You’ve written a book or story you’re proud of. And your beta readers have nothing but good things to say about it. You can’t wait to find an agent and collect a hefty advance.
But unless you know how to write a pitch that will wow an agent, getting a deal with a big-name publisher isn’t happening.
Writing a pitch is every bit as important to the success of your book as writing the book itself. And learning how to craft a powerful pitch will help you sell more books whether you seek a publisher or go the indie publishing route.
Read on to learn how to pitch like a well-paid writer.
- How to Write a Pitch for a Novel or Nonfiction Book
- How to Write a Pitch for an Article
- Get to know your reader/market.
- Create a media list.
- Identify the best contact person for each magazine/journal.
- Identify the most powerful elements of your article.
- Prepare a script for your elevator pitch.
- Practice and refine your elevator pitch.
- Research each magazine on your list (read their content).
- Brainstorm article ideas for each magazine on your list.
- Put yourself in the editor’s shoes.
- Make yourself (and your work) accessible.
- Collect rejections like badges of honor.
- Pitching Article Ideas
- Create a pitch template.
- Choose your top three magazines.
- Research your top three magazines.
- Brainstorm a list of article ideas.
- Cut your list of titles down to three.
- Customize a pitch for each magazine/journal.
- Refine your pitch and send it.
- Keep the ideas flowing.
- Sample Pitch Email to a Magazine
- How to Write a Story Pitch
How to Write a Pitch for a Novel or Nonfiction Book
For novels, you’ll be pitching either publishing companies or (most likely) agents.
It’s important to familiarize yourself with the authors and titles represented by each of the agents on your list. And for both your sakes, don’t forget to read their submission guidelines.
If you can show that your novel is similar to one they’ve already represented (particularly a bestseller), you give them a reason to take a closer look.
When pitching your book to a literary agent, you’ll need to share the main essentials of your manuscript. For fiction, these include:
Also, include information on how the story in your novel is different or unique and why readers will find this compelling.
Know how your book fits into the marketplace and show that you’ve done your research on the marketability of your story.
For a nonfiction book, be sure to include:
For both fiction or nonfiction, be sure to include an author bio that is tailored to the agent or editor you’re pitching and the genre of your book.
For nonfiction, include relevant credentials that relate to the topic of your book.
Include Your Marketing Plan
When pitching an agent or editor, you want to let them know your ability to market your book. These days, with so much competition, this is a necessity to include with your query letter.
Particularly for nonfiction, be sure to include a marketing plan with your pitch that shows everything you’re willing (and able) to do to promote your book.
Include information like:
You want to show how many strong connections you have to support your marketing goals and that you have a platform (or several platforms) from which to promote your book.
Publishing houses are more selective than ever, and it’s critical to show them that there is an audience of readers waiting to purchase your book.
Sample Pitch Letter for a Book
I’m writing to submit my cozy mystery, Before the Wedding, for your consideration.
The story’s main character, Livian Alder, is a young widow working as a lunch lady when her best friend and coworker finds her (and by “her,” I mean the BFF’s) fiancé dead in the breakroom the day after a heated argument in the hallway.
The situation gets even more interesting when the cop investigating the murder shows up to question Livian, her friend, and others at the school.
All Livian wants is to prove her friend innocent of her fiancé’s death, but the murderer knows what she’s up to. And the cop who takes a special interest in Livian’s safety is none the wiser until he gets a strange phone call.
Other titles you’ve represented — including <title of similar cozy mystery> — make me think (or hope) you’ll enjoy the first chapter of Before the Wedding enough to ask for more.
As for me, I’m a writer of both fiction and nonfiction with five other titles to my name, most of them written with a view to helping fellow authors write their books in spite of health issues and mental health challenges.
I market these to my following of around 3K on Twitter under @Write_It_Anyway, along with 450 friends on Facebook and over 1,200 connections on LinkedIn. For the past three months, I’ve been building buzz for Before the Wedding in the writing community and among other cozy mystery fans on Twitter and Facebook.
And as someone who’s worked as a lunch lady for a few years, I have plenty of material for a lunch lady cozy mystery series.
Thank you very much for your time!
All the best,
How to Write a Pitch for an Article
If you’re pitching magazines, you need to know how to write a pitch email, whether it’s for an article you’ve written or for one you’d like to write for them.
Learning how to write a short and effective pitch for your article is critical to your success as a published writer.
All the more reason to develop a system that works. Start with the basics:
Get to know your reader/market.
The better you know your article’s ideal reader — their interests and priorities — the easier it is to identify the magazines they’re likely to read.
And once you know that, you can add those magazines to your media/pitching list.
Create a media list.
While a simple list will do (at least for starters), a spreadsheet allows you to add and organize important information for each magazine or journal you’d like to pitch.
Identify the best contact person for each magazine/journal.
Find the email address for the right contact person for each publication. Add this information to your spreadsheet, along with that contact’s full name and any other important details.
Identify the most powerful elements of your article.
You don’t stand a chance if you can’t elicit some emotion in the person to whom you’re pitching your article.
Give them a reason to care about your article.
Prepare a script for your elevator pitch.
Not only will this come in handy when you’re writing a pitch email, but it’s good practice for all aspects of your career as a writer.
Practice and refine your elevator pitch.
Pretend you’re pitching your article to an editor over the phone or in an elevator. Refine it and try again. Short, sweet, and to the point.
Research each magazine on your list (read their content).
Read articles they’ve already published to get a sense of each magazine’s culture.
Brainstorm article ideas for each magazine on your list.
