I've been reading This Is How You Pitch by Ed Zitron (buy at Amazon). I'm a third of the way through it and I keep thinking "authors need to read this". I've been highlighting the heck out of this book. Recently, I highlighted a statement about the need for your pitch to make a personal connection with your audience. This may sound familiar since I said basically the same thing in my post about press releases.
You will give your pitch to everyone you speak to about your book: readers you hope will buy it, fans you want to spread the word about it, bookstores you want to sell it, event coordinators you want to host you, media professionals you want to interview you and write stories about it, and bloggers you want to review it. In some instances you will only have a couple of minutes and in other situations you may be able to do a full blown presentation. Your pitch needs to be easily tailored to fit the situation and polished to be ready at a moment's notice.
Let's look at a couple of examples that do NOT work... (paraphrased from emails I have received)
"My book is now available on Amazon. I hope you will review. LINK"
"I wrote a steamy romance you will love. I can send you a Kindle copy if you'll leave a review on Amazon."
In both of these examples, there is no personal connection. Often these types of "requests" are BCC to many people which is really bad form. How can you make a personal connection if you are mass mailing? If you want to do mass mailings of your pitches, work on building your email list and use a program like MailChimp so that you are not spamming your contacts. You can target your emails by breaking your subscriber list into potential readers, fans, and bloggers/reviewers.
Second, there is little information provided for me to decide if I would even want to read the book. When I worked with the publishing house I had authors provide three summaries of different lengths. While I know book summaries are not an author's favorite task, they are an important component of your pitch. Whittling your summary to just a few sentences will prepare you for when you only have a minute or two to hook your audience. Even this short summary may be different when speaking to different audiences. For example, if you write romantic suspense, you may want to showcase the romance side when pitching to chick-lit and romance readers and lean more towards the suspense when trying to reach that group of readers.
For pitches for interviews, guest posts, and news stories, you need to make the story important to that reporter and their audience. For traditional media a person self-publishing a novel is NOT news and if that's all you've got - you are wasting that reporter's or editor's time. Good news for you, many bloggers will still be interested in interviews and guest posts. If you want them to write a news piece on you though, you need to provide them with some news. Again, I recommend reading my post on press releases.
Third, these pitches have no desire for a continuing relationship. Every contact you make is an opportunity to expand your network. And you never know when someone in your network will turn out to be a truly valuable connection. The example pitches above in some ways treat me as just another reader. They have no regard for my publication, the name I've built, or the further connections an appearance on my blog could afford them. Just a note, if you are just interested in retail reviews then do not bother contacting reviewers who write for publications, including blogs. While bloggers love to help authors, their first priority is to their blog and there are plenty of authors who respect bloggers' talent and influence enough to only care if the review appears on the blog.
I really hope none of my readers have written pitches like the two I used as examples. They are pretty extreme. But there are plenty of middle of the road pitches that make the same mistakes. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. But you want a pitch that works more than 50% of the time. So what do you need to do?
Research! You need to know the person and/or publication you are pitching to. Read some of their posts. Read any submission guidelines or policies they have posted. Check them out on social media - you may even want to start cultivating your relationship by interacting with them there. By interacting, I don't mean talking about your book. Respond to their postings as if you are just a regular person and not an author hoping to get their attention. If possible, help them out even if you will not directly benefit from it.
Cultivating relationships can take time, and you need acceptances now. So while building relationships, build your reputation. In many ways these go hand in hand, but a good reputation can get you in the door quicker. You need to be professional in all your contacts - this includes your postings to social media. For those who you are pitching, be mindful of their deadlines and commitments. Provide a full press kit or at least a "quick media sheet" with your pitch. Note, it should not be a substitute for your pitch. Be a person of your word. If you set a date for an interview or guest post, honor it by getting your material in on time. I've had a number of authors who will schedule an appearance and then never send anything or the day before their post is to appear tell me they didn't have time. Take all aspects of your writing career seriously.
This post has turned into a bit of a rant. So let's end this on a positive note:
Perfecting your pitch takes practice. Just as each revision to your novel yielded better results so will your pitch.
Be comfortable talking about your book. Understanding how your novel fits the genre and target audience will make it easier to tailor your pitch. It will also help you identify opportunities as they arise.
Be prepared. You should be able to quickly provide cover image, author photo, bio, book summary. If you are pitching a guest post, interview, or news story, make sure you have time to meet deadlines which can be short.
Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the blogger behind Girl Who Reads and author of the how-to manual Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.
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