, vacation, and connection opportunities.” Pardon the really terrible pitch I’m creating–this would definitely need to be polished! My goal here is to showcase the “hero”, the person who has a fear of flying, and the problem or conflict. It could also be phrased so that the reader was the “hero” or it could feature someone who has had success with the method of the book.

      2nd log line: “Overcoming this fear can be life-changing.”

      3rd log line: “By taking control of your fear, you can learn to take control of your life.”

      Does that make sense?

  7. says

    Let me try this:

    “An overcritical high schooler houses a timid psychic, who fight spirits spawned from human emotion.”

    Bingo! I can’t believe I missed this post the first time around. It’s still rough, but I need to zoom into Bryan’s flaw. Does overcritical sound good, or does disgruntled sound better?

    “His goal is to get the exchange student out of his shell, while making sure they survive the semester.”

    “They both realize that helping people require opening themselve up to their true feelings.”

    All right. Time to bookmark this so I can refine this later.

    • says

      This is your first attempt? I love it! I like overcritical better than disgruntled, because it evokes a clearer mental image for me. With disgruntled, I want to know what the main character is disgruntled *about*.

      A picky comment (if you’re looking for one?) is that I was confused by the phrasing in the first sentence–that is, I didn’t get, at first, what you meant by “houses a timid psychic”. I thought maybe the high school student *was* the timid psychic. That becomes clear in the second sentence, but tripped me up in the first.

      I think this is an easy concept to understand but tricky to put into practice–and you nailed it, first try. Great work!

  8. says

    This is exceptionally helpful. I am sharing my book idea with an agent next week. Thank you for taking the time to share this information. Also, splendid site!