Advice from a pro: How to pitch your book

You may be preparing to attend a writer’s conference with a polished manuscript in hand. Or you may have only the seed of a story beginning to grow in your mind.

Whatever part of the journey you’re on, it’s always good to know what’s ahead. Make it a habit to visit writing sites and take note of what the professionals in the business offer as advice.

Writer’s Digest is a writer’s friend. One of its regular features is literary agent interviews. In one of the latest, literary agent Elizabeth Kracht, of Kimberley Cameron & Associates, included some tips on how to pitch your book to an agent or editor.

Pitch is a term used in the publishing industry. With a few sentences, you cause a publishing industry professional to get excited about your book and you show a need for it to be in the marketplace.

I enjoyed reading Kracht’s interview. She sounds like the writer’s dream agent as she speaks of being approachable and understanding that writers are nervous at these conferences.

Here is a summary of her book pitching advice to place in your writer’s toolbox.

1. Condense the story

Kracht suggests you ask yourself these questions. The answers should catch an agent’s attention:

  • Who is your main character?
  • What is the source of conflict?
  • What obstacles will he or she face?

This should take no more than 5-6 sentences.

2. Pitch format

Your book pitch consists of more than your story content. It should also include:

  • Title
  • Genre
  • Word count
  • Comparable titles

Kracht lists these four items as the lead-ins to your pitch. Follow them with your exciting story summary.

The ending of your pitch should be answers to these three questions:

  • Who are you?
  • Have you been published before?
  • Why are you the best person to tell this story?

There’s your basic pitch format. It’s good to keep in mind that you are the last thing the agent wants to hear about during the pitch. Pitch the book, not the author.

3. Memorize and practice

Once you’ve perfected your pitch, you should memorize it. And be sure to practice pitching to a friend or family member before you attend the conference.

A book pitch will be your opportunity to have personal contact with a VIP in the industry. Make the most of it by not wasting your and the agent’s time. Work on your pitch far in advance of a conference. You want your confidence to shine through, not a sheepish grin of forgetfulness.

4. Do your research

Be sure to read up on the agents and editors who’ll be in attendance. Plan to pitch to those who represent your genre. “Even if your genre is not represented,” Kracht says, “let them know you’d still like to use the time to get their professional feedback on your pitch or story. Or use the time to ask specific questions about the industry.”

5. Do not pitch during meal time

She spoke oh-so briefly about this, but I can imagine the stories agents share among each other — like how they throw business cards and book proposals into the nearest trashcan after being interrupted by a writer during dinner.

Don’t do it. Agents and editors need time be off business and at their leisure at these events.

Pitching a book sounds both nerve-wracking and exciting. But it’s great to have professionals willing to help writers prepare in advance. Really, we all have the same goal: a successful book.

(You can read the entire Elizabeth Kracht interview here at Writer’s Digest.)

Have you ever given a book pitch? What did you like best and least about the experience?


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2 thoughts on “Advice from a pro: How to pitch your book

  1. Yes, I have pitched my book three separate times–all of which scared the Hellula out of me. Once was at the WD conference in NYC in 2011. I got 3 requests for fulls, but ultimately I was turned down. Regardless, the idea that my pitch intrigued them enough to ask for a full was heady.

    The other two attempts were early in my querying career, and I really had no business querying. However, the experience helped me learn a little bit more about this part of the process, so I always try to take advantage of these opportunities.

    I do have a sentence memorized for that moment when I drive up alongside my dream agent and we’re stopped at a red light. 🙂

    I don’t have a business card. That seems kind of pompous to have when I don’t have an actual book published yet. But I do know that a lot of writers have them regardless.

    Like

    1. I seem to recall reading about your trip to NYC and being impressed with how you just picked up and went. Great to hear that you caught the ear of a few. That is excellent experience to have and to share.

      Re: Business card — It could simply contain your contact information, with your title listed as “Writer”. I plan to have a stack of those on hand when I’m finally ready to attend a conference. Natalie Sharpston has a wonderful post on how she prepared for a writer’s conference: http://nataliesharpston.com/2012/05/13/preparing-for-my-first-writers-conference/

      Like

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