Pitching Rules to Score

If you’ve had a look around this website you’ll know that I’ve been a book editor and publisher and am now busy as a literary agent, business owner and occasional teacher of writing and editing.

A few days ago I led a pitching workshop for Writers Victoria. All the participants were WV members and it was great to see that all had some knowledge of how things work in the world of book publishing.

All aspiring writers need to be fully aware that it’s their responsibility to research (with care) their preferred publisher – and to know why they want to be published by them above all others.

A pitch should get our attention. Its only purpose is to interest the prospective publisher/agent in the idea of the mss. The work itself will determine if your writing is good enough.

If, after completing several drafts, you really are ready to submit your manuscript to prospective publishers and agents, please consider the following:


For written pitches

• If you want a literary agent to represent you, get in touch with them first. Do not send your submission to publishers, you may cruel your chances of finding a home for your mss. Check on individual agents’ websites and/or check with the ALAA site to get an idea of their requirements.

• Make sure you follow manuscript submission protocols as they may differ from publisher to publisher; in addition to posting hard copy submissions, take note of the specific days (or week) to submit your mss through online portals.

• Send a multiple submission – that is, choose several preferred agents/several preferred publishers and send copies of your sample pages, synopsis and cover letter to each. As a courtesy ensure your cover letter states that this is a multiple submission.

• What’s your manuscript’s ‘hook’? What makes it distinctive and different from all those other titles preoccupied with the same themes/situations/genres? What makes you the best person to tell this story and how can you help find a readership for it? Address these questions in your cover letter.


For verbal pitches (usually two minutes)

Verbal pitches may mean pitching to an individual publisher (as with literary speed dating events) or to a panel at a very public event (as with our major writers festivals).

• Try not to read from a piece of paper.

• Record yourself practising, and practise repeatedly. Take your time, pause as needed and make sure you modulate your voice.

• Two minutes is plenty of time to name the mss and main character (and what happens to her), give us the hook, touch on themes and spruik the case for you being the best person to sell – er, I mean tell – this story.


Finally, don’t shy away from spoilers – this is a pitch not a book blurb.

Good luck.