How Writing A Pitch Can Save Your Novel
You’ve spent countless hours, days, weeks, even months working. You’ve read up on the publishing process and know all the steps, and you’ve crafted your book to perfection. But is it ready?
You can include any factors you want in a book’s readiness. Maybe you’ve hired an editor or two. Maybe you’ve read the entire thing out loud to yourself, reworked your wording and bought a five-star cover. But does that mean you’re ready?
Traditional authors have it easy in some ways. If you’re publishing traditionally, you’ll write a pitch at this point and start submitting to literary agents. An agent who likes your book will sign you on and start pitching your book to publishers, who will then help you complete any work necessary to get your book over the final hurdle and into stores.
You don’t have boundaries that clearly defined when you’re self-publishing. You have to make the calls and decide when your book is ready, and skipping those extra steps (while saving time) can be largely detrimental to the quality of your book overall.
How can you avoid this?
One way is to follow standard publishing protocol as closely as possible. This means finding or hiring people to work on areas of production where you fall short. It also means going to the effort to craft a book pitch like one you would submit to an agent or editor so that you can know at a glance how to market your book to readers.
Writing a pitch is an enlightening and useful activity, even if you never show it to anyone. It’s a fast evaluation of where you’re at and where you still need work.
I’ve already covered the parts of a pitch before and how to write one (which you can find here). Pitches are simple and formulaic, and if you know your book, writing a pitch will only take an hour or so. The process becomes even easier when you’re not pitching to an agent and don’t have to worry about customizing your pitch for the person who will be reading it.
So how exactly does following this process help you if you’re not submitting your book to an agent or publisher?
Writing a pitch forces you to be your own agent and publisher.
When you write a pitch, you have to consider what readers will like your book. What qualities make your book appealing to others? How would someone who has never heard of you or your writing become a raving fan? Agents care not so much about books they like as books they know they can sell to publishers. Publishers in turn care about books their current buyers and distributors would also be in. They don’t look at you individually until you’ve already made it. They look at you as part of a group they cultivate and curate to a fanbase of dedicated readers.
You’ll have to stop looking at your novel from the author’s perspective and start asking yourself if it’s sellable. What crowd will you surround your book with on the virtual shelves? Your novel isn’t your baby anymore--it’s a resource, a sellable unit, and its value depends on exactly how sellable it is to whom.
Writing a pitch tests you as an author.
A pitch will question your knowledge of the gist of your story. Sure, you could ramble for pages about your favorite characters or hammer out a scene-by-scene summary of what happens. You already wrote the book. But could you tell me what it’s about in a nutshell? Could you name similar titles, or write a brief summary on a single page?
If writing a pitch turns out to be more challenging than you expected, you’re not alone. Instead of forcing your story into the shape required by a standard pitch, re-evaluate your work and use this as an opportunity to ask yourself key questions about what you understand about your book, what it really comes down to in the end, and what you want readers to walk away with.
Like everything else, this is an exercise, and it’s a great way to learn more about your book before prematurely hitting the “publish” button and sending it into the wild alone and unprepared.
What are your thoughts on writing a pitch? Is it helpful for independent authors? Please share your thoughts in the comments below or join my Facebook group for further discussion.