12 Parts of a Perfect Pitch for a Nonfiction Book: Exciting Agents and Editors About Your Proposal

Pitching your nonfiction book to an agent or editor takes less than thirty seconds. The goal: generate maximum excitement in as few words as possible. Without being self-serving, you must capture the essence of your book, why it will appeal to book buyers, and what’s most impressive about your platform, promotion plan, and credentials.

Books are either prose-driven or promotion-driven. Promotion  and platform–your continuing visibility, online and off. on the subject of your book with potential book buyers–aren’t as important for certain kinds of books such as reference books. They’re also not as important for academic presses, or for small, niche, or midsize houses outside of New York. So you have to be clear about your publishing goals for your book and what it takes to achieve them.

Half of the twelve parts of a pitch are optional; you may not need them. Here’s how to excite agents and of editors at Big Apple houses:

  1. A sentence with the title (and subtitle, if needed) and up to fifteen words that prove your book is unique and salable.
  2. The model(s) for your book: one or two books, movies, or authors–“It’s The Tipping Point meets The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”
  3. (Optional) A narrative nonfiction book, such as a memoir, requires two or three sentences about the time, setting, and the story.
  4. The most important thing about your platform: what you are doing to give yourself continuing visibility on the subject, online or off, with potential book buyers, and if the number is impressive, how many of them, and where. Wrong: “I give talks.” Right: “I give X talks a year to Y people in major markets.”
  5. The most effective one-to-three things you will do to promote your book, online or off, and if the number is impressive and appropriate, how many of them. Your promotion plan must be a believable extension of your platform.
  6. The length of your proposal.
  7. (Optional) The length of your manuscript, if it’s ready to submit.
  8.  (Optional) The names of people who will provide a foreword and cover quotes, if            they’re impressive.
  9. (Optional) Mention if you’re proposing a series.
  10. (Optional) Information about a self-published edition that will help sell it.
  11. Your most impressive credentials: your track record; experience in your field; years of research; prizes; contests; awards.
  12. (Optional) Anything else that will impress agents or editors.

            Like the parts of your proposal, these elements are the building blocks of your pitch. Arrange them in whatever order will give them the most impact. How to Write a Book Proposal discusses platform and promotion.


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