Pitching Manuscripts

on June 19, 2015 by admin in Books and Manuscripts facebook in twitter

What is a pitch package? How do I put one together? How does it differ for different types of manuscripts?

Right. You’ve got a great idea. You’ve researched agents. You’ve brushed up on contract terms. You may have even written a few chapters. Fantastic!

But unless you’re self-publishing (which we’ll talk about in another post), you’re going to have to convince an agent or publisher or someone to take a chance on that brilliant idea. It’s not as easy as just waving your manuscript in front of them. Nope, most of the time, you’re going to have to create what’s called a pitch package.

A pitch package, simply put, is a way of premarketing your book. It’s a concise overview of the book, its market, and your qualifications for writing it. It’s meant to be both catchy and informative—a tricky feat to pull off. Depending on whether you’re pitching a fiction manuscript or a nonfiction project, the package might take different forms.

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A fiction pitch package is shorter and sweeter than a nonfiction one, but might actually be harder to put together. It only has two parts: a query and a sample. Most agents and publishers prefer that you query prior to sending a sample; they only want a sample if they specifically request one. Some, however, ask for a sample up front. Pay close attention to the instructions!

When crafting your query, keep it short and simple. State the title, the estimated word count of the novel, the topic, and the genre (e.g., young adult dystopia or thought-provoking legal thriller). Give a brief synopsis of the novel, no more than two or three paragraphs. Don’t play coy; don’t hide a big twist or plot development. Let the agent know exactly what you’ve written so that she can figure out if she wants to read it. Finish up with a brief description of yourself, such as whether you have any professional writing credits.

For your sample, you’ll be instructed on what to provide. Usually, publishing professionals want the first fifty pages or the first two chapters. Be sure that your sample is as polished as you can make it. First impressions are your only impression when trying to get people hooked on your novel. ProofreadingPal can help you polish up your manuscript, the first few pages or the whole shebang.


Nonfiction pitch packages are a bit different. While you should have a finished manuscript to submit when pitching fiction, nonfiction agents and editors are often fine with your submitting an idea. Some may even prefer that, as they can help develop it into the most marketable form.

pitching1A nonfiction book proposal also includes a query, and most of the time you’ll send the query before developing a full proposal, kind of like waiting to send a fiction sample. The query takes a similar form: introduction, outline of concept, brief bio of yourself. Include any relevant information about why you’re the right person to write this book. For instance, if you’re proposing to write All I Need to Know about Business I Learned from Llamas, make sure to include that you herded llamas in Peru for a year after college and that you now run an alpaca farm.

The proposal itself is far more detailed than a fiction sample. It’s anywhere from thirty to fifty pages long and requires a lot of thought and research to put together. A good proposal contains the following elements:

  • Table of Contents
    • Provide a table of contents for the proposal itself, outlining all the pieces you’ve included (find them below).
  • Overview
    • Include the title, a two-to-three-sentence “elevator pitch” of what your book’s all about, and an overview of the book as a whole. This is the hook. Get the reader really excited about what you’re proposing with a great short pitch and then a longer, more detailed outline of what your book includes.
  • Market Overview
    • Who will buy your book? Why will they buy it? Define your demographic and target market.
    • What competitors does your book have? Don’t just think about other books, consider websites, blogs, and TV shows too.
  • Author Platform
    • Who are you? Why are you qualified to write this book?
    • Do you already have an audience or followers? Why are you the best person to write this? Feel free to include social media stats and blog information here.
  • Marketing Plan
    • How will you help the agent or publisher market your book? Can you commit to book signings, speeches, and appearances? Do you have a fabulous idea for giving away handcrafted llama toys to promote the book? Outline specific ideas and plans, not just suggestions.
  • Chapter Outline
    • Provide a full table of contents for the book you’ll write.
  • Sample Chapter
    • Provide at least one sample chapter. This doesn’t have to be the first chapter. For a nonfiction proposal, it can be from the middle of the book. Use whatever chapter is strongest.

Put it all together, make sure to have both your query letter and your sample or proposal professionally edited to help you put your best foot forward, and get out there! Your writing career awaits.

Kate S.

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