I tend to think of pitches in what I call the four Cs: character; catalyst; conflict, and the catch. I tend to treat each part as its own mini-paragraph (remember what I said about breaking things into small bits of two to three sentences? This is where we’ll start to put that into practice).
Part one of the pitch: character. This one is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin—-a few sentences to introduce the reader to your protagonist, their voice, and their world. You want to set up the sort of story that the reader can expect and the kind of personality your character has.
For example, the first paragraph of Rebecca Petruck’s query for STEERING TOWARD NORMAL reads:
Diggy’s life may not be typical, but he’s content. He hangs out with Pop and the county’s farmers, raises steers to compete, and daydreams about July Johnston, high school senior and girl of his dreams. Hardly anyone teases him anymore about how his mom abandoned him on Pop’s doorstep and skipped town on a tractor.
What do these three sentences tell you about the story? It’s probably contemporary (she mentions high school) and set in a rural area (farmers, steers, tractors, the use of ‘Pop’ for his dad). Diggy himself seems to be easy-going (he’s content; he daydreams). He may be shy and a little withdrawn (he used to be teased, and there’s no mention of close friends, just the girl he likes from afar).
To look at another, here’s the opening of Livia Blackburne’s query for THE MIDNIGHT THIEF:
To Kyra, high walls and locked doors are not obstacles, but invitations. She specializes in nighttime raids, using her sharp senses and extraordinary agility to break into Forge’s most well-guarded homes.
In just these two sentences Livia sets up her character and her world. Kyra’s a thief, brazen, unapologetic, and probably rather arrogant when it comes to her skills (locked doors are an invitation; she chooses the most well-guarded homes). This is probably a fantasy story (the town’s name is Forge), and though no indication is given yet for the age group it may be meant for, the voice sounds like it would lean toward Young Adult.
Now you try. In just two to three sentences, introduce me to your character and your world. Don’t worry about wordcount just yet; we’ll trim it down to size later.