Make a list of titles that would grab their readers’ attention.
If they fit with the magazine’s culture and show solidarity with its readers, the editor is more likely to take a closer look.
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Put yourself in the editor’s shoes.
They probably have hundreds of pitches to sift through on a daily basis, and most pitch emails are way too long and salesy. Keep yours short and pithy.
Make yourself (and your work) accessible.
Make it easy for the editor to get a hold of you and to check out other published content. This could be a list of published guest posts, an online portfolio, or a website.
Collect rejections like badges of honor.
Every writer who’s getting their work out there experiences rejection. Those who pitch more frequently are likely to get rejected more frequently; but they’re also more likely to get a yes.
Keep pitching. Save those rejections. And use them to get closer to the next yes.
Pitching Article Ideas
Maybe you haven’t yet written an article, but you’ve looked over a magazine’s website or read some of their recent articles.
And you’re thinking, “This is the kind of magazine I’d love to write for.” You have ideas for articles their readers would love.
So, how do you pitch those ideas to them?
You know what those readers care about. And you want to write something that will make them stop and think, “Oh, I have to read this!”
Get closer to that by taking the following actions:
Create a pitch template.
Create a fillable pitch template you can easily paste into a new document and customize for each pitch. This will save you time, so you can get more pitches out in any given week.
No one realizes how much they dread writing the same base copy over and over again until they find a way to streamline their pitching process.
This is one way to do that.
Choose your top three magazines.
These will the ones you target first. Don’t overthink this.
If you feel yourself leaning more heavily toward three magazines, no need to analyze why. It could just be you have more ideas for articles their readers would love.
Research your top three magazines.
Read articles from each magazine to understand what they’re looking for. Read their guidelines, too, of course, so you know exactly how they prefer to be pitched and whether they want you to query first or send a completed article.
Brainstorm a list of article ideas.
Once you’re in the head of the kind of readers who would pay to read each magazine, make a list of provocative titles for them.
And by provocative, I don’t mean click-baity. Give them a reason to be curious about your article.
But don’t trick them into reading something that doesn’t answer the implied question.
Cut your list of titles down to three.
Try to make each one sound like a welcome follow-up to some of their most popular articles.
The editor will want to feel a connection between your article ideas and their magazine’s key interests and values. Show them you’ve done your homework.
Customize a pitch for each magazine/journal.
Start by showing them you read their magazine. Mention an article you enjoyed. Then tie that to your list of article ideas.
If you can show them you’re familiar with their content, they’ll be more curious about yours.
Refine your pitch and send it.
Show them you respect their time as much as their magazine. And make it easy for them to reach you and to find relevant work samples.
Keep the ideas flowing.
Eventually, you’ll develop a system for pitching. And you’ll realize (if you haven’t already) that, in order to thrive as a writer of magazine articles, you need to stay on top of content in your chosen niche/s.
The Feedly app can help with this without overwhelming you with a jumble of topics to sift through. Feedly lets you focus on the publications and topics most important to you.
So, not only do you stay organized and up to date, you also get a daily stream of new article ideas for your niche.
Sample Pitch Email to a Magazine
Dear <Editor/Contact Person>:
I’m writing to submit an article for HuffPost regarding asexuality and marriage. “Asexual and Married: How I Came to Terms and Where We Are Now” covers the following:
I’ve read other HuffPost articles on asexuality and relationships (including married ones) and realized that, as yet, none of them address the dynamic involved when the other spouse is religious and wanting more intimacy in the relationship.
To give you an idea of my writing style and experience, here are some links to other published articles online:
Thank you so much for your time!
All the best,
How to Write a Story Pitch
Just as with magazine articles, persuading an editor to publish your story depends just as much on your ability to condense your idea into one brief and powerful pitch.
With short stories, you’re usually pitching something you’ve already written (though not always).
The actions you’ll take are similar to but different from the ones listed for article publishing.
Make a list of journals/magazines for your story.
Again, a spreadsheet lets you add and organize important information for each. It may take some time to set up, but it’ll save you time (and sanity) in the long-run.
Research each journal/magazine.
Read some of the stories they’ve published to get a sense of the stories they like and whether your story is a good fit. And don’t forget to read their guidelines.
Craft a one sentence pitch for your story.
Include your main character, what they want, and the obstacle they have to overcome. This is your pitch at its simplest – and the quickest way to answer someone who asks, “So, what’s your story about?”
Practice and refine your elevator pitch.
You never know when you might need to use it over the phone or in an elevator. Keep it short and intriguing.
Create a pitch email template.
Include your one-sentence pitch. And make it easy for them to reach you and to find other published work online.
Customize a pitch for each journal/magazine.
Show that you’re familiar with at one of the stories or novels they’ve published. Tie that to your own pitch.
Pitch every day.
Send at least one pitch every day to the publisher or magazine of your choice, customizing your pitch to make it more relevant and personal.
Are you ready to write your pitch?
At the risk of repeating something you’ve heard (a lot) lately, make every word count. Someday, you might be in that editor’s shoes, skimming through a growing stack of pitch emails.
Be kind. Treat each editor with the same respect and consideration you hope to receive.
And don’t forget to cut yourself some slack, too. Rejections will come. Think of them as proof that you’re getting your work out there. All successful writers get rejected plenty of times — even when editors like their content.
Once you learn how to write a pitch, though, you should be doing that every day — or at least every week. The more frequently you send out well-written pitches, the sooner and more frequently you’ll get a positive response.
May this year be full of them.