Pitch Perfect: Pitch to Publishers

How does a pitch become a published book?

Illustration courtesy of Liz Anelli - the Panel

Illustration courtesy of Liz Anelli - the Panel

The room is filled with the sounds of chattering friends and strangers introducing themselves. Six industry professionals sit on the stage in a line.

I am aware of the eight people sitting in the front row to the right of the stage, papers in hand, not chatting as much as the rest of the room. My heart beats faster for these eight incredible people. Pitching in front of anyone isn’t easy, but pitching in front of more than 200 people takes some serious courage.

Our emcees, Tracey Hawkins and Nicole Godwin, hush the crowd from the stage and introduce the session. This is Pitch Perfect: Pitch to Publishers.

The Rules:

  • Three minutes (exactly) to pitch your work and read an extract

  • Timekeeper waves at 2.5 minutes

  • Timekeeper waves frantically at 3 minutes

  • Each industry professionals provides feedback on the pitch

The Judging Panel:

Things kick off with a success story from the last SCBWI conference pitching session. Super talented Christina Booth tells us the tale of a manuscript from her bottom drawer that had yet to find a home. When the last SCBWI pitching opportunity arose, she knew it was time to resurrect The Tiger’s Tale.

With some polish and extensive research on how to pitch a book to a panel, Christina pitched what would become One Careless Night, a stunning and haunting tale about the last thylacine.

After we are all wowed by Christina’s experience (and are all secretly searching on our phones to find out when we’ll be able to get her amazing book — it comes out June 2019 by the way), Tracey Hawkins calls, ‘and we’re off and running’, and indeed we are.

Things move really fast. The eight pitchers take the stage, one by one, and entertain us with exciting, thrilling, mysterious, hilarious and heart warming stories.

We hear tales of dragons and mysterious shadows, a family about to star in a reality TV show, a body swapping orangutan, a boy faced with a difficult family situation and very tough times, a courageous girl searching for her lost spark, a historical tale of family, mystery and a girl with some mammoth challenges to overcome, siblings tackling life with a sick mum and a life of hard work in a factory, and a girl who discovers a rhino washed upon a beach.

There’s a mix of middle grade, young adult and a picture book, and each is different and striking and moving. I laugh and giggle and smile and breathe deep and cry just a little as I listen to beautiful writing and wonderful stories I can’t wait to read in full.

After each pitch, the judging panel gets their chance to comment. We hear: ‘love your writing’, ‘great storytelling’, ‘so much fun’, ‘started with a bang’, ‘timely and hilarious’, ‘I’d like to read more’, ‘you’re really owning this’ and ‘the voice was beautiful’.

Through it all, there are snippets of advice that stick out in the feedback:

  • Make sure the set up for your story isn’t too complicated

  • Give thought to the age of the protagonist and make sure they are the right age for the target market

  • Know where your book sits in the market

  • Balance your descriptions

  • Read from chapter one when pitching so judges get to hear the introduction of characters and the set up of the story

  • You can never have too much nose picking and bum scratching!

Cate Whittle, Dee White, Heather Gallagher, Jo Burnell, Grace Bryant, Sheryl Gwyther, Cristy Burne and Neridah McMullin, you are all masters of words. Thank you for sharing your stories with the entire SCBWI community. Your bravery and talents are gargantuan and we all applaud you!

Shaye Wardrop