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
|Summary of Story||• Complete Story
• No suspense
• No need to speak about minor characters, subplots, etc.
|Why special?||• Theme
• Why you?
• Special writing styles, POV, characterisation, literary style, etc.
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!
ALL THE BEST!