Letters from the Editor: Writing the Pitch into the Pitch 

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The editors at the University of Toronto Press carry with them a wealth of information and insight about various aspects of writing, editing, and book publishing. Our new Letters from the Editor series is your chance to hear from them directly! This first post about writing book proposals is by Rebecca Duce, one of our Acquisition Editors.

Sales and marketing teams rely on various materials to effectively promote books. Key book information generally derives from internal presentations and other press documents traced back to early conversations during the book’s inception. Often there is one common source: the proposal. For that reason, and based on my own sales experience, I am writing this blog post to remind authors, both new and experienced, that sincere attention to a book’s primary market is an appealing, deal-sealing element of an exceptional proposal. 

Want to get the attention of an editor? Consider how sales, specifically market knowledge, can accelerate the viewing, approval, and success of a project. It may seem obvious to some, given how marketing departments specialize in delivering a book to its market(s). Yet, so often, a proposal focuses solely on content without considering the role of sales and marketing teams who curate promotional activities to connect the book to its core audiences and beyond. 

Experiencing a writing block with your proposal? Want to enhance your pitch? Try revisiting the core market(s). Devote a paragraph to selling features by addressing some of the points below. 

  • Describe your audience/readers. 
    • Who are they? Instructors, students, and general readers each have specific reading goals. How will your book project appeal to one or all? 
    • Be candid about the audience and its size. Publishers value directness. Secondary and tertiary markets are buzzwords typically offered with little evidence. A unique monograph written for a specific graduate course market is valuable precisely because it provides material that was previously absent. Focus on the project’s uniqueness without inflating or devaluing its market size. 
    • Technically, any book can appeal to a “general audience.” Avoid using this term as a catchall label for an oversimplified market. 
  • Examine the timing. 
    • When is the ideal publication date according to relevant timelines? Consider key events (local and global), common course dates, commemorative occasions, significant anniversaries, forthcoming policy changes, etc. 
  • Provide recent, detailed market examples. 
    • From minute course details to specific organizational events, we want to hear about it. 
  • Relate book structure to market needs. 
    • Will the structure of your project mirror or reference market-significant traits? 
    • For example, will the textbook follow a typical course syllabus? Does the ethnographic study follow the stages of a cultural ceremony? 
  • Anticipate future market changes. 
    • How will developments in the field influence the market, or vice versa? 
    • For a scholarly work, consider how the academic market is evolving, the significance of student feedback in course development, digital ancillaries, the longevity of the project, and more. 
  • Acknowledge the press’s current offerings and comparable books. 
    • Recognizing a publisher’s catalogue does more than entice a press. When you compare relevant titles to your project, a press can quickly evaluate how and where a project fits within a known market. 
  • Write an elevator pitch for the book. 
    • Don’t underestimate the power of a punchy conclusion that could function as a one-sentence sales pitch. Imagine how you would describe the book to your peers in under 25 words – this is often the best pitch. 
  • Include your own plans! 
    • How are you planning to interact with your own work? Will you be adopting it in a future class? Will you be promoting it in personal and professional networks? Are you part of a community that will help get the word out about the book?  

If the above list seems overwhelming, try this: recall what drew you to a favourite book or your most recent course materials. How was the book initially presented to you? For this hypothetical example, let’s assume it is a new textbook for an introductory class. There are bound to be a few key traits of this textbook that finally swayed you to adopt it. Categorize those traits and translate them into your own project.  

Ultimately, presenting market knowledge functions in two main ways: 

  1. Editors and committee/board members can be confident that the author knows their audience and is tailoring their project to engage this audience. 
  1. Publishing departments can utilize this market knowledge to enhance outreach strategies and exceed sales targets. 

I encourage all authors to weave sales insights into their proposal and within the early development of their manuscript. Rethink your wind-up: write a pitch into your pitch. 


Subscribe to our newsletter to find out about new and forthcoming releases in your field, books for courses, and special discounts and promotions.

Featured Posts