We could provide you with the Webster’s Dictionary official definition of ‘to pitch’ (verb: /pɪtʃ/; to make a bid to obtain a contract or blahblahblah…), but we tend to think of it as the universal and usually feared requirement for all professions. Journalists have to pitch stories. Corporate offices must sit through sales pitches. And even you, dear writer, are not excluded from the torture that is creating a pitch. You’ve written a masterpiece, and now you must sell it.
After writing thousands of words to create your story, the task of whittling it down to a concise few can be daunting. It is, however, an essential part of getting your novel published. With so many books waiting to find representation, it’s important that you make yours stand out, and having an impressive pitch for an agent or publisher is the first step in that process.
Here’s our best advice for how to pitch a novel that no one would be able to reject:
Sum it up in a sentence
Whether in person or over email, you’ve got to be able to hook someone in one line, because time is of the essence. Agents and publishers have SO many submissions to read, so if you haven’t hooked them in a few words, it’s unlikely that they’ll make it to reading your full manuscript. If you need inspiration, check out these examples from the Madeleine Milburn Agency.
Then expand in about 100 words
Now that you’ve got their attention, hold it. Expand on your previous one-liner with a little bit more detail. Give them even more reason to want to dive into your story. If you want, practice writing the jacket copy for your book and use that.
Know where it sits on a bookshelf
Is your novel literary or commercial? (Before answering this, make sure you do know the difference.) Historical or contemporary? Psych-suspense or straight-laced mystery? Having a good idea of your genre and where a Waterstones or Foyles would proudly display your book is a great way of narrowing down your summary.
Be confident, but not too confident
You’re allowed to express how proud you are of your work and what you think makes it great — you’ve earned it! — but be careful to not go too overboard. Agents and publishers don’t need to be told ‘you WILL want to publish this book’ or ‘this book will be an instant success,’ because, well, there’s absolutely no way to predict either of those things, and you just look kind of silly suggesting either. Steer toward confidence rather than arrogance.
Be able to identify what makes your book different
Now that you have a nice little one-line pitch, which may even include comparisons to other titles, you need to make sure to convey that you haven’t just written a carbon copy of something that’s already on the market or combined two really successful stories. What makes your book special? What is your unique selling point? In an industry that is absolutely flooded with brilliant, creative minds, you need to make sure to be able to pitch yourself as a contender.
Know who you’re pitching to
Part of your pitch should also include why you’re pitching to that specific person. Why will that agent or publisher want your book? Do they enjoy a certain genre? Are they looking to expand into the topics that your book covers? Do your research on what each agent and publisher is looking for, and you’ll have a much higher chance of landing your pitch.
As always, thank you for reading, and be sure to tweet us @AgoraBooksLDN with your best tips and tricks for creating an unrefusable pitch.