I think I’ve found a way to work on my pitch. I’ve read a lot of pitch-writing advice. Of course, we want the words of someone who’s sold something like what we’re selling. But. A pitch is a focused bit of poetry, so it’s really hard.

I found this on Book Riot: Beware Of Dragons (Or Not): 50 Of The Best Epic Fantasy Series. It’s a great list of #EpicFantasy titles.

While pondering queries and pitches, I realized that each book here has a pitch, beautifully written (or edited.)

At first, I thought about categorizing the style. Some have Character, Initiating Incident, Concept. Others have Concept first. A few have quotes, and these because the opening sentences are so epic. N. K. Jemisin and Patrick Rothfuss in particular get this treatment. I think their openings could be called Homeric. The opening of the Odyssey has a tidy plot summary: “Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven far journeys, after he had sacked Troy’s sacred citadel.”

Part way through my analysis, I realized there was a better approach to studying this art form.

I decided to rewrite my pitch in each of the styles of the summaries in the Book Riot list.

Desperate to master the magical powers of a forge, Garland crossed half the kingdom to enter the temple where mages are trained. On the day before he’s to join his own ring of mages at a new forge in a tower on the border with the Outlands, the temple locks him away. One escape leads to another capture and an even more harrowing escape. While the Red Knight seems to helping, Garland has to learn who he can trust and who wants him dead.


As the Earl of Westmarch struggles to maintain the border with the Outlands, as the Red Knight tries to keep the roads open for refugees fleeing the conflict, as the mage temple helps build a new tower and a new forge for the war, one mage is identified as a problem, too difficult to solve. The forbidden practice of prescience has convinced the Great Mage that Garland will lead to the downfall of the temple, destroying the magical forges. After a harrowing escape, Garland tries to join a new tower, but an Outlander raid throws him into the hands of renegades who have their own horrifying uses for a temple-trained mage.

And on and on. Fifty of ‘em. It will take a few days.

I have to winnow out the critical acclaim for the Epic Fantasy Canon (LeGuin, Pratchett, MZB, Tolkien, Moorcock, etc.) These don’t really have the same kind of pitch that Elizabeth Bear has. And no one has the kind of pitches Jemisin or Rothfuss have. Interestingly, Tolkien doesn’t really have a pitch, but more a critical analysis of the book’s place in the canon.

This will get me a good pitch somewhere along the way. And maybe a better opening sentence.

Maybe I’ll cycle through the top three as I write queries. The first few steps, however are write, write, and write: do the work.