Writing A Pitch (for Self-Published Authors)
In the traditionally published world, writing a pitch for your novel is one of many necessary steps a writer needs to take. After all, no publisher will simply accept a manuscript from an unfamiliar author and simply throw it on the shelves. Instead, writers pursuing this path are encouraged to submit pitches and brief samples to agents, who in turn pass what they like to the publishers they work with. Traditional publishing is a big cycle, and it comes with a lot of steps.
The good news is that this is one area where self-published writers have a huge advantage over traditional authors. We don't need to wait for agents or publishers. We don't need to send pitches to agents who may or may not accept them, and wait long months for the same agents to get back to us (if they bother to respond at all). When we write, we focus on our books, first and foremost. We focus on what we want to write and push that out directly into the public. Pitches aren't even needed when you go the indie route. But is it possible that we're actually missing out?
In my forays in and out of traditional publishing, I sent out several pitches to different agents. Each pitch I wrote involved substantial consideration about the story I had written, what parts would make it enticing to potential readers, and what would win over an interested publisher. I had to think about what would make the book sell, and that kind of thinking is very different than what you usually encounter when you’re simply writing a novel. After all, an agent's livelihood depends on whether he or she can make a consistent determination on whether a book can sell. I’ve decided that pitch writing is a vital step in book production, even if I’m going straight to Kindle.
Why are pitches so important?
When you go through the effort to write a pitch, you'll get to know your story a lot better. If something doesn't make sense when you're writing your summary, for example, you'll know right away what you need to change and how to make the story flow better. If you have a hard time making your pitch engaging, then you know what you need to focus on before your release date. That information is invaluable.
Also, writing a pitch gives you much more objectivity when discussing your story. If you were submitting this to an agent, you would have to assume that he or she had never heard of you before and has no idea what kind of books you write or how skilled you are. Agents don't care at all that you write, but only that your novel can survive and thrive in the throes of today's market.
So, what makes a good pitch?
Book pitches typically have three different parts. First is the introduction, where you as a writer will introduce yourself and your book in a sentence or two to the agent. Next comes the pitch itself, where you have one page to make your story as interesting and exciting as possible. This section is very much like the back cover of your standard paperback or the blurb you’ll post on Amazon. Finally comes the two- to three-page summary at the end of the pitch, outlining everything that happens in your book in a way that makes sense and doesn’t overwhelm the reader with too many tedious details.
Assuming that you're not writing to an agent, however, some of the rules for writing an effective pitch will be a little different. You don't need to worry about customizing your pitch for the agent you're writing to, or explain why you chose that agent in the first place. Still, the beginning of your pitch should include your genre, word count, whether your book is part of a series, and any comparison titles you can find. Comp titles should be contemporary books that share the same readership as yours.
The middle of your pitch should be two or three hundred words long. Dive into what you want your book description to look like and stay free of spoilers. A big tip for this section is not to list too many character names or places. Focus instead on the emotional appeal of your book, and the creative aspects you think the reader will be most attracted to. Remember, the finer details will all be displayed in your upcoming summary.
Your book summary is possibly going to be the hardest part of your pitch. That's because even if you know what happens in your own chapters, condensing an entire novel into only a couple of short pages is hard to do in an elegant fashion. Your summary needs to be complete. You need to give away every spoiler you have and all the details you can in such a short space. In addition, it’s important that your summary remains engaging and fun to read. Take your time with this and spend time covering the events of every chapter.
Don't be discouraged if any of these sections are hard to complete. See this as an important learning exercise to monitor where you're at as a writer and whether you're ready to release your books. If you find any of the sections above especially challenging, take some time to think about what you could change about your story to make it fit. You don't need to commit to anything (there are no publishing deals involved here!), but this can be a good way to see where you're lacking and how you can make your book more marketable and interesting to prospective readers.
Writing a pitch is a great way to learn where you're at as a self-published author, and it's a good idea to take some time out of your day to craft one. If you've enjoyed this article or if it's helped you in your writing, please consider joining my Patreon for as little as $3 a month. I appreciate your support, I look forward to creating more articles in the future.