What is a Pitch Package?
Also called a Bible, or a Pitch Doc, this is a collection of very specific documents and write ups, which you’ll need along the publishing and marketing journey. But why do you need it?
Because agents, editors, publishers, and marketers are going to ask for it. The documents that you create for this package will help a publisher or agent decide whether they’d like to take you or your book on. But these documents will also have a second life in supporting the work done by your publicist, marketing team, and yourself when it comes to hype your book sales. It can even have a third life as being the basis for a pitches used by your foriegn rights agents and / or dramatic rights agents, and if you snag a dramatic adaptation option, in the film / TV Bible or Pitch Doc.
In short, they’re dead useful, if… involved to create. Here’s what I try to create (and suggest you have) in every Novel Pitch Package:
The totally complete (betaed, edited, polished) manuscript. If you’re not done writing the book, don’t bother pitching it. You never know when someone is going to ask for the full within hours of you submitting the query, and if you don’t have it ready, you’re not going to look very professional, and thus worth taking on.
- Super polished first 100 pages.
Some agents / publishers ask for 3 chapters, some ask for five, instead of asking for the whole novel all at once. Make sure you have a few files separated out of
– just the first three chapters
– just the first five
– and just the first hundred pages.
And make sure they are super-polished. These are the chapters that will speak for the whole of your novel, so make sure they’re on their best behavior.
- Synopsis (5 page, 3 page, and 1 page)
I’ve already covered how to write a synopsis pretty extensively here, so go have a look-see at that article when you’re ready to write your Synopsis. Make sure you write one in all three lengths, as you’ll want to have them prepared for whatever size is requested.
This is the one-paragraph description of the book that is simultaneously a sales pitch and a way to hook the person holding your book (or reading the description on a website), and entices them to buy it. It should be in the voice of the book, snappy, easy to understand without leaning too heavily on tired cliche, and leave the reader wanting more. For examples of cover copy for my books, check out my store. Sometimes I write this before I finish the novel, sometimes I write it after, but always make sure you really work this item to make sure it’s polished, intriguing, and accurately describes the book as it is, not as you intended to write it.
Very similar to the Back Cover Copy, this is the paragraph you put in your query letter to introduce the book to an agent/publisher/editor. Besides the hooky pitch, this paragraph should also include: word count, genre, age-range, whether it’s a stand-alone or has series potential.
Now that you have your hooky pitch paragraph, condense it down into a single sentence. I know, brutal, but so dang useful. This is called an elevator pitch because it’s what you would use if you had the length of exactly one elevator ride with a high-level executive to get their buy-in. An example of this would be: “Bridget Jones’ Diary meets The Avengers in a graphic novel about a blogger who goes on dates and imagines her beaus as various superheroes based on their quirks and failings. But when her dating blog becomes viral-popular, our heroine must face the consequences of fame at the expense of others.”
- Character breakdown (with pronunciation guide if they’re not contemporary names)
This is a list of the major characters in the book, and a small paragraph about each of them including their name, age-range, and possibly their gender and/or sexual orientation if it’s important to the story. You can choose to include an image like an illustration you make or commission, or an actor / stock image model, but keep it small, and consider that readers often prefer to imagine what a character looks like for themselves, including agents/publishers/editors. Talk about their role in the store, their driving desires, and why this story has to happen to them, specifically, and not another character. This would be something like:
“Kalp: An alien from a broken world, he as elected to identify as male on Earth. A refugee grateful what meagre aide the people of this world can offer, Kalp takes on a job as a translator for The Institute, working with humans Gwen and Basil to reverse engineer technologies from his homeworld to help solve climate and social crises on this new one. Close proximity breeds affection, though, and Kalp can’t help his growing attraction and tender feelings toward his colleagues. He worries that that his feelings are only born of pathetic gratitude, and struggles with whether he should declare himself and risk his position at the Institute, and the friendship he so desperately treasures.”
Not every agent / publisher asks for this, but it’s always very good to make up a list like this, if only for yourself. This is a list of books like yours, who wrote them, when they were published, and if that title is good to use in marketing because it was a hit, or if it’s too obscure, dated, or flopped. Separate the list out into age range, genre, and non-book comparisons. (For example, “Middle grade” is the age range, “episodic adventure” is the genre, and non-book comparisons for a Middle grade adventure (such as Adrienne Kress’ The Explorers series) would be The Goonies, Kim Possible, and Spy Kids. Feel free to cite books outside of your age range or genre if they replicate the tone, mood, or themes, but make it clear in the list that this is the reason you’re citing them. Keep this to about one page.
