A Perfect Pitch to a Publisher

What is A Pitch?

A pitch in publishing can be verbal or written and often a combination of both. Verbal pitches are for face-to-face meetings with an agent or publishers.

A synopsis answers the question of what’s in the novel, whereas a pitch tells the publishers why they should read the manuscript.

It should include the title, length and genre of your novel; a short synopsis; your target audience; where it fits in the market; and your bio.

Things to Consider For Your Pitch:

Which publishers are you pitching to? Do they have similar books to yours and have you read them? How can you simply describe what happens?  Where does it fit on the shelves of bookshops? Who is your audience? What’s unique about your book? From where/what did you get the idea? Tagline? The central conflict? Have you been published?  How might you assist with selling the book? Have you won any awards? Why should they read your book?

Who are your favourite authors?

Isabel Allende; Miles Franklin; Gabriel García Márquez; Stendhal; Hemingway; Milan Kundera; Salley Vickers; Tim Winton; Barbara Kingsolver; Emily Bronte; Jill Kerr Conway; Magda Szubanski; Helen Garner; Richard Glover.

Which ones does your book resemble?

In terms of thematic content: My Brilliant Career; Wuthering Heights; Flight Behaviour; The Unbearable Lightness of Being; Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell; A Farewell to Arms

The Pitch

Your pitch should be short, interesting, and describe your novel’s best qualities. Read the blurbs on the back of paperback novels similar to yours, or on Amazon. That’s the level of detail you require, since a pitch would only last about 2-3 minutes in all. Ten or fifteen minute long appointments must also contain questions and small-talk. It must be kept short and snappy.

A good idea is to open with something short and catchy. You want a few sentences that describe your novel in the most compelling and intriguing way possible.

When Writing Your Pitch:

  • Lead with a hook or a tagline
  • one (or two) sentence description that boils it down to its essential dramatic narrative: who? what? where? when?
  • Genre?
  • Title
  • “Zingy” language, but an elegant presentation

A YouTube Video

The procedure is much the same as in the video above. Lucy Flynn, English literary agent is shown practising a pitch for a book, La Manciata, by an Italian writer, before a panel of judges.  Did she give away too much of the story?

This video was created and published by “Free Word” (Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London) in association with the British Centre for Literary Translation (University of East Anglia, Norwich):

[Free Word works internationally to bring together communities, organisations and individuals through the belief that words change lives. In 2009, Free Word moved in, and, after refurbishing in 2014, has become a vibrant hub for literature]

Practising the Pitch

President of New York Writers Workshop, Tim Tomlinson, who hosts several pitch conferences annually, advises that writers plan out a pitch of 90 seconds to two minutes that they either memorise or read during their session, leaving time for questions and answers at the end. This way, you know you’ll say everything you needed to say. You’re also more likely to be articulate and clear about your message. Besides, this material will then make up your cover letter to publishers or agents.

After the Pitch

Even if you aren’t successful, you’ve had the experience of meeting a publisher or an agent, and practising your pitch, which you can use again in the future.