Pitching a book is such a strange phrase. It sounds like we are tossing the manuscript into the publisher’s lap. Which symbolically, we are. Pitching a book to editors and publishers is an interesting exercise. It is kind of like the first time you send your kid to kindergarten. You know they need to go, you think they will be OK and that the teacher will be friendly to them, but you still go back to your car and cry. I think for a lot of us that is what pitching a book is like. We are hoping that agent, editor, or publisher will be gentle with our little baby of a newborn book and we know we cannot get it out into the world without doing it but we still go out to the car and cry.
If you only self-publish, maybe you get to skip this step. Obviously, there are other challenges; I’m not sure. I will probably look into that route someday, but I’m currently learning the road to traditional publishing.
I have done one pitch in person. It was one of the most frightening things I have ever done. I had a presentation prepared. I had watched YouTube videos on what to do and what to avoid. A publisher friend of mine had helped me write my pitch. I had a folder with me with my cover page and my first chapter just in case. But when I sat down in front of the editor, all of that planning went out the window. The speech I memorized flew out of my head. Luckily, the woman was very kind. She told me just to describe the story and not to worry about a formal presentation. We simply had a conversation about my book. She asked some questions to clarify some things I didn’t explain enough and then she asked me to submit it. I got fortunate that she helped me through the process.
I’ve also done a Twitter pitch session. My mother does these all the time. You pitch your book in 140 characters or less. Here is my pitch for my book A Massage to Die For: “Molly is shocked when she finished a massage, and the man is dead. Molly and Detective Damien Gordon discover secrets in the salon that include embezzlement and sexual activities. Their suspect is dead. Did someone kill them both or did a second killer just emerge?” You get to pitch every hour, and different publishers and agents are watching the feed. If they like it, they click “like,” and you contact them about submitting the manuscript. It is a fascinating way to try to sum up a 50,000+ word story in 140 characters. I didn’t get “liked.” But it was still a good experience.
I think most authors I know would agree that writing the pitch and the synopsis of the book are often harder than writing the book itself. We spend so much time, energy, and love on this manuscript that now means so much to us and we have to boil it all down to a few paragraphs on paper and a minute or so in front of a stranger. But like our real-life children, if we want them to be able to have a life outside of ourselves in the world, we have to let them out and into the hands of someone else. And most of the time, it turns out fine. The kid runs off and goes to play. The editor calms you down and helps you through your pitch session. And then you can go to your car and cry if you need to, but they can be happy tears.