Do not send this with your initial pitch / query. Firstly, only ever send what the agent / publisher / editor asks for, and send all of what they ask for. Secondly, this isn’t something that you should really send to anyone until someone on the marketing team says “Do you have any marketing ideas?”. Why? Because you job is to write the book. It’s everyone else’s job to sell it, and swerving into their lane may come off as arrogant or unprofessional. Having said that, it’s always a great idea to have a “Swipe File” – that is, a folder of cool ideas you’ve seen other authors or artists use – and a list of “Things it may be neat to do”, so that when it does come time to discuss marketing (after the manuscript is signed, revised, and locked), you are prepared and have some awesome ideas to bring to the table. Also, put things on this list of varying price points, and be aware that pretty much everything costs money or time. (Book displayed face-out in a major bookstore chain = $$$; setting up an ebook review blog tour = ⏰; creating and printing bookmarks = $ & ⏰)
It sounds a bit crass, but this section is basically a list of who you know and which relationships you can exploit to market your book. Know some TV producers, or someone who does a podcast that would let you come on to talk about your work, or still in touch with your MFA prof and have the ability to go in and do a guest lecture? Also list your social media follower count and explain how you engage with them, and what the main topics of conversation are, your newsletter reach (if you have one), and if you’ve self-published anything, how many units you’ve sold and what kind of reader engagement it’s produced. Include reads and votes for previous novels and stories on fiction sharing sites such as Wattpad, Tapas, Tappy Toon, Raddish, etc., as this counts as an audience you could market your novel to.
Write a 100 word, a 150 word, a 300 word, and a 500 word version of this. Cite any previous awards or achievements that relate to writing (Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year, or Watty Award for Best Romance, or High Honours at the Pop Culture Confrence, or even Over Five Thousand Reads on AO3, or Best Angst Story in the Good Omens Fanfiction Awards), and any other completed works (“has self-published three novels, and completed a PhD thesis in astroradiology”, or “writer of a weekly advice column in the local newspaper”, etc.). Including why you are the only person who can tell this story this way – for example, if this is a story about a doctor, and you are a doctor, say so. I wrote my MA Thesis on Mary Sue Fan-Fiction, so when I talk about my meta portal-fantasy series The Accidental Turn, I always talk about that thesis – I’m uniquely qualified to write the book I did because I wrote that thesis on Mary Sues.
Again, don’t send this unless you are explicitly asked for it, or you’ve developed enough of a relationship with your editor / agent that you know it will be welcome, but do absolutely keep a folder of “stuff” that doesn’t fall into any of the categories above, such as:
-maps you may have hand-drawn or computer-generated
-some cover art ideas, or a collection of covers for other books that you think are a good example of what you were thinking
-character sketches or commissioned art
-stock images, moodboards, or aesthetics posts
-deleted scenes or alternate endings/moments
- Screenplay Treatment
I’m gonna put a big fat caveat on this one, and say that as a novelist this isn’t actually your job. If your novel gets picked up for a dramatic adaptation, you may be asked to write a treatment then, but honestly it’s the screenwriter who should be writing the treatment, as it’s the map to the screenplay itself. Having said that, I did once have an agent ask me to write a screenplay treatment for my novel to make it easier for his entertainment agent to pitch. As I have experience as a screenwriter, I did it, but it didn’t quite feel like something that ought to have been on my plate. So if you want to take a crack at writing the treatment, you can find out all about the process here. (I mean, basically, a Treatment is pretty much the exact same thing as a book Synopsis, with specific formatting requirements and more focus on the fact that film is a visual medium.)
So there you have it.
Remember, while you’ve put together all these materials, only send agents / editors / publishers what they ask for. To do otherwise looks like you couldn’t be bothered to read or follow their directions, which does not make them want to take you on.
You may create a document that you never, ever use, and that’s okay. It’s a good reference for you, and a good artistic exercise; no work you do on your novel is ever wasted. I’ve found that even if I thought I would never use it, there are times that I dive into my Pitch Package folder years after the book is out to fetch one of my assets for something or other.
Have fun putting together your Pitch Package, and best of luck out there querying!
Still have questions? Read more WORDS FOR WRITERS posts here or ASK ME HERE.