5 Tips for Nailing Your Book Pitch

It probably wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that at some point in time, each and every one of us has thought, “I should write a book”. Maybe it comes from a place of creativity, or from a deep-seated desire to share your ideas with the world, or even a dying wish to leave a legacy through written word.

Whatever the case, the reality is that not every book idea comes to fruition. So before you set off on your quest to become the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, you might want to run your idea by a few experts.

That is exactly what happened Saturday, Nov 8 at Canzine West 2014’s 1-2 Punch Book Pitch session. Hopeful authors stood up in front of an audience of peers and a panel of experts and pitched their book ideas. Through panel feedback the authors gained helpful insights to help them achieve their publishing dreams.

Offering up their advice were Alison Lang, writer, and editor for Broken Pencil; Timothy Taylor, novelist, journalist, and Assistant Professor at the UBC Creative Writing Program; and Carrellin Brooks, author and editor, and the BC/Yukon representative on the National Council of the Writers’ Union of Canada.

The audience heard pitches from multiple authors on books ranging from a political science fiction novel, to a graphic novel on the topic of environmental awareness, to a non-fiction exploration of entrepreneurship’s growing role in modern society. While each book received specific feedback there were many comments and points made that can be applied to every book pitch.

Here is a list of the top 5 tips for pitching a book:

  1. Don’t get caught up in the details.
    Your protagonist happens to have a tattoo of Tinkerbelle on his right bicep; he’s allergic to dogs and drinks 5 cups of coffee every day. Are any of these details relevant to the story? If the answer is no, then don’t mention them during the pitch. Stick to the main points of your book giving a high-level overview of its narrative. Offer hooks and suspenseful or intriguing details to leave your audience wanting to know more.
  1. Be clear about what kind of book it is.
    Is it fiction or non-fiction? A memoir? A thriller? A children’s book? Stating the format and genre of the book clearly and concisely in the opening of your pitch helps your audience get into the right mindset for your book and will help your ideas come across more clearly.
  1. Practice makes perfect.
    You never know when your 30 seconds in an elevator with a publisher might come along, so you’ll want to be prepared. Practise your pitch over and over again, in front of friends and family, fellow writers and anyone in the industry who you can get to listen. The more you practice, the easier it will become, so when you do bump into that editor or publisher you can wow them in 30 seconds flat.
  1. Be confident.
    You’re trying to sell your idea here, so cut out words like “kind of”, “maybe”, “sort of”, and “almost” whenever possible. You want to paint as clear a picture as possible for your audience, and saying, “It’s kind of a romance but also sort of science fiction” is nowhere near as clear as “It’s a sci-fi romance”.
  1. Be prepared to answer tough questions.
    Book pitches might seem like a one-sided conversation, but really they’re not. If you capture the interest of an editor or publisher, they’ll likely have some tough questions for you about the book, your background and platform as an author, any previous books you’ve published. Be prepared to answer these questions confidently, they could make or break your book’s chances of being published

Want more tips?