One necessary skill in the author’s business toolbox is the skill to pitch to agents and publishers. Whether pitching on paper, in cyberspace or in person, a pitch has three main elements – the introduction, the book synopsis and the author synopsis. The goal of the pitch is to acquire agent representation or to secure a publishing contract. Pitching takes practice to perfect. Every author should set aside time to create powerful pitches for his work.
The first element of the pitch is the introduction. The best way to prepare for this portion of the pitch is with extensive research. Pitches are not spam. Publishing is not huge business with countless participants. You don’t want to be known as the author who is too lazy to learn what agents represent and what publishing companies publish. Read publisher and agent blogs and include what you’ve learned in your introduction to help you be noticed in a good way.
For agent research, consider checking out QueryTracker, AgentQuery and Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents Blog. For researching publishers, try fee based services like Publisher’s Marketplace and Author’s Market. Always read specific agent and publisher blogs. Consider following agents and editors on Twitter. Try to attend conferences that feature targeted agents and publishers. There is no stronger introduction than, “I met you at ‘such and such’ conference on ‘such and such’ a date.” The more personalized your introduction, the stronger your pitch.
The second element of the pitch is the book synopsis. Begin with the nuts and bolts: the title, the word count and the genre. Follow with the main character and the setting. Next, add the major conflict of the book. What does the main character face internally and externally? Include the antagonist. Touch on the rising action. Reveal the climax of the story. Your synopsis should also include a sense of your voice. Above all, keep this element short. Five or six well chosen lines will do the trick.
The last element is the author synopsis. You need to be able sell yourself. This portion of the pitch includes your most relevant publishing credits. A little horn-tooting is appropriate. Also include information about any fields of expertise you might have. For example, if you are an educator writing for children, consider including this information. If you are writing international thrillers, your educational experience is less important. Last, if you have a platform, such as you are a movie star or a world-renowned chess player, let the agent or publisher know. A powerful platform can tip the scales in your favor. Don’t hesitate to mention it.
Close every pitch by thanking the agent or publisher for his or her time and asking for a response. Always be upbeat, and professional. Watch out! Nail these three elements and you will receive lots of requests. Be ready for them.
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