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Preparing your book to be sold

In my previous articles, I’ve described how I got a book deal off the back of a blog and explained why I decided to take on an agent. Now I’m going to throw out my ideas about making the first pitch to either a publisher or an agent. This is not in any sense to suggest that I have the answers (I definitely haven’t) but if it helps give anyone inspiration or structure when approaching this task then all to the good.

For my part, as well as the initial chunk of content (around 20,000 words), I also put together quite a sizeable summary of the book I was pitching. In order to do this, you need to have a very clear idea of what you’re writing and who is your intended audience. Once you’ve figured that out, I’d start with a half to one page summary of the project as a whole. This is your main pitch and needs to grab the reader from the start. Summarise what the book’s about, who it’s for and what makes it different. Above all, remember that you’re selling, not baring your soul. Next, I’d have a few sections giving more detail. Perhaps start with the plot and a clear description of the so-called ‘narrative arc’. I remember my own agent Euan Thorneycroft emphasising this and my anticipating his look of satisfaction when I mentioned it at the sale meeting with Bloomsbury (along the lines of “well, of course, the narrative arc is…”).

After this, give a quick summary of some of the main characters and again consider the arc which each one takes as they progress through the book. You might then want to write a section on the intended market and here you might give examples of books which might be similar in genre to your own. I’d also suggest having a section giving your own history and experience with particular reference to how this influences your writing. Finally, I’d pick out some choice extracts from your writing to help introduce the reader to your work. After that, get a good friend to give it the once over before taking a deep breath and sending it off!

Tim Kevan is the author of ‘Law and Disorder’ and ‘Law and Peace’ which are published by Bloomsbury.

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