No book gets sold unless someone thinks it will sell. That first “someone” is your publishing house. That second “someone” is the chain buyer who places an order for your book. If you want to sell a book without writing the whole thing first, you need to help your publisher, and ultimately the buyers in the bookstore chain, understand why you, and your book, are worth purchasing.

Once you convince them, it becomes their job to convince the rest of the world you and your book are worth a reader’s money and time. The first step in the convincing process is to produce a detailed pitch that frames and sets your book in the table of the universe.

Then you create a detailed outline of precisely what you plan to include in your book — and be sure you can stick to that outline because it will become part of your contract to write the book. Finally, you write a sample chapter to show your writing style and your ability to make clear the purpose of your book in the world.

Once you have done those three things your Agent will submit those tablets of conviction to publishers for feedback, negotiation and — you hope holding thumbs — purchase. If, however, you are doing a non-conventional book that includes lots of illustrations as a large part of your book’s being — like an American Sign Language book — an interested publisher will likely want to blend text and illustrations into a sample pitch for the chain buyers so they can better visualize how the book will look and feel. Book people tend to be text people and artwork helps seal the deal.

The inspiration for our Hand Jive book can be found here and our super-fantabulous editor Ruth at Barnes & Noble Publishing gave us permission to share with you the successful two page pitch for Hand Jive and it has been added to our Official Hardcore ASL Hand Jive website for the book. When you download and read the book pitch in .PDF form, you will see how quickly the idea of the book is made clear and how keenly everything comes together to speak with a single purpose.

Our illustrator is, as you will see, fantastic! The text is ours; the Lorem Ipsum is not. The page design is by Barnes & Noble Publishing. All those separate talents must all converge and explode in one place to make a book happen. It is hard work. It takes lots of communication and compromise but everyone’s goal is to create the best possible book. The process takes time.

We started talking about the idea of the book with Barnes & Noble Publishing in December 2004 and the two page pitch was created in March 2005 and the book is just now getting ready to head off to the printer in a few more months. The two page pitch for our book found great success with the buyers and we made a fine deal with Barnes & Noble Publishing to write Hand Jive: American Sign Language for Real Life.

The greatest kick of the pitch will happen when the book is published in the Fall of 2006. The illustrations have already changed a bit. They layout is a little different. The text is made even better through revision and editing! It will be a fine lesson in book pitching and publishing to peer back on what look sold the book and how the book looks being sold.

23 Comments

  1. Very informative David, thank you. I’ve always wanted to write a book and someday I will actually DO it. Actually I sent a book out to a publisher in middle school I think (I refuse to say what it was about) and of course it was returned with no comments.
    If last night had gone differently I could maybe have written a book on that 😆

  2. Hi Robin!
    Writing is a job and a chore. It can be fun, but to do it full time, you have to find ways to make it NOT fun or you would never sit down to write because fun is fleeting and exhausting while writing — when done right — kills little pieces of you as part of the process.
    Here’s my article on the “Secret to Good Writing” in case you, or someone else reading this, missed it the first time:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2005/07/11/secret-to-good-writing/

  3. Makes sense. I know if I really put my mind to it I could put together a great story. Problem is I’m impatient and after a while I get frustrated the story isn’t going as well as I wanted it to. I have a laptop now and I really need to make use of it to keep trying.
    I will check out that link.

  4. You make it sound so easy! There can be vicious demons in one’s head that eat away at anything you want to create. Where they violently rend at the core of any self-confidence. One can create piles and mountains of obstacles to keep you from that one singular goal.
    It’s a form of hell.

  5. Speaking of sitting down and writing it out, I signed up for the National Novel Writing Month contest — 50,000 words from November 1st-30th. I don’t know how coherent I’ll be by the end of the month… hell, even after the first week, but I’m giving it a shot!
    My ass will definitely be on the chair. 😯

  6. Beltane —
    I don’t think I make it sound easy at all. You have to fight your demons by sitting down and writing through them so they cannot overcome your purpose to create something where nothing existed before. It is hard and dirty work.