Pitching to a Publisher? Here’s Our 6 Winning Tips

When I was chosen among the 15 writers who get a chance to pitch their book at the Bangalore Literary Festival, I was too scared to feel happy. We got the results on the 1st of December 2015 and the pitch session was on the 6th of December. Even before booking my tickets from Mumbai to Bangalore or arranging for a babysitter for the kids, I started working on my pitch. After a lot of research, I understood what goes into a perfect pitch and what exactly publishers and agents want to hear during a pitch. I worked hard on my pitch for the six days available and finally, I did it. My pitch kept the publishers and agents spell bound and they told me they loved it. Now, I am happy to be able to share whatever I learnt from my experience.


Pitching Tip 1: The Ideal Break-up

A pitch needs to speak about you and your story. You need to speak about your story at least 6 times more than you speak about yourself. Since my pitch was for three minutes, this was how I broke up my pitch.

Author Bio •      Short

•      Crisp & Clear

•      Relevant to writing

20 seconds
Summary of Story •      Complete Story

•      No suspense

•      No need to speak about minor characters, subplots, etc.

130 seconds
Why special? •      Theme

•      Why you?

•      Special writing styles, POV, characterisation, literary style, etc.

20 seconds
Buffer 10 seconds


Even if your story is a thriller/suspense novel, you need to divulge the entire story in the summary. Mention all the main characters, POV, plot, structure, etc. Do not introduce too many characters, places and plots. Just stick to the main ones. The summary needs to be clear and concise.

Pitching Tip 2: Time

Time is the most important factor during a pitch. We had three minutes available to deliver our pitch followed by two minutes of Q&A. The first bell used to ring at exactly three minutes, after which, if we continue pitching, it would reduce our Q&A time accordingly. After the second bell at five minutes, we could neither speak nor have a Q&A session with the publishers/agents.

However, pitching sessions vary from 60 seconds to ten minutes. So, find out the time available to you and prepare your pitch accordingly. My personal suggestion would be to prepare for a 60 second pitch and have it ready, at all times, even if you do not have a pitching event lined up. You never know when you might be stuck in the elevator with a publisher.

Pitching Tip 3: Positivity

Another point that I wanted to highlight is to avoid anything negative in your pitch. Never make statements like:

I have never been published.

My grammar is poor.

I don’t know how my story ends.

I don’t know to punctuate.

I have not yet completed my book.

I am too scared/nervous/excited that I can’t speak clearly but my story is actually really good.

Instead, be confident and positive, highlight why you are suited to write this book and what makes your book unique. While it helps to have your manuscript ready before you pitch it, it is not a precondition. You can make a pitch and a book proposal even if you have a story idea and the first three chapters. So, do not give up pitching for any reason whatsoever.

Pitching Tip 4: Professionalism

My pet peeve is the lack of professionalism. Publishing is a business and your book is a product. You are asking an unrelated third person to invest their time, money and efforts in your product. In the corporate world, you would be suited and booted, in the board room, trying your best to keep the investor interested and impressed. Nothing has changed here. Be professional. Men, please don’t wear that sequined floral print shirt. Women, please don’t take your kids along when you make your pitch. Do not exceed the word limit. Do not read out your pitch. That brings me to the next point.

Pitching Tip 5: Memorise

Please speak about yourself and your story from the heart. Neither read out your pitch from a piece of paper nor rush through it revealing the fact that you have memorised it. Memorise your pitch and practice it many times, in front of the mirror. Check your posture, whether you are smiling and whether you are moving around and making eye contact with everybody. Memorising makes sure that you do not stammer, makes sure that you do not forget what you are speaking due to the fear of being in front of an audience and helps to save precious time.

Pitching Tip: 6 Practice

Keep practising your pitch—whenever, wherever and however you can—to your friends, family and even strangers. Practice makes you perfect!



Archana Sarat is a freelance writer and author since the last ten years. She shuttles between Chennai and Mumbai and loves both cities. Her works are published in various popular newspapers and magazines like The Times of India, The Economic Times, The SEBI and Corporate Laws Journal, The CA Newsletter, Me Magazine, the Science Reporter, the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, the Vengeance Anthology, among others. A Chartered Accountant by qualification, Archana has decided that she would keep cooking up tales as long as she can get away with it. Her debut novel, Birds of Prey, is a psychological crime thriller and has been gathering acclaim for being a gritty and gripping read.

6 thoughts on “Pitching to a Publisher? Here’s Our 6 Winning Tips

  1. Such a lovely post Archana. Congratulations! I am filing this away because my writers’ group is in the process of bringing out a collection of stories that we wrote at our weekend meetings every Sunday, and we are sure to need this information!

  2. Beautifully balanced and I like that you have timed your planned presentation and your attention to detail. Perhaps the only addition I would recommend would be to have a Tag Line which threads through.
    Its the old catch phrase
    Tell them what you are going to tell them ( in your author bio)
    Tell them ( Summary of story)
    Then tell them what you told them ( Why your book is different and its appeal).

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