I will be taking pitches at Book in a Day on April 13, 2019 in Golden, Colorado (https://rmfw.org/special-events/) and also answering questions from attendees, and I thought it might be good to talk about “The Pitch” for those of you who:
- Have never pitched to an agent or editor before but would like to be traditionally published
- Don’t know what a pitch is
- Have an upcoming pitch appointment scheduled with me, or with some other agent or editor at another event and are unsure of the process
First off, before anything else is said and done, remember that agents, editors, and publishers WANT to publish your book. It’s their business and livelihood and they need great books they can get to readers. As they wait for your pitch, they are hoping against odds that your book will be the perfect book they are looking for. They want to get your pages in their hands.
When you are meet them, remember to be professional. You are representing your brand—you as author. Be as prepared as possible. Practice your pitch for your friends. Practice in front of a mirror. Don’t be nervous (this is difficult I realize). Remember that these people want you to succeed. Breathe.
If you do not get a request to submit pages to them, realize that this is not a reflection on you personally. It just means that your book, right now, doesn’t match what the agent, editor, or publisher is looking for at this moment. Thank them for their time and input, and keep in mind that you might approach them in the future when your book might be perfect for them. Often, it’s all about timing.
What is the pitch?
The pitch is a concise, evocative two sentences about your book that you will express to the publishing professional when you meet them. The goal of the pitch is to pique the interest of the acquiring professional so they will request to read your pages, and in time, hopefully, give you a publishing contract. Sometimes this is called an elevator pitch because it shouldn’t take longer than a short ride in an elevator. Think two sentences.
Can it be longer? Sure. Maybe three sentences. But that’s it.
To help you come up with your pitch, I suggest you do a few things:
- Write down what your book is about in under 50 words. Don’t try to be witty, just write down the basic story
- Include the basic story world. Does it take place in the current time? Off world? An alternate universe? Mention that.
- Then condense this down into a paragraph.
- Streamline your above paragraph into one or two clever sentences that describe your novel
- Include a hook to catch my interest if you can
- Include your main character’s main conflict
- Say what your character has to do to overcome that conflict
Other information to provide the publishing professional
- Your name
- Book title
- Word Count
So, your pitch should sound something like…
“Hi. My name is Bill Shakespeare. My humorous novel, set in modern Italy, is called ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and it is completed at 21,000 words. It is about an unwilling wife named Katherine Minola, who despises her roguish husband Petruchio, who sees himself as a shrew taming champion, that is, until Kate comes to adore him.”
That’s it. That’s the pitch. Usually, the publishing professional will then ask you questions about your book. You should be prepared to answer those questions. These questions can be on anything, but since you know your novel better than anyone, you should be able to answer them. You might also get questions about you, your writing style, your author platform.
Just do the best you can.
You don’t need to bring your pages to the pitch appointment. If your pages are requested, you will have some time to do a final polish and then digitally submit them according to the directions of that publishing professional. Follow their directions. Each person will have their own process.
The hardest part is getting your novel boiled down into a sentence or two. And that is a good exercise even if you aren’t ready to pitch.