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7 Tips: Selling Your Story September 15, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in People, Word Play, Writing & Writers.

150px-Carlo_Crivelli_052You’ve written an amazing novel.

You’ve edited it with care, making sure to dot all the “i’s” and cross all the “t’s.”

You’ve had Beta Readers read through your words with a critical eye, while exclaiming every few pages . . .

“This book is AWESOME!”

Now, you’re ready to take it to the next step.

It’s time to Sell Your Story!

For an excellent post on giving the Perfect Pitch to an agent at a Writing Conference (with a plethora of links to other advice givers on both sides of the publishing fence):  Perfect Pitch (Write Up My Life).

Now, here’s my two cents worth to add into the mix.

As a trial attorney, I gave a “pitch” every time I gave a closing argument, ending with a career batting average of .875 (+/-) after 13 years of litigation.  I won far more cases than I lost.  I won cases that judges insisted I should have lost.


Easy.  Juries liked me.  They believed me.  They listened to me.

At the end of each case, I sold the jurors “My Story” by convincing them to accept my version of the facts as “the truth.”  At that point, the only plausible verdict for them to reach became the one most favorable to my clients.

Here’s Seven Tips to help you Sell Your Story:

1.  Excise “I” from your pitch vocabulary.  Do NOT preface sentences by saying “I think” or “I believe” or “I feel” . . .

“It is raining” is ALWAYS a more persuasive statement than “I think it is raining.”

2.  Be confident.  Demonstrate to your audience (agent, publisher, fan, or reader) that your view of the facts is the most plausible view of the facts by putting them in the driver’s seat while YOU steer the car.

When you read the first chapter of my book, you will see . . . “

3.  Anticipate objections and opposing arguments.   The best defense is ALWAYS a good offense.

“This is NOT just a romp in the woods with a bunch of vampires . . . “

4.  Don’t exaggerate or oversell the facts.  Don’t try to convince agents and publishers that your story is THE next Great American Novel, unless you want them laughing at your naiveté.  Instead, use FACTS, not subjective OPINION, to sell your story:

“In terms of general marketability, my story will appeal to several popular genres, including . . . “

5.  Be yourself.  Be relaxed.  Be sincere.  Tell the truth.  If the agent or publisher doesn’t like you, or if they feel you’re being insincere, it will be much easier for them to say, “No, Thanks.”

6.  Use Visual Aids.  Create a one page outline of  the main talking points of your pitch to leave with them.  If you have a cover design in mind, bring it.  If you know what your character looks like, try to create that image on paper to share during the pitch.

“As you can see . . . “

Donald-Duck-Baseball7.  Use Creative Visualization to walk through the meeting, step by step, in advance.  Watch yourself shaking hands with confidence.  Hear yourself presenting the story-line flawlessly.  See the agent/publisher’s favorable reaction to your Perfect Pitch.  Envision the BEST case scenario:

“Your novel sounds intriguingHow soon can you provide me with the first three chapters for review?”

Now, go hit one out of the park!

Related post:  Adventures at the Literary Festival * 10 Fail Proof Strategies For Great Author Presentations (Global Mysteries)



1. Amy MacLeod - September 15, 2010

Nancy, great guidelines. They are so relevant. Yet having to go through this as a Creative (forget the business woman side – I can handle selling other products with objectivity) seems like mixing honey with turpentine. Thank goodness for agents.

nrhatch - September 15, 2010

Most writers need to pitch a story or two before they find an agent that’s interested.

souldipper - September 15, 2010

There you go, Nancy – perfect demonstration of how much I know. My last Writer’s Market was one given to me by my Mom in 1978 and I only used it a few times – for market references. I only keep it for sentimental reasons obviously.

You know, I sometimes ask myself why I’m spending time reading blogs (albeit good ones) about poetry and cooking when I am not looking for success in either category. I have no clue what kind of poet I am when I do pump one out. Cooking? It’s more a necessity than a joy for me. However, I watch your diverse and welcome subjects and remember that none of us like a steady diet in either field.

