How to Write a Great Book Pitch
Writing a great book pitch is easy when you know what to do.
One of the most frequent questions we get asked is how we select books to publish. Interestingly, it isn’t just writers or potential authors who ask us this, but friends, family, and acquaintances. Apparently how publishers do what we do is a topic of interest. Maybe it’s because we are so darn mysterious. Most people think there is some sort of secret arcane process we follow to select books to sign. Rest assured it isn’t, but if you know the secret, please let us know.
So just how do we decide which books to publish? There are a lot of factors that go into deciding whether or not to pursue signing a book for publication and it’s worth noting that each publisher and agent does things their own way. Regardless, the first step to getting published is getting someone, whoever it may be, to read your manuscript. If you aren’t Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, your number one priority is to get your manuscript read by publishing professionals. And to do that, you need to present your manuscript in the best possible way when you submit it. The presentation of your manuscript is called a “pitch” in publishing circles.
Speaking for ourselves, a strong pitch will almost guarantee that your manuscript will be read and considered. A weak pitch has exactly the opposite effect. Crafting a great pitch is very, very, very worth your time. It can be the difference between having your manuscript considered or a rejection letter. Writing your book is a huge accomplishment. It would be a shame if it didn’t get considered simply because it wasn’t presented well. Your book deserves it, doesn’t it? To help you, we’ve put together a process to create an awesome pitch. All you have to do is put in some time and effort. You’ll be glad you did.
Now you’re probably thinking, “So now I need to write a pitch?! How in the world do I do that? I’m an author not a salesperson!” Take a breath. You don’t have to be a polished sales professional to create a compelling pitch. Anyone can do it. A solid pitch is really just a good, compelling description of your book with a few other elements sprinkled in. It’s that simple. You can do it. We believe in you. Remember that getting someone to actually consider your work puts you in rare company and your chances of getting a contract increase exponentially. Use that as motivation.
To begin, relax and open your favorite word processing program. Once you’re comfortable, create a good one-liner about your work. Is it Blade Runner meets Master and Commander set on an outpost on the decaying rim of an empire (that actually sounds pretty cool) or is it 12 Monkeys meets Dune set on a massive battlecruiser sent to crush a rebellion? The one-liner should tell enough about the book that someone can be intrigued by one tasty sentence length morsel. Don’t overthink it. Just be honest and make sure to reference works that most people know. Getting esoteric may show how smart you are, props for that, but could very well go over someone’s head.
The crux of a great pitch is a well written, concise, and compelling description of what your book is about. It should be limited to a few hundred words, any more than that and your average publishing professional will glaze over. It should describe what the story is about and paint a picture in broad brush that tantalizes us. Nothing will get sent to the archives faster than a “so then this happens, and then that happens, oh, and after that, this happens!” synopsis of the work. We should read your description and desperately want to review the manuscript.
When writing your description, start with a brief overview, less than 100 words, of what the book is about. Now, consider the 4 core elements of any story: setting, characters, the problem, and the hopeful resolution. Jot down a few sentences about each element. Where is the story taking place? What’s it like? Who are they characters? What do they care about? What problem will they face? What challenges will it represent? Finally, describe the hopeful resolution or the major plot arc. Now, take a look at what you have written and put it all together. Review and revise until you feel like you’ve gotten it.
Next, show that you have some understanding of the market. Think about where your work will fit into the genre. Spend some time browsing Amazon to see what other titles are similar to yours. Include what other books your work is like in your pitch. Point out some other authors that are a good comparison to your style. Describe who would want to read the book. Is it for young adult dystopian fans, anyone who likes alien invasions, or women who like cyberpunk? Finish with why they would want to read it.
Include a short biography. The goal is to show that you are a serious author who is ready to work and do what it takes to create a bestseller. Write about things that speak to your qualities and abilities as a writer. Have you won any awards? Attended some writing workshops? Published a short story? If you have a strong social media presence or following, include links to yourself. Have you already started the second book? Include that in your pitch. The key is to hit the highpoints and keep it brief.
Before submitting, do some research on who you are sending your pitch to. If it happens to be us (Yay!), you can look at our website or social accounts to get a sense of what we’re all about. Include something about what you learned about us in your pitch. For example, “I think you might like my book because you published Joe Tamone and I think our styles are similar.” Or something about how great San Diego is and how much you’d like to come to visit us. The personal touch goes a long way and shows that you put time and energy into your submission.
The order of the elements doesn’t really matter. You can start with brief bio then move into the one liner and description and bring it home with your demonstration of some market knowledge and a personal touch. Or you can dive into description first, move on to the market, give the personal touch, and conclude with your bio. Just do what feels right. If you follow the steps above, whichever way you go, you’ll have something that will engage your audience whether it us or someone else. Always finish with thanking the receiver for their time.
Creating your pitch is an exercise. Plan on doing a few drafts, just like you did with your novel. Take a crack at it then share it with family and friends and ask them for feedback. Review and revise until it’s polished and engaging.
A solid pitch will include these elements:
A concise and compelling description of the book
Where it fits in the market with comparable books and authors
Short author bio
Top things to keep in mind:
Keep it concise and focused
Allow your passion and enthusiasm to shine