How to pitch your book

By: Kit de Waal

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Whenever I’m teaching a masterclass or talking to people about their work, one of the most interesting questions I ask is what your story is about.   Invariably the answers reflect the themes of the book, such as ‘It’s about a woman who is lonely who falls in love with her next door neighbour.’  Or the answer is at one further remove;  ‘It’s about loneliness and redemption.’  Or further removed yet,  ‘It’s about identity.’

There are very few books that are not about loss or identity or love.  Describing your novel in this way will not give a reader (or an agent or editor) any information that is likely to make them want to read your manuscript as opposed to any other.   More importantly, these themes are so vague that they cannot help you, the writer in the day to day process of writing. The more specific you are when people ask that question the more the reader or listener is likely to remember your manuscript and therefore remember you. Every time you answer this question, look upon it as an opportunity to hone your pitch and make someone think ‘Wow, I really want to read that.’ I remember someone telling me that they had read a book about ‘a paraplegic aristocrat who hires a   black guy from the projects to look after him.’  Job done.  I’m hooked.   They could have said ‘I’ve just read a book about loss and difference.’  Or, ‘I’ve just read a book about change.’ Both accurate descriptions both beyond blah.


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