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Part skills lesson, part confession, part peptalk: this is my brand new radio interview on Your Book is Your Hook radio program, hosted by Jennifer Wilkov.  You'll recognize her as an expert-in-resident here at Pitch U!
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« EXPERT PITCH CLASS with JENNIFER WILKOV: Day 2 – Why Pitching Is Like “Romancing the Stone | Main | Pitch University Best Comment Award – February, 2011 »

EXPERT PITCH CLASS with JENNIFER WILKOV: Day 1 - The Poop in Your Pitch (How to Clean It Up)

Jennifer Wilkov By Jennifer S. Wilkov, “Your Book Is Your Hook!”
Radio Show Host | Book Consultant | Literary Agent Matchmaker™ | Bestselling Author

Twitter: @urbookisurhook
Twitter2: @litmatchmaker


You have to start somewhere, so the saying goes.

When pitching your project to the publishing world, there’s no difference: you have to start somewhere and do the best you can. That said, oftentimes one’s first efforts tend to require much patience and a bunch of tweaking.

Pitching is akin to performing. When one auditions as an actor for the very first time, some step right up with an instinct for it and others, well, need more information, guidance, direction and practice.

dog_cleans_up_his_own_poopToo often pitches prepared by authors are not compelling. Agents rub their hands together in anticipation of finding one or two gems amidst their batches of 100 queries or so that they read at a time. That’s a pretty high percentage of projects that find their place not on track to get published but rather amidst the rest of the pitches that pooped out.

It’s easy to clean up the “poop” factor in your pitches. Here are some important considerations when evaluating and cleaning up yours:

1) Be concise.

If you read a query letter that is lengthy, wordy and that’s not engaging you in a story you can follow, would you really bet your income on it? Most agents won’t.

ConciseQuery letters that succeed are often comprised succinctly – an art and craft in itself. What you submit must be successful by design: concise yet complete.

Admittedly, for many authors, it’s much easier to write a 300-page novel or a 200-page nonfiction book than it is to put together a one-page query letter.

The challenge facing most writers is: don’t poop on the agents. Long-winded, windy query letters that are not focused on the story and project you have are not worth the time you’re asking an agent to spend on making your dream of getting published a reality.

Harsh…maybe. Honest…absolutely.

2) Be confident.

I ask you to consider the following and walk a mile in an agent’s shoes: if one person pitched you their project, business or concept and they waffled about whether it was any good and the second person pitched you theirs with passion, pride and joy, which person would you want to work with?

Too often, I hear of writers waiting for agents and others in the industry to tell them whether what they have written is any good. I’m not suggesting that you be pompous about what you’ve written or overtly confident; however, I’m also not inclined to work with those who don’t exude a sense of pride and joy about the work they’re putting forth.

Confidence I have met writers who have captivated me because of their story and the desire they have to tell it. What makes their approach compelling is this inherent appetite for success, their willingness to listen and the knowing that they’re going to make it. For them, it’s simply a matter of time because they’re willing to adjust, correct and submit their best work. However, there’s no question in their minds that their story is worth telling.

Remember: Confidence is contagious. It’s catchy like the wave in the football stadium stands: your agent will stand up and cheer and pass on his or her enthusiasm to a publisher…but the spark begins with you. You must stand up and cheer for your work and book first before the rest of the fans will follow.

One more item to note: Lack of confidence is contagious too, especially when it comes to your book.

3) Be clear.

When your query letter includes references to characters, situations and circumstances that require an agent to read your entire book first in order to understand the plot, you’re likely to be rejected because the storyline itself isn’t clear.

When your nonfiction query is all about you and not about the story you have tell or the premise of the book, pontificating about yourself is not what’s going to sell your story. The clarity of the book’s purpose will.

chaos order Clarity is captured in the clever way you entice an agent’s interest in wanting to know more about your project. Step them into the world you’ve created for your book. Don’t dump them into the deep end of it without first gently dipping their toe into the overview of the story.

During the next week, we will step through the process of cleaning up the poop in your pitch, help you craft some terrific hooks for your book and clarify your approach to making a confident, concise pitch.

Several ingredients are required for making a great pitch and throughout this week’s activities and exercises, you will become much more aware of what these are and how to develop this essential skill set.

I look forward to working with you this week.

If you’d like to listen to one literary agent’s opinion about the perfect pitch, CLICK HERE for access to interviews I’ve done with Katharine Sands of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, and the agent provocateur of Making The Perfect Pitch: How to Catch A Literary Agent’s Eye on my popular radio show, “Your Book Is Your Hook!”


Jennifer S. Wilkov: Jennifer S. Wilkov is a best-selling, award-winning author, an award-winning freelance writer, a speaker and trainer, and a Literary Agent Matchmaker™ who focuses on supporting writers with the essentials to become a bestseller: a great project, a strong platform and a well-polished pitch, presentation and hook for their book.


She is also a recognized media spokesperson for Project Night Night, a non-profit organization that delivers Night Night packages to homeless children in shelters across the nation which include a children's book, a stuffed animal and a blanket, and Heifer International's Read to Feed Program which helps children in schools to understand that they can make a difference for others by reading.


Your Book Is Your Hook! is her full service consulting practice that serves authors, writers and wannabes as well as the entire book publishing industry with its endeavors. Best known for its popular weekly radio show, robust resource blog, trainings and advice including the new uniquely positioned service as a Literary Agent Matchmaker™.


Through the popular radio show named after her practice, "Your Book Is Your Hook!", which can be heard every Tuesday morning at 9:00am on and the accompanying show blog at, Jennifer S. Wilkov brings her experience and knowledge of the book business and the people in it as well as her understanding of the author’s experience from conceiving the idea to getting it published to her loyal listeners each week.

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Reader Comments (6)

Yet another test

March 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScott Holmes


March 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScott

Hi Jennifer,

Thank god you're here! I need you! I'm totally pitch challenged. Are you going to be using examples? If so, do you need one? :D I've got a doozy you can use. <- Hey, a girl can dream, right? Just know, I'll be taking notes - listening intently and crying quietly. ;)
I'm looking forward to this one. Thanks for doing this!


March 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMargeanne Mitchell

Some really great tips here! I am looking forward to the rest of the week. Thanks for being here!

March 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrenda Thompson

Thanks for posting this article. It makes total sense, and when I read it I find myself nodding along in agreement. That's when I get in trouble. Here's what I mean- Intellectually, I know that a confident writer who thinks they write well is far more appealing than an indecisive one. That being said, we are also trained from very tiny things that we shouldn't brag or be boastful. Breaking that conditioning and finding the almost indelible line not to cross is difficult at best.

Not only do we struggle to create our novels, we now have to struggle to re-create ourselves away from acceptable norms of behavior. Modesty is valued, bragging is not. Being unsure of your ability is not valued, but confidence and pride is. Aagghh.
Like I said, intellectually I know the difference. Finding that proper space between the two while selling your novel is hard.

I also enjoyed the interviews!

March 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStacey Purcell

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A laboratory explosion subjects eight DNA scientists to a maelstrom that changes them forever.
Over a period if time, they discover they are not aging. They decide to leave Earth as their change
is transferable by blood transfusion. With the US and Mexican government's concurrence, they build their space ship and leave for 55 Cancri only to find they are not the first. FIRST CONTACT takes the reader on a plausible trip into a vivid
experience into an adventure most only dream about. I would be pleased to send you a copy of FIRST CONTACT.
Ken Ingle

March 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKenneth E. Ingle

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