Perfect Pitch

The Write to Publish conference on February 4 will feature the opportunity for first-time as well as experienced authors to pitch their books to professionals in the field for the third time in a row. Potential authors will have five minutes to convey their concept and two minutes to get advice from real-life publishers and agents. Experienced pitch participant Joe Biel, founder and co-owner of Microcosm Publishing, will be with us again receiving pitches and advising authors. Based on his experience as a publisher—Microcosm receives one book proposal each day—as well as last year’s pitch event, Joe has advice for authors gearing up for the pitch.

The most important element of a successful pitch is to succinctly explain the concept of the book. This is high-level thinking that shows the benefits and emotional payoff of reading the book for the agent, publisher, and reader. It is not about the beautiful sentence structure that took years to realize. So if you’re tempted to say “but if you just read it you’ll understand,” then work harder at articulating the overall concept. You have five minutes for the pitch. It’s the merit of your concept that indicates a strong book, and that should take a few seconds.

Make your pitch to a publishing professional who works in your genre. For example, Microcosm Publishing is interested in nonfiction that empowers readers to change their lives and their worlds. If your book is a fantasy, mystery, or children’s book, find the pitch publisher closest to your work. While publishers and agents are often interested in a broad range of topics, you’ll get the best results from someone who works with your subject.

Next, do your homework on comparables. Know the bookshelf your book will sit on and understand that your book has a literary context. The publisher or agent you talk with will be an expert in the genre and is listening to hear that you know how your book relates to the field. At the same time, do enough research to have clarity on the unique aspects of your book. No publisher wants to publish the exact same book twice. Position your work with at least three comparables that demonstrate you know both the commonality and uniqueness of your work within the field.

Finally, publishers don’t expect the book to be perfect. Authors, especially first-time authors, need to understand there is no such thing as a finished book. Developmental editing will happen, the title will be worked and reworked, and the cover art will be carefully considered. It’s normal for your book to be a work in progress and for you to make mistakes. Approach the pitch as you would a conversation with your publisher. Take a deep breath, leave behind your nervousness, and expect a thought-provoking dialogue on both strengths and weaknesses of your book.

Ooligan Press is grateful to Joe and the publishing professionals who take time to participate in the pitch to a professional session at the Write to Publish conference. Following Joe’s advice will give you and your book the best possible session: the perfect pitch is focused on communicating the heart of your book. Remember the love and excitement of your biggest concept and let that be the center of the pitch.