Stefanie Hartman In The Press

Writing the Perfect Pitch

Posted on 22 September 2011 by Stefanie

Here is the sixth great installment I found on book tours, from a company that is closing their doors soon, so I thought I would pass it on to you guys! When I put up the first installment there was some great comments including that it could be harder to write how you introduce your book than writing the book itself.

In this installment Kevin breaks down the pitch for you, I like that he includes a sample of a pitch and breaks it down for you. There is an exercise at the bottom for you and when doing this list remember the tip for media I mentioned in the fourth installment.   Enjoy.

All the best,
Stefanie
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Writing the Perfect Pitch

Last week, we went over how you the author will want to feel and act on the day your book is published. Which means that the theoretical part of “How do I promote my book?” is over. Your book has been born. It’s time to take it out into the world and show it around.

The remainder of our series will focus on how to do that. Coming up, we’ll look at how best to use technology and social media, how to give a great interview and how to hold a great book event.

We’ll start today with writing a great pitch.

What is a pitch?

A pitch is a written, formalized way of informing someone you probably don’t know about your book in the hopes of attracting their interest and further action. A pitch to a newspaper/journalist/radio producer is, “This is my book. Perhaps you’d be interested in covering it?” A pitch to a venue (bookstore, library) is, “This is my book. Perhaps you’d be interested in having me, the author, come give a talk?” If your book promotion process is akin to throwing a party, the pitch is the invitation.

But it’s a little more complicated than that. You’re sending out an invitation to someone you’ve never met before who probably has other invitations just like yours. Their space/time/availability for your book, or anyone’s, is, by nature, scarce and limited. That’s why every author wants it.

Knowing that, you need your pitch to do three things: 1) present your book in a compelling manner, 2) demonstrate how your book is both compelling and useful to whomever you’re pitching, and 3) not waste their time.

Whom to pitch:

Last week we talked about beginning your promotional efforts with people you know, then moving outward to small and local media. The same holds true when coming up with a pitch list. Focus first on low fruit and trees that are close by. Our PressFinder tool is a great way to find contact information for members of the media based in your area.

Sample pitch:

Here’s a sample email pitch I’ve cooked up. I’ve borrowed the sample summary from the first installment in our series. I’ve called myself “Jack Mulligan” for reasons I don’t understand.
__________________________________________
To: “Helen Joseph” (Helen.Joseph@mysite.com)
From: “Jack Mulligan” (jmulligan@mysitel.com)
Subject: Pitch regarding your “Mariners Maniacs” series. A novel about Gaylord Perry.
Dear Ms. Joseph,

My name is Jack Mulligan and I’m a novelist based here in Seattle. I’ve been following your series on KUOW Radio about Mariners baseball fans, and thought my debut novel, Ghosts of Gaylord Perry, might be of interest to you.

Ghosts of Gaylord Perry is a mystery novel about a detective named Sally Ann framed for murder when her dog Woof Woof finds the body of her boyfriend, a Seattle Mariners shortstop and the nephew of Mariner Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry, on her front lawn. As Sally attempts to clear her name through an investigation of her own, evidence mounts that the perpetrator might have been the victim’s uncle, the Mariners’ greatest pitcher, who happened to be in town giving a lecture on the art of spitball the weekend of the murder.

I self-published my novel last month. Much of my research came out of my volunteer work as historian of the Seattle Mariners Fan Club. I’ve been writing articles on baseball and baseball history for a variety of small publications since 1995.

I heard on your last broadcast that your Mariners Series will be continuing until December. I’ve enclosed a copy of Ghosts of Gaylord Perry for your enjoyment and in the hopes that you may find it useful for your series.

Keep up the great work.

Best,
Jack Mulligan
_________________

Anatomy of a pitch:

Let’s break this pitch down and see why it works.

First, it is short. Three paragraphs, two hundred words, and gets right to the point. Ms. Joseph is no doubt a busy journalist and there are an awful lot of Seattle Mariners fans (not to mention authors) who would like her attention. Wasting her time will move us right to the back of the line and probably out the door. Which is why the subject line contains the word “Pitch,” what the pitch is for (“Mariners Maniacs series”) and what is being pitched (“novel about Gaylord Perry”). Ms. Joseph knows exactly what this email contains before she even opens it.

(Side note: Most pitches come through email these days. Pitching via written note or fax, unless specifically requested, makes you look like a fuddy duddy).

Now let’s look a piece at a time

My name is Jack Mulligan and I’m a novelist based here in Seattle. I’ve been following your series on KUOW Radio about Mariners baseball fans, and thought my debut novel, Ghosts of Gaylord Perry, might be of interest to you.