Thanks for being you and for all you share, Nancy. Blog buddy. 🙂

nrhatch - September 15, 2010

Wow! Just got back from a bike ride and found this lovely comment. Thanks, Amy

I bought the 2010 Writer’s Market . . . the previous one I purchased (still on my shelf) is the 1994 Edition!

I love cooking blogs because I love to eat. Food is one of my favorite things in the world. I probably steer away from pure poetry blogs, but I love a well-seasoned poem now and then.

Variety is the Spice of Life!

2. Agatha82 - September 15, 2010

Fantastic advice Nancy. Thank you for taking the time to write about it. Will definitely keep all this in mind for the future 🙂

nrhatch - September 15, 2010

Even during the query stage, some of the tips here and on Julie’s post might come in handy as a reminder to avoid saying:

“I believe that my book will sell more books than all previously published pieces of literature combined. I think I am the best writer on the face of the planet and I feel my story is certain to be a classic.” 8)

Agatha82 - September 16, 2010

What’s amazing is that there are people out there who have actually said things like that on their query. The wrong kind of “confidence” 😉

nrhatch - September 16, 2010

I read a query once that made me cringe with the egoism (and condescension) shining through from author to potential publisher:

If you don’t . . .
You will regret . . .
This is your only chance . . .
Now or never . . .

ACK! No thanks!!!

3. tsuchigari - September 15, 2010

With all this talk about pitching and querying does this mean that you have a book that’s ready to go? Great advice, I better bookmark it for when I get to that stage!

nrhatch - September 15, 2010

No, this has more to do with Julie getting ready for her conference than me getting ready to do my own pitch.

I read her post, left a short comment along these lines, and decided that the parallels between publishing and litigation would be a good stand alone post to round out the day.

4. Julie - September 15, 2010


Thanks again for all the great advice and for the shout-out to my post. I am hard at work today getting ready, and I truly appreciate the substance you put into your response!

nrhatch - September 15, 2010

You did ALL the hard work . . . pulling together all those links to great resources.

As I said, I’ve been planning to do something like this for some time. After reading your post this morning, I knew the time was NOW.


5. mizzezmellymel - September 15, 2010

Thanks for posting this. Great advice!

nrhatch - September 15, 2010

Thanks, Mel!

Probably the same advice would apply to a job interview where you’re selling yourself, instead of your story.

“ABC = Always Be Closing”

6. Linda - September 16, 2010

that is very interesting!

nrhatch - September 16, 2010

You’d get the visual aids part down perfectly with all your lovely photographs, Linda.

Especially if you decided to put together a coffee table book of your photos.

7. Naomi - September 16, 2010

Great post, thank you Nancy! Extremely pertinent to me and my novel 🙂 Love that you reinforced the idea of visual aids and creative visualization. I’m tweaking the pitch for now, while my talented stepson designs the cover. In the meantime, I’ll hop over to Julie’s blog to take in her advice!

nrhatch - September 16, 2010

Excellent. Julie’s blog is definitely worth a visit. And she has all sorts of link ups on her Perfect Pitch post.

Exciting that you’re at that stage! Good luck with the novel and graphics.

8. Grannymar - June 20, 2013

That sounds like great advice, Nancy. Mind you, I would need to eat a dozen dictionaries for breakfast, every day for a year to come anywhere near producing a book. I suppose it could be 100 ‘wurd’ stories! 😆

nrhatch - June 20, 2013

That’s a GREAT idea for a book! People have short attention spans and don’t always have the time or energy to digest tomes. Writing a series of 100 word stories might be just the thing! 😀

Grannymar - June 20, 2013

Come on, I was teasing! 😆

nrhatch - June 20, 2013

I know you were . . . but it’s still a great idea. Especially if you use Zebras to help market it! 😉

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