Recently, I have pitched my novel in two countries, USA: New York and in Australia. Due to this, I thought I would share some tips from what I picked up in the process.
Some of what I realised also came from the book; “Selling your Story in 60 Seconds” by Michael Hauge.
1. Be relaxed and personable, be friendly and smile.
Breathe out and go for it. One of the thing Hauge says in his book was an excellent thing for me to remember, it’s okay to be nervous. He writes that no editor, or producer ever said, “I really loved their story idea, but I passed on it because they were too nervous.” (haha…a great thing to remember.) So, don’t worry that you are nervous. It is a good thing. It means you care. Don’t be hard on yourself, realise you will be nervous but this leads to the second point that he helped me with.
2. This is not your only chance.
The next point, helped me with the above. Hauge tells the writer to not think this is your only chance to get a publisher or producer. This helps with your nerves. He says to remember that there will be other opportunities and this is not your only shot. If you think it is you may not present your book in the best possible way. I think you should present your book, in a way that shows you are proud of it. Be proud of it, of all your hard work and have the attitude that if they don’t take it, that’s okay. It won’t kill you. You can get it published. Keep this in mind.
3. Introduce why you came up with your story
I realised that Michael Hauge was correct when he recommends introducing how you came up with your story idea first. I tried a pitch with the story overview first and it went well, but when I changed the format and put the origin of my idea first the editors seemed more engaged.
For my book, I need to talk about the origin of my story, but also the thousands of hours of research I had to do to write it. This needed to be said, upfront. This would have been a question in their mind so if I address it upfront they can focus on my actual story. Even, if your book is not based on another culture or another country like mine is, you should state where, when and why you came up with the idea. The reason is because the editor/producer/agent will feel something about your book if you start with this, they will already feel curious or impressed, or intrigued. This connects them to why you were fascinated by the characters or maybe you have been through something similar. It will connect them more with your idea. In my case, I was impressed by the courage of the women I have written about. This sparks an interest in your story idea. Hauge says this will draw the Editor in straight away. I saw it first hand when I changed my pitch for the following two editors and I talked more off the cuff than my written script, and talked about how I come up with this idea. The other reason to do this, is to show your passion for the idea. Why was this an important book for you to write? Why should the reader care about this character? You need to make them feel something. Which leads to the next tip.
4. An editor, agent or producer, needs to feel either empathy for your characters
An Editor needs to be drawn into the emotional landscape of your characters’ inner worlds, so you need to do this as much as talking about plot. Include the emotional journey of the characters and make sure the stakes are high. In New York, we talked about this a lot. The stakes need to be very high for the characters, what are they are going to lose? What is at stake? What did they desire and couldn’t have? In my book, the stakes are extremely high, but I needed to state what the personal stakes for the characters were. What was at stake for my two main characters? What was their desire for their lives? Do they achieve it or does it involve self sacrifice? Just raise the questions.
5. Do not give the ending, but create intrigue…
You do not give the ending in your pitch, you need to create suspense and curiosity. In your synopsis, you put all the details but in a pitch it’s like teasing somebody. Only tell them details that stimulate questions and an emotion of wanting to know, do they die, do they triumph, do they get what they wanted, do they achieve their dreams? You can pose questions in the pitch, this is effective. Only a few though. You need to emphasise the stakes and then leave the details hanging, just like the end of chapters where you leave a cliff hanger for people to read on.
6. Cut down your words, try to make it brief.
In this way, making it brief is a very effective way to present it in a concise and attractive way. The last thing you want is to bore the editor/agent. Brevity is necessary. Also, you don’t need to name every character in the book. This can be confusing to the listener and hard to follow.
7. How to finish it off…
At the end of the pitch, you should say “do you have any questions about the book?” and this opens it up for them to ask you anything. Conversely, you could ask them any particular questions if you have any about your book proposal or even pitch. So, take this opportunity, I gained quite a lot of knowledge from the whole pitching process.
It has been an exceptional experience. Especially, getting positive feedback from editors in person is so good. Often we don’t get a personal response back from submissions to publishers but the pitching process is good, it is immediate and you can see they are impressed with the work. It also helps us understand their restraints in taking books as well.
I feel like in New York I learnt a lot about the editing world and how they make decisions. These people I met were very open and it was an eye opening experience.
So, go well with your pitching and pick up a copy of “Selling your Story in 60 Seconds” it was a great book to get ideas from. I wrote my own pitch, but many of the tips were excellent in this book.
Go forth, and pitch and enjoy the process! Happy writing! 🙂