Pitching (and I’m not talking a ball)

In my last blog I mentioned pitching to an editor/publisher. I also mentioned it during the Author’s Help Line. So here is a short take on pitching. I say short because there are books and whole conference sessions devoted to this. But this should at least wet your whistle on the topic.

Pitching is when you meet up with an editor/publisher and ‘pitch’ your book to them. In other words, you are telling them about your book. Here’s what a pitch is not… It is not giving them detailed, chapter by chapter action and twists. It is not detailing what lead you to write the manuscript. It is not rambling on about a minor or even major plot arc or character.

Your pitch should be short. Think of riding in an elevator and you find out that the person riding with you is an editor/publisher. He/she asks you what you book is about. You have just enough time for say two floors worth of summary. That is a pitch. For instance, here is the pitch for my next book coming out.

General fiction. It is a coming of age story set in WWII. When a German soldier finds his American cousin on the battlefield, what will happen?

What’s the old saying… leave them wanting more? I included the category since I wasn’t sure if we (the fictional editor/agent and I) had discussed genre. Does more happen in the story? Absolutely! But you have to boil the story down to one or two things. Some times it’s also called a tag line. Tag line? Think a movie poster. The most famous that I can think of is the movie Jaws. The original Jaws movie tag line was “Don’t go in the water”.

Now of course you want a range of pitches. If you can get our manuscript down to a one line, less than 25 words, a tag line… excellent. But getting it down to one or two sentences is usually short enough. Now you also need a longer pitch maybe a short, emphasis on short, paragraph. Then you want to develop a slightly longer pitch of maybe a couple of paragraphs.

And practice, practice, practice! You want this to be so second nature that you could do it in your sleep. Because when that time comes, it may be at the most unexpected time. Be a boy scout. Always be prepared. And if you are going to a writing conference where you know there will be editors/agents/publishers, you need to be gold on your pitch.

Now when you get into that situation when you gave your one/two line pitch and the editor/agent is intrigued and asks for more… Jackpot! Congratulations you are more than half way there!

Now is the time to give more details… but do not bore them with too many. If you see their eyes glaze over, you’ve lost them. Don’t get caught up in the minutia. Keep the story to the main character and main plot… oh and yes, you must tell them the ending.

Lastly, let your enthusiasm for your story show through when you pitch. Remember the editor/agent/publisher is not just publishing your manuscript, they are entering into a business deal with you! They have to see that you are excited by your own book and love your own book. Make them catch onto your excitement.

If you’re at this stage and want to learn more about pitching… go to your local library or visit your local bookstore and pick up one of the many books on the topic. They will go into so must more detail than I have space for here.

Stay tuned.

Angela Abderhalden
Acquiring Editor, Seventh Wave Books, LLC
Author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series


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