Pitching a project: What makes your book unique?

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

ICRS was a success! As Rachelle shared, each of us presented our clients’ projects to editors while we were there. It was so insightful for me to listen to Janet, Mary, Wendy and Rachelle give their presentations because they are all more practiced at presenting in person. I learned a lot, and I’m looking forward to putting my new presentation ideas into practice next time.

One thing I noticed in the way that the others were pitching, is that the most effective pitches were the ones that started out with the unique aspect of the project. When the unique part of the project wasn’t highlighted first, the editors ended up asking questions about what made the project so wonderful. But when we started with the most interesting tidbit first, the editors were typically captivated from the beginning.

Unique positioning can include who the author is–perhaps the author has a significant following or platform. Mary was pitching a book with an author who had dozens of speaking engagements each year. Wendy was pitching a project by the daughter of a famous man.

Or the unique positioning can be the book’s setting. I was pitching a novel that is set on Prince Edward Island–you mention PEI, and everyone is ready to take a vacation to see the red roads and the beautiful seascapes.

The topic of the book can also be the unique selling point. Janet had a “heaven” book she was pitching, and heaven is a hot topic these days. But this project wasn’t about a person dying and coming back to earth from heaven. The approach for the book was very different yet tied to a best-selling topic. Rachelle was pitching a project with a timely topic, and her pitch mentioned the statistics supporting how timely the book is.

As authors, you are all going to need to pitch your book–either online or in person–so it’s important to determine what the unique selling proposition is. This is even important for contracted books because people are going to ask you about your published books as well.Β  Take a moment to think about what makes your book unique and please share!

What would you consider to be the unique aspect of your book?

How would you start your pitch to editors or agents so it would be the strongest?


What would you consider to be the unique aspect of your book? Share here. Via @rachellkent Click to tweet.

How to pitch your project effectively. Via lit. agent @RachelLKent. Click to tweet.


Sometimes a beard is all you need. πŸ™‚

46 Responses

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  1. Hi Rachel ~
    Unique aspect of a book kind of throws me. Maybe I’m thinking wrong, (if so, please correct me,) but wouldn’t or shouldn’t that be similar to a tag-line or an elevator pitch?

    I write suspense fiction, so would it be a good idea to somehow incorporate that unique aspect into the elevator pitch when I’m pitching to an agent or editor?

    • Rachel Kent says:

      What makes your suspense different than another author’s? Is there something about you that would show that you have a good platform?

  2. I love this picture so much. It is such a great reminder to work hard, prepare, and then have a little fun with this publishing adventure. After all, if we aren’t enjoying it, why would others want to join us as readers?

    Recently I heard Rob Eagar speak. He stressed that it is the author’s task to share his or her project, brand, and unique offerings. I think that this post reinforces that idea. An author has the responsibility to share activities and ideas for her agent to use in a unique pitch setting.

  3. Norma Horton says:

    In my other life, this was called “competitive point of difference.” If I, as a marketing person, didn’t understand the project’s CPD, then there was no way I could market it so the client made money.

    CPD is where the brand begins, but it’s not the brand itself (to address Amanda’s response). I think understanding the brand is hard for many authors, particularly female ones anchored in the traditions of Christendom. (Heck, I did this for a LIVING and it took me a month to shake my real self free from my author self. NEWBIE MISTAKE!)

    CPD is CRITICAL to propel the brand in a monocultural society rewarding conformity.

    Great post. Thank you!

  4. Jeanne T says:

    Rachel, first of all, I have to know, which of you ladies is a Duck Dynasty fan? I love that picture. πŸ™‚

    Your post is making me evaluate my story. Which is a good thing. I’m not sure exactly what makes it unique.

    As far as pitching it, sometimes I like to start with a question related to the book to get the other person thinking.

    If you have tips for either making a book unique or discovering what makes a story unique, I’d love to hear them. I think I get so in the middle of my story, that I have trouble seeing things like unique-ness. πŸ™‚

    • Rachel Kent says:

      Is there some part of the book that you are an expert on? Does the story connect to your life somehow? Is the setting unique? Are you as a writer unique in some way? There’s something in your book that sets it apart.

      And I’m not sure that any of us watches Duck Dynasty regularly. We just couldn’t resist the beards. I’ve heard great things about the books too! Lots of life application beyond duck hunting.

  5. Jill Kemerer says:

    I want to read the book set in PEI! You sold me! πŸ™‚

    It’s hard for me to see the uniqueness in my work, but I think it’s because I consider myself an average American mom. This would be a good thing to brainstorm with my critique partners. They’re able to see my work through different eyes.

    Thanks, Rachel, for making me think!

