Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pitching a Publisher ... Turn-Offs & Tips

I just sent out a dozen "redirection" emails. I don't send rejection letters, I honor any writer with the guts and dedication to get a book written and who has the foresight and ambition to fill a need with their expertise. So, here are some of my thoughts... I hope they help you land your dream publishing contract.

Turn-Off:  If you use "Dear Sir or Madam" it could mean you are being polite, but what I interpret when I see this is the writer did not do their research. It also appears they are copying and pasting the same email to numerous agents and/or publishers.
TIP: Learn about the publisher you are pitching. Your cover letter (or email) should be customized specifically to them, and should include why you chose to pitch to them. How did you find them? What is your connection with the publishing company, their titles, the publisher, their location? If you can find a name, use it. If you can find a commonality, by all means share it.

Turn-Off: Sending a description of the book, and that's all. If I don't immediately see more about the author, their platform, why they wrote the book, and most importantly, how they plan to promote it, then I seldom read the whole email.
TIP: Show your platform! These days all it takes is time, energy, and dedication to build an amazing portfolio of work, experiences, and running commentary online.

Turn-Off: Including any of the following: "I know it will sell millions." "I expect a handsome advance." "I want to know what marketing you provide." "I expect a response from you by ____ date."
TIP: Instead, share items such as: Why you want to publish your book. Why people will want to buy it. And why the media will be interested in hearing about it.

Turn-Off: Any generic marketing references such as: "I will market to women's magazines and talkshows appealing to women" or empty ideas about getting on Oprah.
TIP: Fully research which editors in magazines/newspapers/columns you can reach and share sample pitches. Know which shows are in need of your topic and your unique perspective, and know how to get on them. How to get on Oprah: Go to "Be on the show" and find queries which would fit your story, your experience, your passion - and send a smart, concise, entertaining pitch that doesn't include any self promotion. Get on Bonnie Hunt. Get on Ellen. Get on Dr. Phil. Get on Dr. Oz.

Turn-Off: Leaving a long voicemail instructing me to call to learn more about a writer and their book.
TIP: My phone does not stop ringing until I turn it off and let the calls go to voicemail. If you're calling it had better be something urgent and newsworthy. Email is best, it can be printed and saved for later review.

How do you find a publisher to pitch? Research publishers that are reaching your market, ones that release titles and topics aligned with yours.

Tools to find a publisher:
1. Writer's Market - check out the newest edition from the library to find the publishers reaching your market.
2. PublishersMarketplace.com sign-up for the free email or pay for full access, valuable tool for researching a topic and its potential.
3. Search Amazon for your category. Check out a publisher on salesrankexpress.com, watch a title in your market on titlez.com.
4. Google alert best-selling competitor titles and author names and watch the marketing efforts of a publisher and their authors.
5. Read acknowledgements in other books reaching your market to find agents, editors, and publishers.

Items I always suggest writers include in your proposal/publishing plan along with a short, powerful description of the book:

1. Your platform - Do you have a website? Blog? Online media kit? Links to articles you have published/syndicated online?
2. Your competition/colleagues - What books are selling well on your topic? Do you network with other authors/speakers in your field/topic? What conferences/events are happening in this field?
3. Your publicity plan - How will you get publicity for your book, will you approach magazines, which ones? With what - an excerpt, an article, an interview, a book review? What websites/podcasts/internet radio shows will you pitch, and again, what exactly will you pitch to them? How will you provide something valuable for their readers/listeners?  What newspapers would be interested in doing a piece on you, the book, the topic? How will you reach them - do you know which editors address your topic?
4. Are you media-savvy? Include a list of interview questions and speaking points. Get video of yourself on your blog so publishers and media know you're good on camera.
5. Reviews - Who has read the book? What were their responses? Who do you have lined up to provide endorsements for the back cover? What celebrities/high-profile authors do you have on your "wish list" to endorse you?

Hope this helps. Good luck!