Posted On October 7, 2013 by Print This Post

Pitching Your Book – to Agents, Publishers or Readers with Oliver Rhodes

Welcome back to the fantabulous Oliver Rhodes with a don’t-miss-this article on pitching your book!

Writing the most amazing story is simply not enough.  If you cannot persuade other people to read it, then your time and craft will have been wasted.

Being able to sell your book in just a few words is massively important to its (and your) success.  Whether pitching to an agent, publisher, or direct to readers, these could be the most important words that you ever write.

Of course condensing your masterpiece novel, which has been months, or even years in the making into less than 200 words isn’t going to be easy – but here are some tips that will help.

1) Do this first.

When publishers evaluate manuscripts, one of the first questions they’ll ask is ‘how am I going to sell this’?  The best time for an author to be asking that question is BEFORE you have written the book.

This will help focus you on exactly what the key selling points of your book are going to be, and determine whether you have a saleable proposition before you spend months of your time writing it.

Why not write the pitch for three different novels before you start and go with the strongest?  The strength of your pitch can have more of an impact on your book’s success than the story itself.

1)  Sell, don’t tell.

A pitch isn’t a synopsis – if you give away most of the story, the reader won’t need to bother reading the book.  Pick out the strongest ‘hooks’ that your book has and focus on them – intriguing the reader to read more.  Think of it as writing the voice-over for the movie trailer to your book.

2)  Put your strongest line at the top

Taglines are there for a purpose – to draw readers into the rest of the blurb.  If the tag doesn’t interest people, they’re not going to read on – so put your strongest bit of copy here.

3)  Do your research.

Whatever type of book you’re writing a blurb for, someone else will have done it before!

Pick out some successful authors in your genre and have a look at what works for them – you’ll be sure to pick up some ideas.  It’s especially worth looking at debut or self-published authors that have hit the Amazon bestseller charts – to achieve this they will need to have a strong pitch.

4)  Less is more

People do not have much time.  Whether you are pitching to a busy agent sifting through submissions after a long day, or to readers quickly scanning through titles on Amazon they do NOT want to read a dense 1,000 word block of text.

Your job is to communicate to them as quickly and persuasively as possible – keep it succinct.  And be sure to break your text up into manageable chunks – most people will scan your pitch quickly – so make it easy for them to do that.

5)  Unanswered questions

Asking unanswered questions can be a great technique for hooking readers in without giving too much away (see the examples at the end of this post – can you do better?).  Focus on the central dilemma of the book – and be sure to make it a question that the reader will want to know the answer to!

6)  Include an extract

You’ve spent months crafting your sentences so that they’ll resonate with readers.  Why not pick out one of the strongest, most intriguing (but relatively short) lines and include it as part of your blurb?

Try and pick something that gets to the heart of what the story is about.

7)  Use endorsements

If you have any quotes from recognised publications, blogs or authors then include them!  Don’t feel the need to use the full quote – but pick out the best bit.

You aren’t necessarily looking for the most noteworthy source – but for something that positions your book perfectly.

8)  Use ‘positioning statements’

OK, if you’re Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyer, the reader has a fair idea of what they’re getting from your writing.  But for the reader, agent or publisher who is unfamiliar with your work (and this will cover 99% of authors) it helps to have an idea of what the book is similar to.

Why not compare yourself to well-known authors who you are similar to?  Or liken your story or main characters to popular film or television franchises?  The idea of this is to instantly position your work, so that the reader knows what they are getting.

9)  Get feedback

Finally, when you’re finished, remember to ask for feedback – from people who haven’t read your book.

And now the hardest part: be prepared to tear it up and start again if it doesn’t work.   Don’t settle for ‘OK’.  Remember that you know the story and your characters intimately, but your blurb has to work for people who have no idea what your book is about.

10)  Practice, test, practice

How you write short pitches can be just as important as how you write novels.  Very few people are naturally brilliant copywriters.  But everyone can get better at it.  That only comes with practice, testing and more practice.

 

Can you think of any books that have grabbed you right away from the description?  Why not share your favourites in the comments section?