    • Judy Gann says:

      These posts about pitching are so valuable to me. Thank you! I’ll be pitching my first novel at ACFW in Sept.

      I’m far more nervous about pitching this novel than I ever was pitching non-fiction. I was probably too ignorant to be nervous. πŸ™‚

      Jill, I love your idea about brainstorming with critique partners. Thank you!

    • Jeanne T says:

      Ahhh, maybe I can brainstorm that with crit partners too. Great idea, Jill.

  6. Lori says:

    Recently, some of the ladies that I exercise with were asking me about my WIP. The group I was talking to all like thrillers and suspense. When one was asking about my ‘terrorist” she was referring to a male and I told her that my “terrorist” is a female and has always been that. The response I got was great since they said in most books that they have read the “terrorist” is a male.

    So I guesss when I pitch my book, I would have to lead with something on the order of that. I was thinking like:

    Anita Bach is a …

  7. lisa says:

    Thanks for sharing the picture! That’s great. That’s really great advice to extract that piece of your work that is unique. I’m not positive of mine… I think it’s the setting, Mercy Fortress a place of refuge on the shore of Lake Michigan. And that ties in to my blogging platform of placing yourself in the proximity of renewal.

  8. There are very few CBA novels with Navajo characters who can read Latin. There are even fewer with warriors who quote Shakespeare and Byron.
    And there is only one that has miracles involving a loaded gun, the bright light of a moonbeam and the arrival of a baby, or two, to weave the broken into the whole.

  9. Thank you, Rachel. This post challenged me.

    My immediate thought was that my story was unique because it is about a Faerie who wants to become a Dragon, and I don’t think that’s been done before. But as I sat with the question, I realized that the book’s true uniqueness–how it is different from other YA fantasies–is that it is consciously based on an Irish folklore tradition rather than a typical American wizards, werewolves and vampires paranormal world. There are a number of magical beings in it that most Americans have never been exposed to, and the ones that sound familiar–Faeries and Banshees–don’t follow the American model. The main character is a Faerie who is human size and doesn’t have wings. When she spends the summer with her aunt in a human town, her aunt puts her in jeans and t-shirts and no one can tell just from looking at her that she’s a Faerie. The Banshee isn’t an old hag, she isn’t predatory and she doesn’t kill people with her scream. She is beautiful, compassionate and kind-hearted and she loves the family she “serves.” Her wail is exclusively to warn the family that someone is in danger of dying. And, in keeping with Irish tradition, she is a Faerie.

    The other unique aspect of the book is that I have woven through it Irish symbolism, so a solitary magpie flies by to warn of danger, cranes foreshadow spiritual growth, and the main character sits under an apple tree and glances at a patch of heather as she has a conversation with a boy she is about to become romantically involved with.

    I hope you have a great weekend.



  10. Sue Harrison says:

    Thank you, Rachel. Book pitching is a new skill-set for me, and, until I read this post, I felt like I was trying to find my destination while walking through fog. I love those AHA! moments!

    The unique aspect of my WIP? It’s a novel that deals with human trafficking – a new twist in the nightmare that impacts so many lives.

  11. Andrea Cox says:

    Rachel, thanks for sharing your experience and observations at ICRS. I’m glad it went well for the Books and Such agents!

    I would open my pitch with this line:

    When Captain Jamison Heathrow’s actions during war inadvertently cause his best friend’s death, will he turn to God for help or rely only on himself to battle the torturous images that plague his mind?

    What makes my book unique is that, even though the main character is a Marine, the genre of the book is contemporary romance.


  12. Sarah Grimm says:

    Mine book is a YA fantasy.

    The hunted Feravolk are counting on a seventeen-year-old, dagger-wielding, storm-detecting orphan to save their race. Maybe they should have thought of that before they killed her family.

    Since there’s so much YA fantasy out there, I was hoping my heroine’s talent (I mean, come on, how is storm detection helpful for defeating anyone?) would be intriguing as well as her predicament to help those who killed her family.

    • Sarah,

      I’m intrigued. I loved the angle about Feravolk counting on the main character as their savior even though they have killed her family. And you are right. How the ability to detect storms help defeat anyone? So I’m hooked. I want to know the answer to that question. Also, the storm-detecting talent caught my attention because my main character (a female like yours)has one main talent: the ability to create thunderstorms at will. So our two main characters should get together sometime and chat.

      Enjoy the weekend!

    • Rachel Kent says:

      I like it!

  13. Jana Hutcheson says:

    What makes my book unique is its genre. It’s a twist on Tuck Everlasting only from a Christian perspective. The MC is a 16 year old cancer survivor afraid her cancer will return. When she discovers that the boy she’s fallen in love with once drank from the Fountain of Youth, she must decide whether to trust God with her future or scoop matters into her own hands. I haven’t seen a lot of Christian YA involving magical realism. Think there’s a potential market????

