Pitching is hard. Simple as that, pitching is really hard.
Sitting with someone, face to face and explaining your novel is challenging.
First off, it is scary. Speaking to someone, often a perfect stranger, about your writing is all about taking a risk. You’ve created something and committed it to paper. You’ve written a manuscript. Maybe it is a work in progress or maybe it is polished and ready to go out into the world, but in either case it is yours. Telling someone, anyone, about your writing is an opportunity to share your passion, your imagination, your heart. I think of it as opening a massive safe and pulling out a fragile egg. You see its beauty and its potential, but will they? They might reject it without really looking at it, or hold it only to drop it, or laugh at it.
Second, you probably don’t know your audience well. Even if you are pitching your friends or neighbors you might not know what they like to read. If you are pitching an agent or an editor you might not know what they are really looking for.
So let’s look at ways to make it easier.
I’ve laid out a nine step process to write and deliver a great pitch. Let me be clear, this is a lot of work. It should be. This might be your opportunity to land an agent, close a book deal or make a major sale. Pitching is like making a marriage proposal, or at least asking someone out on a first date. You are creating a moment of great expectation, both for you as the author and for your audience.
Ideally you should have a minimum of 4-6 weeks to work through the process below. If you don’t, check out this post:
Oh S&%T!! I only have X Days until I have to pitch and I am NOT READY!
After you have read that, come back and take another look at the process below. There are still plenty of tips that can help you prepare even in a short timeframe.
You don’t have a month until you pitch? You only have a week?! That is ok. I’ll show you how you might compress these exercises to get the most out of them in a shorter timeline, BUT, next time give yourself the time necessary to really perfect your pitch. You’ve worked on you book for months if not years. Pitching is a skill that takes practice and it is your best opportunity to convince someone, an agent, an editor, a reader to buy your book.
Before we get started on your pitch let’s get together the supplies we need.
Calendar: Print out a calendar from now until your pitch day. Time management is critical to creating a great pitch, not just managing your three minutes with an agent, but managing your time leading up to the pitch. We will be using this calendar in every step, so make sure it is in a safe place where you can see it and mark it up.
Pitch notebook. Get a notebook that you can devote to your pitch. Personally I don’t like mixing my pitch notes with my writing notes, although they will surely overlap at times. You may find yourself transferring notes from one notebook to another once you finish the process.
Pens, Highlighters, Pencils – Color is good. Personally I like to use a pencil and a few colored highlighters, but everybody is different. Find the writing utensils that work for you.
Watch or Stopwatch – As we progress you will need to time yourself.
Video Camera – Wait, what?! A video camera? You can’t be serious! I am my friend. I am totally serious. This will be your secret weapon in preparing for your pitch.
Ok, now that we have our supplies together there is one last thing we need. This is critical. Your story. Have your finished your story? Do you have a complete manuscript, ready for submission? You don’t?! That is OK. Me neither. Here is an important secret about pitching, your book doesn’t need to be done yet.
Now let me be clear about a couple of things. There is a difference between having a manuscript that is mostly complete and having an idea for a story that isn’t written. Your manuscript should be as complete as possible by the time you pitch, but if you haven’t finished yet don’t let that hold you back.
So we have all of our supplies together, and we are ready to focus. Let’s get ready to pitch!