First paragraphs are all about who you are and why you are contacting them. Think of it like ringing someone’s doorbell. Get to why you are standing there immediately. Beginning with “My name is” is nice because it speaks of honesty and directness. And since you’re pitching a book, better mention that early on, too, and don’t forget the title.

The most important line here, though, is “following your series on KUOW.” A successful pitch is always tailored to the specific needs of whom you are pitching. Saying, “I listen to KUOW. Your radio station should cover my book” says, 1) I couldn’t be bothered to do the research and find out where my book belongs in your radio programming, and 2) because I’m not being specific, I sound dishonest when I say, “I listen to KUOW.”

Avoid seeming dishonest and lazy. Read/listen/watch whomever you are pitching. See what kinds of books they cover and how. Then craft your pitch to their needs.

Ghosts of Gaylord Perry is a mystery novel, etc…

Refer back to Part I of our series and how to describe your book in a single sentence. Every line should drive the plot forward yet leave a bit to the imagination. Avoid the temptation to over-explain. I know you think everything in your book is gold. It very well may be, but excessive details say to the Helen Josephs of the world that you can’t keep your thoughts straight and therefore probably aren’t worth paying attention to as an author either.

I self-published my novel last month. Much of my research came out of my volunteer work as historian of the Seattle Mariners Fan Club. I’ve been writing articles on baseball and baseball history for a variety of small publications since 1995.

Most likely, neither media nor venues will want to feature a book that’s more than a year old. Explaining how long it’s been in the marketplace is just you 1) being helpful and 2) saying its publication is topical and therefore relevant. Stating your qualifications in a line or two clarifies that you’re versed in what your book contains and Ms. Joseph won’t waste her time featuring a novel about the Mariners from someone who doesn’t know anything about the Mariners.

I heard on your last broadcast that your Mariners Series will be continuing until December. I’ve enclosed a copy of Ghosts of Gaylord Perry for your enjoyment and in the hopes that you may find it useful for your series.

Say what you want, say it quickly, show how it’s useful to them, then leave it alone. Don’t beg. Don’t brownnose. Be a courteous, polished professional. Because, should they say yes, you’d like them to cover your book in the same way, right?

Is a pitch a press release?

A press release is a cousin of the pitch. It makes a more general announcement about the arrival of a book meant to fit a variety of media outlets instead of one specifically.

Press releases for books are usually only effective when the book is written by a well-known person whose actions are newsworthy. For our purposes, a few targeted watering attempts will bear more flowers than seeding the clouds for downpour.

What if I have a publicist?

Let them do the pitching. Here’s why.  That publicist is a paid professional. Their job is to develop ongoing relationships with members of the media, relationships meant to benefit the books they represent, like yours. As the author, you and your work are the beneficiary of their experience.

Let them do their job. Going behind your publicist’s back and contacting members of the media is like dining at a restaurant then walking into the kitchen to make your own dessert. Why have a publicist if you’re just going to do their work for them?

Publicist are paid professionals for a reason. Let them do their job. Work with them, not around them.

Different for venues:

The formula for pitching a venue to do an event follows many of the same rules but not all. You want to research what kind of events that venue hosts, any openings in their upcoming calendar and suggest what your program will be. Again, tailor these to the needs of the venue. Don’t suggest an hour’s worth of reading if the venue only schedules authors for twenty-minute blocks.

How is it different? A venue has both time and space to fill. A media outlet just has space. So if a venue puts on an ill-planned, poorly organized event, it not only costs them money (because they had to be open, have the lights on and pay employees during the event) but may cost them future customers (who come to the lousy event and vow never to return). If a media outlet covers a book that a reader doesn’t end up liking, the reader will probably blame the author more than they will blame the media who covered the author.

All of which means, it is absolutely imperative that you do not only do thorough research on the venue itself but tailor your event to what that venue typically features in a visiting author.

We’ll be talking more about planning the perfect event later in our series but for now…

Exercise: Put together a list of six to ten members of the local media or nearby venues you think would be good matches for your book. Use PressFinder www.booktour.com/pressfinder/search for suggestions. Then create a sample pitch letter.

BookTour.com launched a ten-part series on Book Promotion called “Everything you Wanted to Know about Book Promotion but were Afraid to Ask” written by CEO Kevin Smokler. Kevin has been advising authors and publishers on marketing and promotion for nearly a decade and has written and lectured on the topic throughout North America.

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Writing the Perfect Pitch

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