Pitch Perfect: Crafting Compelling Pitches for Your Book Projects

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By Romy Natalia Goldberg

Brazos Valley RA

with Madeline Smoot

Austin ARA

Imagine your story is a blank page. There’s nothing there to work with, just vast white nothingness. 


Now imagine there are little numbered dots everywhere, each pointing from one to the next until, when connected, an image appears. And maybe there’s even numbers telling you what to paint in each section. 

Now we’re talking!

Lets face it, the human brain is lazy and we have a hard time imagining things without reference points. Yes, even authors. Even agents and editors. 

Give them reference points to work with.

Agents and editors hear hundreds of pitches, especially at conferences. In order for yours to stand out you will need to provide them with an idea of what makes your story special. Basically, you are hand-selling your book to the agent, just like a bookseller does when they handsell a book to a customer.

So, what makes your book special? What sets it apart from the rest?

The main character and the stakes. 

One tried and true formula is to look at your story, and fill in the following sentence: 

Main character wants (goal)_______ but can’t because ________ (dilemma). 

This right there will provide you with the most important elements of your pitch.

But wait, there’s more.

You also have to provide the agent with an idea of what kind of book this is. Your pitch needs to include the genre (things like fantasy, contemporary, romance) and the market segment (YA, middle grade, picture book). 

Comp titles can also be a great shorthand to help convey your story’s tone, setting or stakes while giving the agent or editor a quick reference point to rely on. A good rule of thumb is to stick to recently published works in the same genre. Remember, books don’t have to be an exact match with your manuscript, they just need to be similar enough to give an impression of what to expect. You can even substitute other examples from popular culture for a comp title such as TV series, songs, or even celebrities. 

The formula for this looks like:

My book is a cross between ___________ (comp title) meets ___________ (comp title).


My book is like ____________ (comp title) with _________________ (whatever sets it apart). 

For example, you could say that your book is Terminator with Dragons. (Mari Mancusi’s Scorched) or you could say it’s King Arthur meets the MCU (Madeline’s Pendragon’s Heir).

Other aspects to include can be things like setting, themes, and any major plot summarized in a single sentence.

We know this all sounds daunting. So before you head to your next conference, here are a few more tips:


Ask writing friends and critique partners familiar with your manuscript if your pitch represents it adequately. This can be a great way to crowdsource alternate comp titles as well!

Use notes

Hey, guess what? You’re human and so is the agent or editor you’re pitching. If you are more comfortable reading your pitch than memorizing it, that’s fine. Just be sure to explain that you are nervous. Agents would rather hear you read a pitch then stumble through a word salad because you keep forgetting things.

Keep it short and sweet

Use a combination to piece together a first draft of your pitch. Then refine each element until the pitch truly sounds like your manuscript. You're going to want to keep that pitch down to three minutes or less. This is so you have time to actually talk with the agent during your pitch session. They may also want to discuss your book or ask you questions.

Pitches are intimidating. No one’s saying they’re not. 

But with some preparation, you can confidently share your amazing book with others!