Want to grab the attention of a literary agent and ensure they won’t forget your work? Experienced author, editor and journalist Keiron Pim offers his top five tips for pitching to an agent below.
Structure is key
Structure your proposal so that each section – primarily the opening pitch, the chapter plan and the extract – whets the agent’s appetite leaving them keen to know more.
Cut straight to the core
What is the essence of the story you’re telling? Can you get it down to an ‘elevator pitch’, one memorable sentence that will catch an agent’s attention – and that they can then use when discussing the idea with publishing contacts?
Give similar examples
Why is your book idea commercially viable? Give examples of similar recent books that have been successful. Remember that you are selling a commercial proposition as well as a work of literature.
Keep it positive!
Keep your tone positive. My agent mentions that it can be off-putting to detect a resentment towards the publishing industry deriving from previous rejections. Don’t hint that you’ve had a bad experience.
Do your research
Approach the right agent. Via the internet or the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, research thoroughly to find one who is interested in your kind of writing. When making your approach, let them know that you’ve put some thought into choosing to pitch to them – for instance, by mentioning that your work is similar to that of another author they already represent.
Keiron Pim is an author, tutor and editor. During his 13 years at the Eastern Daily Press he was named Feature Writer of the Year at the national Regional Press Awards and the local East of England Media Awards. Since leaving the EDP in 2013 he has had two books published by Penguin Random House. His book, Jumpin’ Jack Flash: David Litvinoff and the Rock’n’Roll Underworld (Jonathan Cape), was hailed as ‘the best debut’ biography of 2016 by Kathryn Hughes in her end-of-year round-up in The Guardian and as a Book of the Year by The Times. Keiron’s most recent publication is Endless Flight: the Life of Joseph Roth, the first English-language biography of the great early 20th-century Austrian novelist and journalist, released by Granta Books in October 2022. Previously he edited and introduced Into the Light: the Medieval Hebrew Poetry of Meir of Norwich (East Publishing, 2013), collaborating with the National Centre for Writing to publish this significant poet’s complete works in translation for the first time. He now teaches on the University of East Anglia’s MA in Biography and Creative Non-Fiction. He is married with three daughters and lives in Norwich.
Keiron is also an NCW Academy online course tutor. We have courses in fiction, crime, memoir, historical fiction, romantic fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry. Find out more →
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