Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Giving a pitch to an agent, editor, or publisher

by Vivian Zabel

I’ve attended several writing conferences and have not only made pitches, but I’ve also listened to pitches. Below are a few points I learned. I’m going to use the pitch I did for my newest novel Stolen as an example.

            Making a 3 minutes book pitch: I had an appointment with an agent, and as I prepared for that few minutes to “pitch” my book in a way that she would want to know more, to read it, maybe to represent it, I wrote notes and practiced my speech so that it flowed smoothly but still seemed spontaneous. 

         Knowing how to prepare and present a three-minute pitch should be a tool in an author’s selling kit, to be used for agents, editors, and public presentations.

1. Start with an attention-grabber. This is a must. If you lose the audience, whether one person or 100, at the beginning, you can’t get them back. Just as the first paragraph in a story, article, or novel must attract the reader, the first words out of your mouth must do the same. 

         I started my spiel with the statement: When life steals something important from a person, she either gives up and dies, or she finds a way to rebuild her life.

2. Don’t give a complete summary of your book. Give just enough information that the audience wants to know more. 
             I continued my pitch by saying, “Torri had things stolen from her life over and over including having her marriage destroyed by an unfaithful husband and losing her best friend to cancer. Each time she gathered her courage and rebuilt her life. However, when her children are taken by their biological father and not found, she didn’t know if she could continue or not, or even if she wanted to try.

         I gave a bit more information from the book. For an agent or editor, the ending for the book may be required. For a presentation to a group, the ending should not be revealed.

3. If asked, be prepared to tell why you wrote the book – be sincere and reveal who you think the intended readers are.

4. Rehearse so that you don’t ramble. You don’t want your speech to sound memorized, but you need to know the main points and the order to present them.

5. If the book is already released (which if the pitch is meant for an agent or editor, it will must not be), be sure to let the audience know where and how they can buy your book.

6. If the presentation is for a group after the book is released, be sure to take copies of the book to sell and autograph. 

         Be prepared, practice, then relax.


  1. Great advice. I have a 30 second elevator speech that I keep ready just in case. This article will help many who may not be able to appear in person but need to craft the perfect agent/publisher letter as well.

  2. A query letter or cover letter needs to be a little different than a pitch. That might make a good topic for another article, though.

  3. Thanks for the advice, Vivian. I need to work more on my pitch (as well as cover letter and query) for my newest MG story, Encroached. When someone asks me what it's about, I know, but the words don't come out as smoothly as they need to. Thanks again for your advice.

  4. You know, I was going to ask how an artist could use this info for what we do, but maybe Ginger has the article on that, huh?

  5. There are conferences that include representatives for companies that need illustrators. Wouldn't you like to make a pitch for one of those some time?

  6. Great post. This is really good information.

    This is one part of the process I haven't done myself yet. I've done practice pitches, writing them in both 140 characters to a few paragraphs in length but I've never had to really offer it to an agent/editor/publisher. It surprises some people who follow my blogs but I do have a good reason. I don't have a novel ready yet. Most frown on pitches for unfinished works, so my goal is to get my current young adult novel finished, edited and such, then I will pitch.

  7. It's not hard to pitch a product you believe in. In theory. ;) I still wish all I had to do was the writing.

  8. One thing about it, authors under contract already have it easier than unknown authors.