3-ish tips for pitching your book

5183319657_7679455bdf_zI’m slightly early with my post this week. On Saturday I’m an author in residence at Barton’s Bookshop as part of the national Books Are My Bag celebrations this week. After that, Morris HQ is on cyber-shutdown for the weekend as we celebrate a friend’s 40th. Just as I was wondering what (on earth!) to post about, this question popped into my inbox:

‘I have to give a presentation about my novel at college. Could you give me some tips on what to talk about? Thanks, Fahim’

Thank you, Fahim. Since I’m going to spend the day explaining my books to complete strangers (and hoping not to frighten them) I could do with thinking about this. So whether you’re wooing a class, an agent or just one interested book lover, here’s an express guide to pitching your book. It’s a brief post, but attention spans are short… ooh, tree mammal.

1 The novel in a nutshell

First, they want to know what it’s about. Orientate them with a polished one-liner that gives a clear idea of the kind of characters and the story – eg ‘it’s a novel about five friends at college who murder somebody and have to live with the consequences’.

2 Get the title in early

Make sure your one-liner explains the title, or makes the title intriguing. Your audience will probably remember no more than a couple of details. You want one of them to be the title and its tantalising promise.

3 Get personal

Tell them why it became your personal mission to write the book. If you have an anecdote about your initial inspiration, that helps pull the audience on board. Hint about where your research took you and why there’s much, much more than you could say here. Single out key characters with strong dilemmas; people are more memorable than themes. Weave in comparisons with other novels or films if they’ll help make your point more strongly, but they’re not essential.

4 Is there scope for a reading?

Obviously you won’t give a reading if you’re buttonholing an individual. But if you’ve got a bigger audience, it might be natural to round off your talk with an excerpt. If so, context is everything. It’s hard for listeners to plunge into the middle of action, or adjust their minds to a section of dialogue. Whatever you choose to read, make sure it continues the threads you’ve been tempting them with so far. Perhaps a tricky, cruel character, or the awesome difficulties of spending the night in the same house as a dead Mafia boss. You can find more tips here on choosing a passage to showcase your book.

bagPS What’s Books Are My Bag?

It’s a national campaign to celebrate bookshops. If you’re in the UK, drop by your local bookseller and see if they’re breaking out in bunting, orange cake and sloganed T-shirts. Chances are, if you buy some books, they’ll give you a smart tote bag. If you don’t, they’ll probably set their pet authors on you…

Thanks, Fahim, for the inspiration. (And thanks Alexisnyal for the pic) Do you have any tips to add?

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  1. #1 by Jill Engledow on September 13, 2013 - 8:58 pm

    Thanks for the tips; almost done with my first novel and hoping to do some readings. I also checked the link to “what part to read,” and that was helpful as well.

  2. #3 by Daniel R. Marvello on September 13, 2013 - 9:46 pm

    I thought I was having a magic moment and had stepped into the future. Then I realized you are posting a day early. It’s just as well. Time travel themes always leave my head spinning.

    Thanks for these tips. I’ve never had to speak about my books, but I started thinking about doing so recently. On a forum I frequent, one author recently shared her experiences about “busking” her books. She would go to a busy street corner, read part of her book aloud, and sell books to interested passers by. I’m not familiar with London, but she claimed to sell 1,000 books in a single day busking on the South Bank and in the piazza at Covent Garden (that probably means something to you).

    I’m not about to go read my books on a street corner, but the idea of seeking out opportunities to speak about them might be fun. Maybe I’ll try getting a gig on a podcast first. 😉

    • #4 by rozmorris @NailYourNovel @ByRozMorris on September 14, 2013 - 6:26 am

      Hi Daniel! Yes, sorry to turn your weekend around. It’s okay. It’s Saturday morning. You aren’t late.
      I know Covent Garden well – I go there every week. There are people busking all kinds of things but I haven’t seen anyone busking a book.I’ll have to hunt for her. And selling 1,000 copies in a day? I’ve just hauled 20 copies of my novel down the stairs to put them in the car and was wishing I’d written a smaller book. Even 200 of them would probably leave no room in the car for me. She must be selling e-copies, right? And do you know what the genre was?

    • #5 by Daniel R. Marvello on September 14, 2013 - 2:11 pm

      Here’s a link to the author’s original post on Goodreads. The link should take you to message 8 by “Briar”–the book busking stuff is in the second half of a rather long comment:


      She isn’t clear about the genre, just that it was a 50K-word novel. She printed the book herself on standard paper and managed to get it down to 25 printed pages, which explains how she was able to lug 1,000 of them around.

      She earns my admiration for ingenuity, bravery, and determination.

  3. #6 by mgm75 on September 15, 2013 - 12:55 pm

    Great! Another one to bookmark for when I begin pitching my novel

  4. #8 by authorleannedyck on September 16, 2013 - 12:25 am

    I once told a friend, “Why do I have to explain the book? It’s all right there in the blurb. I’ll just show them where it is and let them read it for themselves.”
    She chuckled and said, “Leanne, they want more than that. They want to hear your passion for the story.”
    Finally, I knew why and more than that I knew how.

    • #9 by rozmorris @NailYourNovel @ByRozMorris on September 16, 2013 - 10:48 pm

      Aha, Leanne – that’s exactly it! Readers are always impressed if they can taste your enthusiasm. It hits them much harder than any well-crafted sentences they read by themselves. Love your comment here – thanks!

  5. #10 by raulconde001 on September 16, 2013 - 11:41 pm

    Excellent tips! 🙂

  6. #12 by emilyardagh on September 20, 2013 - 2:11 pm

    This is so helpful! Thank you 🙂

  7. #14 by Sara Healy on September 21, 2013 - 7:26 pm

    I came her from the weekend linkup at Write at the Merge. I’m glad I stopped by. While my novel is nowhere near publishing, I like the idea of have “the novel in a nutshell.” I’ll work on this:~)

    Thanks for these excellent tips.

    • #15 by rozmorris @NailYourNovel @ByRozMorris on September 22, 2013 - 8:33 am

      Hi Sara – love the weekend linkup! Great to see you here. Knowing your novel in a nutshell might also help focus your editing – so maybe it’s not too early to start thinking about it.

  8. #16 by My Inner Chick on September 21, 2013 - 10:34 pm

    Great Tips.

    I like this: Tell them why it became your personal mission to write the book.

    I mean, if the author cannot answer this, they shouldn’t have written the book! Right?

    • #17 by rozmorris @NailYourNovel @ByRozMorris on September 22, 2013 - 8:34 am

      That’s true, but sometimes they don’t realise it’s one of the powerful ways to get other people hooked. Your way in can be theirs. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. #18 by Nina Romano on September 23, 2013 - 6:35 pm

    Sorry I don’t get a chance to read you more often because when I do you’re always right-on target.

  10. #20 by lemedlock on October 3, 2013 - 2:48 pm

    Great tips! I always find pitching absolutely terrifying, so having it set out like this will definitely help keep my head steady (and prevent the dreaded rambling…).

  11. #22 by Sarah M Blood on October 17, 2013 - 9:38 pm

    Thank you for this post. I am currently writing a pitch for my novel, and I think points number 2 and 3 will really help me.


  1. Best of the Web Book Marketing Tips for the Week of Oct. 21, 2013 | Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

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