This week’s author question:
What is a pitch? What exactly goes into a pitch, how do you pitch, and how do you decide whom to pitch?
As far as a “pitch” goes, let me try to explain. When an author wants to hook an agent, they write a query letter. But when an agent wants to hook an (acquiring) editor, we write a “pitch.” This pitch letter is a different style than the query. We introduce the author and give information that makes them relatable to the publisher, as well as tell why they are the best one to write this particular book. We introduce the manuscript itself and give it a good hook to interest the editor. We tell the editor what type of audience will love this book and why, what its comp titles are, and why we think it will be a success, also describing the author’s platform and how we know it will sell.
The agent compiles a list of editors that they know will be interested in your book. The best way to know what editors are looking for is to know them, but another way, is to know what is on the editor’s wishlist. Some of them are listed on http://www.manuscriptwishlist.com, and some are on http://www.publishersmarketplace.com. When the agent has found a list of editors that would be interested in your story, they have to develop “rounds” to send in. One cannot send to more than one imprint in the same house simultaneously. For example, you may send to one Simon & Schuster imprint in round one; then, after they have answered in the negative, you may send out to the next Simon & Schuster imprint in the next round. After receiving a rejection for round two, the agent may then send to a third Simon & Schuster imprint in round three. Etc. Etc.
A pitch can be done in person, over the phone, on skype, or by email, the same way you query to agents. Many emails go out, and then it is a waiting game to see who answers back. I advise not rushing to change a manuscript with the first editorial advice you are given, as it is one person’s opinion, and the right editor may be out there looking for exactly what you have. However, if many people offer feedback that has the same, or similar advice on how to make the book more appealing, it is worth it to consider making those revisions before sending out to the next round, in my opinion.
Then the waiting game begins again. This part can be a short sell, or it could take a very long time. There are authors who have been in a “pitching” phase for years. Editors are very busy people. Don’t lose hope or faith when you do not get an acceptance right away. That is a purely lucky occurrence. Tell your agent if you want to be notified “per answer,” or “every five rejections,” or only when there is advice, or only if there is an acceptance. Some agents have a system that works for them and they will let you know when it is convenient for them. However, it never hurts to talk about this when pitching begins.
Some people call querying to agents “pitching.” Some people call pitching to editors “querying.” The terminology can be interchanged, but for the most part, I have heard and personally use, the two terms as “query” for agents, and “pitch” to editors. When in doubt, ask your agent what their preferred terminology and methods are, just to be sure.
Make sense? It’s really easy, but not commonly explained. There is more research involved and one must know the houses and imprints, as well as each house’s editors and their wish lists, to make all that happen. Trust in your agent and while you wait for answers…write a new book!
Also, some things to discuss with your agent when it comes time to pitch:
- Where do you see your book being published? What publishing house(s)?
- The “Big 5” publishing houses are: Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster.
- Is your heart set on a “big 5” publishing house only? Or would a small press suffice? (Small press does not denote “low quality.” Do your homework, to make sure.)
- If your agent pitches to “big 5” publishers and gets only rejections, would you rather revise your manuscript and send to more “big 5” imprints, or would you be amenable to selling to a lesser known press at that time?
- Your agent needs to see your vision. If the agent pitches and gets no takers, are you more likely to try a different book, or try another agent?
- Business is business and agents understand if we aren’t getting anywhere that you may choose to find a new agent who may have different contacts, or be more passionate about the story. No one wants you to feel that you are stuck with no way out. If this is the case, PLEASE discuss with your agent and make up a plan of action. Your agent should be happy to answer your questions and plan with you.
What is your experience with agents, and pitching? Have you been through the process before? Going through it now? Do you have any advice to debut authors waiting for that one acceptance that will make their dreams come true?