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Have you made this rookie mistake when pitching to a publisher?

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Back in my journalism days, I got regular phone calls from folks pitching story ideas (bless them). There was only one kind of pitch I would NOT listen to. It went like this:

“I saw your story last week on [blank]. I have a great story about [blank]. Would you be interested?”

So, here is my answer, which is also my penultimate tip in my series about how to win a publishing deal.

Tip #9: Don’t pitch a book about something they recently published.

If your target publisher recently published a book about managing global teams, don’t pitch them a book about managing global teams.

If they recently published a book about river fishing, don’t pitch them a book about river fishing.

Why? If they take on two books with the same topic — each will cannibalise the other’s sales.

Even if they specialise in books about fishing, make sure you book has a fresh angle on fishing. Something new and different.

Rule of thumb: About every two years, a publisher will consider an idea on the same or a similar theme.

1 caveat: You can go to a competing publisher with your team-work book. You might point out that the other publisher is doing well with their team-work book, and yours is even better.

1 problem: Publishers will also reject your book if they have one like yours in their “pipeline” — books they are planning to publish but have not yet hit the shelves. And you can’t know that.

An OPPORTUNITY: Take advantage of the fact that publishers want a new book on a popular theme every couple of years. Put a note in your diary when your target publisher bought out a book on your theme — culture, wellbeing, fishing — and contact them in 18 months with your pitch. Write: “I note that it’s coming up to 24 months since you published that excellent book, XXX. Enclosed is my pitch for a fabulous follow-up with a new angle on this popular theme.”

Stick to it.


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