Here Comes the Pitch

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January 2015
by Mari Selby

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Baseball with flamesOutside of baseball but inside the book business, a pitch is an inducement to do something with a book. We are pitching when we send a query letter or e-mail about coverage or sales. We are pitching when we talk to someone in the elevator about a book’s content and benefits. A pitch is your key to getting through the door to have a book reviewed, to have the author interviewed on the air, or to generate invitations to speak at meetings and conventions.

Learning how to craft a good pitch takes practices and some guidance. Often, you get only one chance at pitching someone, so learning how to make that pitch count is vital.

Unless you are pitching to a one-person media outlet, your pitch will have to stand up to critiques from many people. At national TV shows, every assistant producer has a senior producer who has an executive producer. At every magazine, every associate editor has a senior editor who has a managing editor. This means that you have to make your contacts function as your allies when they take your pitch into a meeting.

They will have to explain and defend your idea and your expertise. To get bookings or coverage, your first step is to give them the right information, in the right way. Next time you pitch any TV show or magazine, think of that producer or editor sitting in a room with 20 other people and having them poke holes in your pitch.

The pitch mistakes I have seen keep me in work. Seriously. Part of my job as a publicist is giving media people exactly what they are looking for in the way they can best use the information. I am sure there are many more pitch mistakes than I know about but here are a few don’ts, before we get into the do’s.

Five Things Not To Do

  • Don’t put a list of what you are prepared to send into your pitch letter. An itemized list will not help your cause.
  • Don’t list your book’s chapter titles either. People who get interested in your pitch will have a chance to read the table of contents for themselves.
  • Don’t require additional steps by saying that such-and-such information is in chapter such-and such. Just provide the tip, idea, or quote.
  • Don’t forget to include your website and contact information.
  • Don’t send any e-mails with tracked changes. Make sure your pitch is as professional as possible.

Your first impression counts.

Five Things To Be Sure To Do

  • You’ll dramatically increase your chances of getting coverage if you do your research first, and then pitch people the kind of story you know they use. Read the publications. Watch the shows. And figure out who is the best contact for you to approach. Assignment editors are great to contact for TV.
  • Make a connection that will benefit both you and the person and business you’re pitching. Is a publication seeking stories about local businesses. Explain how your book will fit into those stories. You will not only help the publication but also create an ally.
  • Of course, your intention is to tell the media about your expertise. But if your pitch is all about you or your book, producers and editors will shrug and delete it. The pitch should explain how your expertise will appeal to their particular audiences. What will you do to educate and/ or entertain their readers or viewers?
  • Bear in mind that editors and producers are extremely busy. If you can keep an e-mail pitch down to five or six sentences, you’ll be more likely to capture their attention. How much information should you include in a pitch e-mail? Send the essentials: your idea, credentials, and contact information. Once they’re interested, you can give them more.
  • Align yourself and your book with things that are known and familiar to make it easier for media people to want more from you. Mention other experts and other sources.

After 15 years in this industry, I continue to learn how to pitch better. I continue to do research geared to creating better pitches. The willingness to learn and the willingness to ask for help are also key to crafting a good pitch. Ofcourse, nothing works all the time, so if at first you don’t succeed, pitch, pitch again. But only after you’ve done your homework.


mari_029Mari Selby founded Selby ink in 1998 after working for a small publishing house, where she grew annual sales from 20,000 books to more than 100,000. Formerly a family therapist, she reports that she especially likes “working with books that make a difference in people’s lives, their relationships, our society or the planet.” To learn more or to schedule a free consultation: mari@selbyink.com or www.selbyink.com.

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