Avoiding Negative Responses To Your Book Pitch: Part 1

I’m excited to announce that we are going to have a seven-part series here on Freelance-Zone.com about how to pitch your book. Diane Holmes, founder of Pitch University, has signed on to share some great tips on avoiding the negative response to your book pitch. Today we have a short intro to what she will be sharing with us, along with the first tip–enjoy!    – Catherine

Listen up.  I’m gonna tell you How the Cows Ate the Cabbage….

As founder of Pitch University (and Texan, which explains colorful expressions), my goal is to help writers (and I am including myself in this!) become excellent at answering the hardest question people ask us: “What’s your book about?”

“Heck, if we could sum it up,” we writers want to snap, “we would’ve written a Post-It Note, not a book!”   (We’re just witty that way.)

What we don’t say is that, after we’ve written hundreds of pages, and poured our heart and soul into the complexities of our stories and topics, there simply are no easy answers.

Yet, without the ability to answer this basic question, we can’t sell our books.

This is called pitching our books.  And it’s the same skill we use when we answer the question for anyone, including agents, editors, readers, friends, family, the media, librarians, booksellers, truly anyone at all.

So it’s important to our careers.  Knowing this, we feel the stress of getting it right.   Frankly, most writers don’t, and they really don’t know what went wrong.

When you look closely, there are really two hurdles when pitching:  ourselves and others (let’s call them agents and editors).  Today, I’m taking a humorous look at the firsts of 7 possible responses that agents and editors can give us when our pitching misses the mark.  There are other tell-tale signs your pitch isn’t working, but understanding these 7 will give you a leg up on your next pitch..

Read on to see if you recognize yourself.

#1 “That Pitch is One Fry Short of a Happy Meal.”

Translation: “You’re really excited, but boy, are you out there.  And way over here, reality.  Over there, some kind of alternative world where logic is optional.  My advice and questions aren’t even making a dent, but you seem happy with the whole thing, so good luck.”

Reality: Editors and Agents are thinking “business decision” while you’re thinking, “All my ideas are wonderful.  And look, I wrote a book!”  You need to decide if you want to be in business.

Solution: Well, first is research and reading on the publishing industry, but let’s assume you’ve actually done that.  If you suspect your pitches are received this way, your best strategy might be to start with a fact that has meaning to the person you’re pitching to.  “I love the romance you edited by so-and-so.  My book is similar to that.”  Then give a sentence about your book and stop.

Get feedback.  Make it your job to find out if the industry pro is following what you’re saying and if they are excited by it.

There are really two outcomes:  They’re on-board and love it –or-something has gone wrong.

If something has gone wrong, that’s when you want to have a nice conversation calmly exploring this.  You’ll either figure out where the gap is so you can course-correct.  Or you’ll understand why it’s not a match for this agent.

For example, if the editor looks confused, ask, “What do you think?”  She’ll actually tell you why she’s confused.  Then you can give the needed explanation.

And the good news is, this comes across as a professional talking to another professional.  So it’s a win-win.

Tune in next week for scenario number two!

Diane Holmes
Diane Holmes

Diane Holmes is the Founder and Chief Alchemist behind Pitch University, an online website where writers learn to pitch from the literary agents and editors (and maybe even sell their book in the process).  http://www.pitch-university.com/

And yes, she was born in Texas.

4 thoughts on “Avoiding Negative Responses To Your Book Pitch: Part 1”

  1. My writing group, Southwest Writers Club, has been helping writers (mostly in Texas) put their hearts on paper since 1956.

    I visit a lot of writing-related websites, and bookmark them (or not) based on the value of their content. I’ve already bookmarked THIS site, because just one article (Avoiding Negative Responses to Your Book Pitch: Part 1) has provided answers to several questions I’ve been hearing at recent meetings. I can’t wait for the rest of the series!

    But I guess I shouldn’t just loiter here and wait for Part 2, so I’ll go explore the rest of the site, sign up for the newsletter, check out the resources, and then get back to work.

    Great article and a terrific website!

    Many thanks for sharing the information.

  2. Hi Diane!

    This is great advice. We learn more from exploring our weaknesses than we do our strengths. Looking forward to following your next articles on the subject.


  3. Dear Sami,

    Thanks for the compliment! Come on out to Pitch U, as well. We ran article “lessons” on pitching almost every day in January, and I highly recommend them.

    We call these January Lessons “Pitching 101” and you can find them on the right-hand menu. Just scroll down.

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