Writing a Book Pitch Takes Hard Work

I was sitting on the judges panel for the 2012 San Francisco Writers Conference Pitchfest, which is usually a contest—we changed the rules at the last minute this year, when my literary agent and fellow judge, Verna Dreisbach, leaned over and said, “It’s okay, Nina. It’s okay.”

I realized I had sort of gone off the deep end. It was late—maybe 11:30 p.m. We’d started at 9 p.m. and were supposed to have finished at 11 p.m. My voice had gotten kind of loud, I was adamantly giving this one attendee—actually the whole group—a lecture on the fact that coming up with a pitch takes hard work.

What had spurred my tirade, if you could call it that, was the third or fourth (Or was it fifth or sixth?) person who had said (Whined?), “Writing a pitch is hard.”

My mind was screaming. “Of course, it’s hard. Who said it would be easy?”

Writing is hard to begin with. But when you write a pitch you create promotional or marketing copy. That’s when the job gets even more difficult. You leave behind the job of pure writer, and you become a marketing writer. In this position, you must wear two hats, that of a marketing expert and of creative writing expert.

Most writers just want to write. They don’t want to worry about promoting themselves or their work. Thus, writing a pitch does feel pretty difficult, I admit. Yet, it’s really about honing their idea to a fine point. It’s about getting the message across to readers. It’s about conveying the benefits of their book to those who will purchase the book. It’s about relaying the narrative curve of a story without giving away the whole story.

And when it’s all said and done, to accomplish that feat you need to things: good writing and hard work.

So, if you want to pitch an agent or acquisitions editor or a potential reader, if you need compelling copy for your book cover, website or marketing material, sit down and get to work. Work hard. Keep working until you get it right.

Here are a few ways you can get some help on your pitch:

  1. Read this blog post.
  2. Test your pitch out on many people.
  3. Compare it to book jackets of other author’s in your niche or genre.
  4. Go to pitch fests and try it out.
  5. Ask other writers to critique it.
  6. Take it to an editor and get help.

Last, when you get frustrated and hear yourself saying, “Writing a pitch is hard,” remember, no one every said it would be easy. If you want to be a successful writer, if you want to be a published author, it take more than just a good idea, more than just good writing, more than just being a writer, and it takes hard work.


  1. I’ve pitched at two Writers Digest Conferences. In 2011, I pitched 5 who all said to send them something when I built my platform. In 2012, I pitched 4, 3 of whom wanted a full proposal. No one has “bitten” yet, but I’ve gotten some really nice rejections. 😉
    Chuck’s presentations at WDC were incredibly helpful in focusing me. So was reading my pitch for my friends. One of them gave me a suggestion (move up one sentence), and it made all the difference in the world.
    So, the rejections don’t bother me, at least not yet. And honestly, Nina, I thought writing the proposal was much easier than writing the pitch!

    • Thanks for your comment, Victoria! I always say you can write a book in the time it takes to write a proposal, but you are right; the pitch can be harder than the proposal. It’s so much shorter, and short is hard! You have to cram everything into so few words. I bet your pitch was much better this year, as was mine the second year at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference after I’d learned how to pitch. If you’ve built some platform to boot, I bet you’ll do great! Good luck!

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