Oh Susanna – What Is The Difference Between A Hook And A Pitch?

All right.

Someone around here has been just a little asleep at the switch (and I won’t mention any names, but it’s the person in charge so I think we all know who THAT is!)

What with all the holiday high jinx and shenanigans the lists got neglected and I have discovered in the last two days of posting that:

#1 we are nearly out of pitches for Would You Read It – we are only scheduled through mid-February – so if you have a pitch you’d like some friendly and constructive input on, as well as a potential chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta, please send it my way! (Please use the handy Email Me button in the righthand sidebar or send to susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and put Would You Read It in the subject line)

#2 we are COMPLETELY out of Oh Susanna questions!  Today’s is the last one!  So if you’re wondering anything about anything to do with reading, writing, or teaching picture books – great choices for a child with a certain need, what to do on a school visit, what book would complement your teaching unit on apple picking, etc… please send those my way as well!  (Please use the handy Email Me button in the righthand sidebar or send to susanna[at]susannahill[dot]com and put Oh Susanna in the subject line)

and #3 it’s only 12 days until Groundhog Day and SOMEONE (ahem ahem) has not thought up an excellent hair-brained scheme for Phyllis’s celebration!  What is the world coming to?!

As of this moment, the person in charge will be put in time out and forbidden to have chocolate for two days hours minutes while she contemplates the error of her ways!

Meanwhile, here is today’s Oh Susanna question:

What is the difference between a hook and a pitch, or are they the same thing? 
I often get these two confused. When I took a pb class the instructor taught us how to write a hook. But when we pitch our idea to the editor or agent, we’re pitching our hook, right? 

I’m glad you asked, Tina, because this is an important distinction to understand, and a tricky one that can easily be confusing… as you will see by how convoluted my answer is 🙂

A hook, as I would define it, is essentially the opening of your story.  It’s a well-contructed first line or two of writing that draws your reader in and makes her want to turn the page and find out what happens next.  It usually includes the main character and sets up the problem that character is going to have to deal with, making the reader wonder, well gee whiz!  How is Janie going to deal with that bully on the school bus (or whatever.)  For example:

My hat is gone.  I want it back.” (I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen)

One hot summer in Itching Down
Four million wasps flew into town.”  (The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord)

Last winter I found a penguin.  He told me he’d been flying.  But… penguins can’t fly.”  (Learning To Fly by Sebastian Meschenmoser)

These are all hooks.  They are the opening sentences of stories, and they set up the main character and the problem for us immediately, making us want to find out what happened to that hat, or how do you cope with four million wasps, or why would a penguin say he’d been flying when it must be untrue… or if it IS true, how did he manage it?  They make you turn the page.

A pitch, as I would define it, gives more of an overview of your story.  It might include the hook concept, but it will give a little more detail in a descriptive way, as opposed to quoting direct lines.  A pitch is still quite short, and is usually a teaser – trying to pique someone’s interest without giving away the resolution of your story – but it’s purpose is a little different from the hook’s.  While the hook is part of the actual writing that draws your reader directly into the story, the pitch encourages someone to want to pick up your story to begin with.  For example:

Carrie’s pitch for Would You Read It from  July

Working Title: Singin’ Sam, the Ice Cream Man
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
Pitch: Sam loves dishing out ice cream to his favorite customers. But when a rival ice cream truck shows up on his corner, Sam must find a way to out-sing, out-scoop, and out-serve the competition to keep his customers — and himself — happy.

and

Dana’s pitch for Would You Read It, also from July

Working Title:  CJ’s Tiger
Age/Genre:  Picture Book (ages 4-8)
CJ has always dreamed of having a tiger for a pet, so he is thrilled when he awakens one day to find that his cat “Tiger” has transformed into a real tiger. However he soon learns that having a pet tiger is a lot harder than he imagined when the day turns into one big catastrophe!

Both of these give you a sense of what the story will be about, whetting your appetite and making you want to read it and find out how Sam will keep his customers and himself happy, or how owning a tiger turns out to be trouble.  But they are essentially descriptions of the story, not the writing of the story itself.

If you pitch to an editor or agent, you are most likely pitching the concept of your hook – the great idea behind your story… up until the point when she asks to read it 🙂  Then she’ll get to read your hook!

Does that make any sense?  I hope all our devoted and very clever readers will chime in with their thoughts on hook and pitch definitions and what the differences are!!!  And if anyone has any great ideas for celebrating Groundhog Day I am open to suggestion!!! 🙂

Have a delightful Monday, everyone!  (Especially if you are excused from school/work today! :))