Every day of the year, in every part of the world, someone is pitching a children’s book. Booksellers pitch books to customers (although it’s called handselling), publishers pitch books to booksellers, agents pitch books to publishers, and authors pitch books to children’s editors and agents.
Yep, that’s right. You the author also have to be able to pitch your book. After all even if you didn’t have to pitch to the editors and agents, you would still want to be able to talk about your book to people you meet. You do not want to leave the word of mouth talk of your book solely in the hands of those overworked, underpaid (but often quite dedicated) indie booksellers, do you?
There are two types of pitches you most commonly use. The one sentence pitch, discussed below, and elevator pitches, discussed here.
Fortunately, the smaller the pitch the more likely you are to use it. After all, most of the time you only have a few seconds or minutes with a children’s book editor, agent, or possible reader of your book. With the exception of pre-arranged appointments, you are rarely going to have 10 or 15 minutes to just sit back and chat. And if time is really short, you may have to try to pitch your book to someone in a single sentence. For example, you go to a conference to hear an editor speak. After the session there’s a huge line to speak with the editor. By the time it’s your turn, the editor’s handler looks stressed and annoyed and the actual editor looks a bit harassed and overwhelmed. This is not the time to go into a lengthy discussion of your book. Instead walk up and give the editor your one sentence pitch and ask permission to send the manuscript. The editor will say yes or no and give any pertinent information on how to submit if it wasn’t already covered in the session, and both of you can now move on. And trust me, the editor is grateful that you were able to be so concise, clear, and professional.
But what exactly is a one sentence pitch? It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s where you have to distill the very essence of your entire 60k novel into one itty-bitty sentence. And I do mean a small sentence. This is not the time to try to write some convoluted complex-complex-compound-complex sentence. Come to think of it, there is never a time to write that kind of sentence.
You want a simple, clear, oftentimes compound sentence that tells what kind of book you’ve written, the intended market, and a very brief synopsis of the plot. This is not the time to get into the characters or subplots or mention the riveting plot twist on page 239. Your sentence will need to be a bit general in some respects but still show how your work is different from all the other books on the market. Here are 2 examples of one sentence pitches:
The Emerald Tablet — In this midgrade science fiction novel, a telepathic boy discovers that he is not really human but a whole different species and that he must save a sunken continent hidden under the ocean.
The Book of Nonsense (out of print) — In my new midgrade fantasy novel, a pair of twins must reclaim from an ancient evil a powerful book which if read could be used to enslave the world.
In both sentences, I did similar things. I mentioned the genre (science fiction or fantasy) and the intended audience (midgrade). Had I been speaking to someone not familiar with industry terminology like a kid or parent or other potential reader, I would not have used midgrade but would have said something like “kid book” or “book for middle schoolers” or something like that. Remember to adapt your pitch to the person your pitching to. After that I gave an extremely brief synopsis. There are no character or place names. The words Benjamin and Lemuria (Emerald Tablet) or Daphne or Dexter (Book of Nonsense) did not appear. The person being pitched doesn’t need to know the specifics right now. Save that for when you have more time or the person shows more interest.
Now, both of these sentences only take a moment to read, but they took forever to write. Do not get discouraged if yours also takes forever.