How to Write a Pitch

What is a book pitch?

A pitch is a short, enticing description of your work that focuses on its USP (unique selling point) or the key thing that makes your book so special – this is what publishers will often refer to as the ‘hook’.

Why does it matter?

As the author, you are undoubtedly the person who knows your book the best. And as you’re pitching it, you have the power to identify the most interesting aspect of the story – the thing that has the power to sell your book to someone without them having read a word.

As a commercial publisher, we are always seeking books with great ‘hooks’ and so identifying the hook in your pitch is crucial. This will help sell your work at every stage: it will grab an editor’s attention; it will help the editor pitch your book internally; it will aid the sales team as they pitch to retailers and international publishers; it will prove useful for publicity when they pitch your book to reviewers; and the hook of your book will often help shape its marketing campaign too.

Top tips:

Keep the two ‘C’s in mind: compelling and concise.

Compelling: Only include the thing you deem most interesting about your book – the primary characters, themes or conflict. Whatever the genre, the potential for drama, suspense or tension (key ingredients for a page-turner) should be clear.

Concise: Brevity is key when it comes to the pitch – imagine you really are in an elevator and you only have the time it takes to get from one floor to the next. You should be able to pitch your book in a couple of sentences. You don’t necessarily need to include setting, character outlines or plot twists – just focus on the most interesting, unique or striking aspect of your novel. Your intention should be to leave the person you’re pitching to thinking: I want to know more

What are some good examples?

To help get you started, here are some examples of pitches we feel are both concise and compelling. In most cases, they can be pitched in a single breath (or two!):

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – Alicia Berenson shot her husband in the head five times and hasn’t spoken a single word since….

The Authenticity Project by Clare PooleySix strangers with one thing in common: their lives aren’t always what they make them out to be. What would happen if they told the truth instead?

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware – Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years so is surprised when she’s invited to her Hen Do: a weekend away in a remote cottage. Little does she know, this will be an invitation to die for… 

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik – Sofia is asked by her boss to write a book about the weird and wonderful world of Muslim dating. And though she definitely isn’t looking for love, to write the book she does need to do a little research…

The Serial Killer’s Wife by Alice Hunter – They’re saying he’s a monster. And they’re saying she knew…

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – Tiffy and Leon share a bed. But Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh – The serial killer isn’t on trial. He’s on the jury.

I Know What You’ve Done by Dorothy Koomson – What if all your neighbours’ secrets landed in a diary on your doorstep? What if the woman who gave it to you was murdered by the people in the diary? Would you hand over the book to the police, or try to find out what everyone had done?

Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams – Two people meet through the ‘Rush Hour Crush’ column of the newspaper.

Now You See Her by Heidi Perks – Charlotte was looking after her best friend’s child for the day. She was her responsibility. And now she’s missing…

The Guest List by Lucy Foley – On an island off the Irish coast, guests gather for a wedding. Each of them has a secret. Each of them has a motive. And one of them won’t be leaving the wedding alive…

 

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