Here are three great current examples of opening lines from Amazon:

Reason to Breathe – Rebecca Donovan

“No one tried to get involved with me, and I kept to myself. This was the place where everything was supposed to be safe and easy. How could Evan Mathews unravel my constant universe in just one day?”

What did he do?  I need to know…

Crazy Beautiful Love – J.S Cooper

This is not the typical bad boy meets good girl story.

Logan Martelli is a bad boy. He’s handsome, sexy, and knows what he wants. He steals cars. He doesn’t do relationships. And he has the hottest green eyes in River Valley.

Why isn’t it a typical bad boy story?  I don’t know, but I want to find out…

When it Rains – Lisa De Jong

One night changed my life forever.

Beau Bennett has been my best friend since I can remember. He was my first crush before everything came crashing down, and now he wants more, but it’s more than I can give him. Things are different now. I wish I could tell him why, but I can’t.

I haven’t told anyone.

What happened? Tell me NOW!!

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What book grabbed you right from the description?

Join us on Wednesday for author Melanie Milburne!

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Bio:
Oliver Rhodes is the Founder of Bookouture – a digital publisher of romance and women’s fiction. Recently picked by The Bookseller as one of their ‘Rising Stars’ of 2012, he’s passionate about building global author brands.

Formerly Marketing Controller at Harlequin UK, Oliver has worked in publishing for over 12 years. Some of his highlights from his time at Harlequin include launching Mills & Boon’s New Voices online writing competition and rapidly growing its MIRA imprint – establishing authors such Debbie Macomber, Diane Chamberlain, Susan Wiggs and Alex Kava in the UK market.

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7 Responses to “Pitching Your Book – to Agents, Publishers or Readers with Oliver Rhodes”

  1. Thanks for this blog. Just in time for the writing class I teach.

    Posted by Carol Baldwin | October 7, 2013, 8:17 am
  2. Morning Oliver!

    I can’t think of any book off the top of my head that grabbed me, but I do remember reading the blurb from Knight in Shining Armor by my must-buy author Jude Deveraux blurb and thinking oh maaaannn….time travel??? this is going to be horrid. And I was so so so wrong. lol….I have like 5 copies of it, and it’s one of my most beloved books.

    While I can’t think of any blurbs off the top of my head, I’m quite often seen in the bookstore reading the back of books – the ones that capture my attention are immediately tossed into my shopping cart. Usually it’s the cover first, then the blurb, and occasionally if I’m still waffling I’ll read the first paragraph. =)

    Thanks for a fab post Oliver!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | October 7, 2013, 8:39 am
  3. Great suggestions here, Oliver. One thing, though – you asked, “Why not write the pitch for three different novels before you start and go with the strongest?”

    This might work for published authors, but those of us still struggling to make our first sale have to AT LEAST have a detailed synopsis and in most cases we need to have a complete (or nearly complete) story before submitting.

    It’s a great idea, especially for people like me who have multiple stories in varying stages of completion. It’s hard to decide which story to focus on next when I’m only guessing which stories will be considered marketable.

    I’m bookmarking your list – hopefully I’ll be able to draw on your advice before long!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | October 7, 2013, 5:58 pm
    • Thanks for the comment Becke!
      My thinking with the three different propositions was more that you could evaluate yourself which you thought was strongest – or maybe even try them out on some friends. Writing a full manuscript is such a lot of work that I think anything to give you confidence that you’re going in the right direction is a good thing!

      Posted by Oliver Rhodes | October 8, 2013, 1:02 am
  4. Hi Oliver!

    A catchy tag line or great blurb is usually enough to get me to buy the book. But if the story doesn’t live up to the pitch, then I’m reluctant to buy another book by that author. I can’t think of one specific tag line, but I’m a sucker for mystery and suspense pitches.

    Your post reminded me of another post I’d read about pitching and how some authors, despite completion of the manuscript, had no idea what their book was about. That statement has a permanent place in my brain and fuels my paranoia about my stories. So now when I’m sketching out a new story, I pound out a synopsis and come up with a tag line.

    Great point about people not having a lot of time. Thanks for another terrific post.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | October 8, 2013, 3:07 am

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