The Pitch Line and Why Every Writer Needs One
Here at TEC, we receive calls from potential clients who are new to the writing process. The usual questions are about our services and rates, and about the work we do. In explaining what we do, we naturally ask the caller about their projects. Since we only work on nonfiction content, this is important for us to know. We have noted with some curiosity a rather alarming response to our key questions: What's your book about? What is the subject matter? The answer that we are hearing a bit too frequently is "I don't know."
If you are writing a book and someone asks you what your book is about, “I don’t know” is not the response you want to offer. If you want to be published or work with an editor, or even enroll in a writing course (which we strongly advise), you have to know how to sell your book at every stage of your writing and publishing journey.
When someone asks you what your book project is about, have your “sound bite” ready. Take the time to craft this response so it is strong, enticing, informative, and filled with the passion you are investing in the process.
Enter the pitch line.
The Pitch Line Is “The Hook”
The pitch line is also known as the “hook,” and it’s basically one or two sentences that tell someone what your book is about. This is the line that “sells” your book—whether you are calling for information about editing services or sending a query to a publisher.
In fiction work, the pitch line outlines or reveals the overarching plot line, but for nonfiction books, the process of crafting a pitch line can be a little harder.
The easiest way to create your pitch line is to boil down your main idea and write it for your target audience. Are you offering a solution to a problem? Try introducing the problem: describe it in energetic detail and describe how your book can help the reader solve it. If you are writing an exciting history or a dramatic retelling of an event, use those details to draw the reader in.
Here are some examples pulled from Amazon:
Nikola Tesla: Imagination and the Man That Invented the 20th Century, by Sean Patrick
If you want to learn about one of history’s most fascinating minds and uncover some of his secrets of imagination—secrets that enabled him to invent machines light years ahead of his time and literally bring light to the world—then you want to read this book.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg
At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.
Inspiralized: Turn Vegetables into Healthy, Creative, Satisfying Meals, by Ali Maffucci
The definitive cookbook for using a spiralizer: the kitchen gadget that turns vegetables and fruits into imaginative, low-carb dishes.*
What These 3 Pitches Are Telling You
The most important thing to remember about writing your pitch line is to include an implicit benefit for your audience, your reader.
In the first example, the reader is tempted by the thought of becoming privy to Nikola Tesla’s “secrets of imagination.” Presumably, the reader could then use these to enhance their own life.
In the second example, the benefits are easy to see: this book invites the reader to change their entire life by reading the book and understanding the power of habits.
In the third example, there are two benefits to the reader: they are buying the “definitive” cookbook on this subject, and they can create “imaginative” recipes by using the most recent kitchen gadget: the spiralizer. This is a sell of both a cookbook and a cooking utensil that reduces the reader’s scepticism about using a spiralizer.
How Does Your Book Benefit Your Reader?
Can’t think of a benefit right off the bat? Imagine your audience reading your book. Now jot down some answers to these questions:
What will your book help your reader do?
Will your reader become a better cook?
Will it boost your reader’s self-confidence?
Will your reader be inspired by a transformative story?
Will it teach your reader how to save money, or how to plan a successful career?
Remember, too, that your pitch line may change as you shape and develop your book. The process of constantly refining your storyline keeps your writing on track while keeping your audience in view. Two benefits to you of having a strong pitch line.
Do this and the next time you contact an editor, a publisher, or a writing coach, you will answer with confidence the inevitable question that will come your way: “So, what’s your book about?”
For more tips on writing pitch lines, check out these great resources:
* For those who don’t know, a spiralizer is a kitchen tool that cuts various vegetables (or even fruits) into long, noodle-like strands.