I try to pick pitches that either really need help, or that I can use to demonstrate a particular lesson or guideline. When this pitch came to me I knew right away that I needed to feature it. The author has presented me with an OK pitch, but the opening paragraph veers into pet peeve territory. Let's take a look at the pitch, and then I'll tell you why:
Psychic powers are among the most well-described plot devices in fiction. They work a certain way, without fail, every time. They let you move things with your mind and see the future. Most importantly, they are fiction... right?
The life of Tom Edwards couldn't be more ordinary. A recent graduate of community college, average intelligence, working manual labor to pay rent, he couldn't possibly imagine life being more complicated than it is.
That is, until a state-of-the-art medical scan shows something very wrong with him... and fixing the problem leads him into a conspiracy of mental warfare and psychic combat of life and death. Now, the ordinary Illinois twenty-something has to fight for his life... and his mind.
There are three problems with the opening paragraph, all of which will likely turn an agent off of looking at this book, no matter how good it is.
First, agents and editors know all about plot devices in literature. They work with literature on a daily basis, so I don't think the author needs to describe this here.
Second, The first paragraph really isn't about the story. It's a description of what the author has used to drive their plot forward, and it's all telling. We want to know what the book is about, and it should compel us to read on. It's always a safe bet to open with something directly related to the plot.
Third, and this is where it verges into pet peeve territory: the author has added a rhetorical question to the first paragraph. This is only slightly less annoying than opening with a rhetorical question. Here's the problem with rhetorical questions: it prompts the reader to consider a question before they have a reason to care about the answer. If you prompt the reader directly, you absolutely must make sure the reader has a reason to care about the prompt. Otherwise, the prompt will have the opposite effect on the reader. The best bet is to just stay away from this entirely.
The rest of this pitch is actually not too bad, albeit a little lean. A good pitch should entice a reader into your world in 250 words or less. This entire pitch is only 115 words, and if you cut the first paragraph (which I think the author should) it's even smaller. There's room to expand on some of the more compelling parts of the book, so why not, right?
Show us what this book is about.
How do you feel about using rhetoric in a pitch?
What does it take to keep you reading a longer pitch?
What would you expand on this pitch to make it better?
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