Elements of Effective Pitching

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Many writers love to crank out words into their computer. They dream of a literary agent or editor reaching out to them with a writing project. From my decades in this business that sort of event rarely happens. That editor phone call or email you've imagined coming is a fantasy. If you want to publish a book, you need to effectively pitch a literary agent or an editor. 
From my experience in publishing, one of the foundational skills to develop is an effective pitch. Whether you want to write a magazine article or a book or teach at a conference or appear on a radio program or podcast or almost any other activity, it all comes down to your skilled pitch. In this article, I want to give you some of the critical elements in this process so you can be much more effective in this critical process.
To write for magazines, you need to learn to write a query letter. I've written for more than 50 publications and have written a detailed article about this process (follow the link but also study the contents then apply them to your own writing life). Like with a book proposal, there are different variations on how you do the tool but the key is to send something that the editor or agent wants. How do you learn what they want? You study their guidelines about what they publish or their specialty. It is different for each publication, agent or publisher but they will tell you what they are looking for—and they expect you to do this research before you clog their email box with your pitch. 
If you are writing a book, then you need a book proposal or business plan. I undrstand that writing a proposal is a great deal of work but even if you self-publish you need to know the various parts of a proposal. Every author whatever they are writing (nonfiction, fiction, children's books, etc) will gain value through writing a book proposal.
The process of creating a book proposal will teach you about the current marketplace for your book. For example, the majority of publishers are looking for fiction which is 100,000 words or less. Last week I was looking at the submissions for a service to writers. One of the novelists was pitching a 250,000 word novel. Immediately I rejected this author and didn't approach the author to submit to Morgan James Publishing. Why? Recently I have had negative reactions when I tell an author they need to divide their story into several parts so they can get to a lower word limit. If the novelist is in tune with the marketplace, they have learned this information before completing their novel and pitching it to possible publishers.
Another element in effective pitching is developing your relationship with the literary agent or editor. At the end of the day, you are looking for the right fit. This search will take skill (to learn how to craft a proposal and/or query) combined with persistence and consistency.
What are the elements to effective pitching? If I am missing something, please let me know in the comments below.