Network News: Practically Perfect Pitching in the North East

by Maureen Lynas
Sara O'Connor

I recently faced my technological fears and organised an online event for the SCBWI BI north east group with Sara O’Connor of Hot Key Books.
We authors gathered in the garden room in York library and after a few nail biting techno hiccups we succeeded in seeing and hearing Sara on the rather large whiteboard via a google hangout. Luckily she could also see and hear us.

Top Tip: do a techno check at least an hour before the event if you’re thinking of doing a skype/hangout. Many things can go wrong.

For an hour Sara briefed us on pitching techniques: hooks, straplines, one line pitches, and paragraph pitches. We discussed editorial meetings, sales and marketing meetings and how a good pitch can give a clear picture of the book, and fire publishers with enthusiasm for your work.

Sara also emphasised the importance of the title to an editor attempting to promote a book in a sales meeting.

Bibbles and the Big Bottom hardly says YA. Death on Doomsday doesn’t say picture book.

Then off she went back to her family while we sweated over the tasks she’d left us with. We had three hours to eat, talk, and prepare super duper pitches to present to Sara when she came back online.
Although I wasn’t aiming to pitch to Sara I couldn’t help joining in because pitching is such a useful editing tool. If pitching your book with simplicity and clarity is difficult then maybe you need to think carefully about your book’s goals, stakes and themes.
Some of the authors have generously agreed to share the pitches they worked on. Mine’s at the end.

Lisa Sorrell
Reapers: Before the Storm 

One girl with a unique soul. Two worlds on the brink of obliteration. Would she give her life to save them both?

Blythe’s new friend Bron is a Reaper - one of many supernatural beings that exist only to ferry souls to the afterlife. Days in to Blythe's revelation, she turns sixteen and her world turns upside down for good; attempts are made on her life, her mother is murdered and her best-friend is almost killed in a school fire. She finds out what happens to her long-lost father, what he really is and ultimately, what she really is, what she is capable of, and the war she is about to cause.

Morag Caunt 
Sarah suggested that as I was writing a collection of short stories for YA, that I should use a 2 level pitch. The first is about the collection and the second about an individual story. So here goes.

The Zone, My Space. 

Teenage Crisis, Teenage Drama

The Zone is a collection of short stories I have written to encourage teenage reluctant readers. The stories are all based round a Youth Drama Group, The Zone, and each has a different main character and a situation which a teenager might face. For example - abuse, running away, bereavement and bullying.

 A Black Headscarf 

Drama: Teenage Lives. “I rushed out of the room down the corridor until I found a toilet. I spewed my guts out. I splashed my face with cold water; the effect was like a slap."

Evie and Josh start going out together, then Evie is diagnosed with terminal cancer. They are rummaging in a charity shop and find a black headscarf patterned with skulls which Evie instantly loves and never takes off. One day out walking in the country, Josh gently removes the headscarf from Evie’s head, tells her he loves her and she throws the scarf away. The day after Evie’s funeral, Josh goes out walking to their favourite spot and finds the headscarf stuck in the hedge, his most treasured possession.

Debbie Coope
Escaping Death

A locked door. An empty room. And then there's Jack…

Sixteen year old Sam is grieving the loss of her parents in a car accident. She discovers a mirror and a Jack-in-the-box hidden in the junk room, but these objects hold more than just reflections and surprise; they trigger nightmares of a man enticing her - 'walk with me,' and the flashbacks of the accident are a reminder of her survivor guilt. She must race against time to release the ghost girl to the 'other side,' and stop her boyfriend from being fully possessed by the devil before he comes for her.

Maureen Lynas
The Best Witch: Witch School Sucks

I’m not a witch, I am an actress.


Daisy is dumped at Toadspit Towers just three days before she’s due to perform her Bottom. It’s a big part so she’s determined to escape. However, Ms Tremble is just as determined to make her reveal her witch’s hat and save the school. Cornered by the Toadspit Terrors Daisy must embrace her inner witchyness or die.




Thank you to Sara. 

Pitching was fun and we all came away with a clearer view of our stories and the need to be able to say clearly and concisely what they are about. Not just for pitching purposes but so that readers can pick up our books and know the sort of journey we are hoping to take them on. We’re one step nearer to achieving that, thanks to Sara.
Sara O’Connor is an editor at Hot Key Books and she is also part of the Bookbound Team. 

 Maureen Lynas is the author of Cupcake Catastrophe!

 and Action Words 


  1. I salute you Maureen for facing your fears! Though mind-blanking pitching is such a good exercise.
    The pitches sound intriguing…

    Also, I'd really love to know exactly how you organised this event - step by step. How you do a google hangout? Did it cost extra to get the interactive whiteboard? How do you use an interactive whiteboard? Do you just need to persuade a teacher to take part etc etc …the nitty gritty.

  2. I'd like to add my thanks to Maureen for organizing an excellent day, to Sara for the wonderful advice and to my new writing friends for the support and ideas! Hope to see you all again soon!



We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.