  14. Patricia Zell says:

    These are the words of a judge in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book contest: “The author has mashalled a commanding array of arguments to explain the nature of God’s absolute love. At the same time she has endeavored, with considerable success, to explain how evil emerged, God’s relationship with evil, and whether He does indeed love all of us. Intelligent interpretations of key biblical passages lay out a coherent and consistent message supporting an enduring faith in God’s love. The chapters, based on expanded blogs, are short and easy to read and digest. The writing is down-to-earth and imbued with personalization that contributes to the book’s force. Among the key issues addressed are warfare, victory, forgiveness, truth, prayer, and repentance. In addition, discussions about original sin and the role of Jesus Christ present deep meanings to consider.” What makes my book unique–I answer questions that have plagued the human race for a long time. And, I do it with “considerable success” using only the Bible, a concordance, and a dictionary.

  15. My fear is that the unique aspects of my book will drive editors and agents away because it dives too much into our country’s reality. I hope that’s not the case, because I love this book (contest judges are starting to say the same thing–yay!), and I feel it’s a perfect fit for the times.

    This is what I’m working with so far for a tagline. Physical love has kept her in luxury. True love will take everything–including her life.

    My heroine is a modern-day kept woman for a professional athlete. It’s set in Chicago on Michigan Avenue. Yes, she’s a rich bad girl when the book opens. Yikes. Anyone still reading this?

    It deals with what’s become very common in today’s church–that people who are being saved as adults are coming into the church with graphic pasts. They’ve been changed, but that past is still there, haunting them. Too often they feel that they can’t talk about it–just to get help!–because they’ll shock others or be looked down upon for abortions or promiscuity or any number of things. Can they ever really be good enough for the people in the church? For the man they’ve fallen in love with who’s done it all right? And quite honestly, for God? Sure He saved them, but can He truly love them? Care for them? Have a relationship with them?

    I strive very hard not to go where the typical CBA reader doesn’t want to go, because I’m that reader too. I don’t want sex scenes, I don’t want the world’s language. I want a good action story with hope, and I do think I’m delivering that. I just hope people I pitch it to feel the same. Thoughts, anyone? Help!

  16. Pitching is a never ending area of growth. Below is a little blurb for my WIP.

    The Lord’s promise to redeem fallen hearts permeates the fog-shrouded hills of Point Reyes, settles on the precipitous cliffs near Lomita Lighthouse, and nudges up against the hungry souls of San Franciscans seeking more than gold to satiate them.

    • Patricia Zell says:

      As a retired high school English teacher, may I make a suggestion. You might want to cut down on the higher level wording. Look at these words and choose the two most important ones for your main thrust: redeem, permeates fog-shrouded, precipitous, nudges, and satiate. Use those two words and express every other idea with more common words or completely eliminate it.

  17. Short & Sweet is Neat!

    My novel isn’t a β€˜dude and his dog’ story . . . oh no!

    It’s 1805 and twelve-year-old Nicholas Horatio Goodlad and his sidekick Vittles (a short upright walking – backwards talking creature) are sailing on a Royal Navy exploration ship when a disaster occurs and sends their ship to the bottom of the deep blue sea. (a.k.a. Davey Jones Locker)

  18. Great thoughts, Rachel. I don’t ever have a problem being unique–in fact, I have to bring myself into a place where I’m a little LESS unique with the stuff I write. There aren’t many CBA peeps who wrote about Vikings (Michelle Griep and I are fast friends, since we both dared to GO THERE!). I honestly don’t want to write something if I can’t bring a unique, out-of-the box twist to it–because that’s the stuff I read that sticks with me longest.

  19. Heather says:

    Thank you for this post! The timing of this topic was perfect for me because I just finished a cluster of contracted projects and I have been struggling to decide which idea to focus on next. One of the ideas I’ve had rattling around in my mind has to do with marriage and your point about how timely the topic is made me realize this might be a great time to get back to working on that idea.

  20. Build a table of contents composed of both headings and subheadings. Annotate briefly so the publisher understands what you intend to cover and how you will approach each topic. Once you start working on the book, the table of contents will change, and the publisher knows that. Just demonstrate that you’ve thought your project through.

  21. Anne Barrett says:

    The most unique aspect of my book about building my eco house with a motley team of amateurs, most of whom were struggling with the English language is the characterisation of the person in the book referred to throughout as my Dad, a warm, opinionated, cantankerous musician and party animal who is a far cry from my real Dad, deceased twenty years ago. My editor Gillian Stern stated that the character of my Dad stayed with her long after she had finished editing the manuscript whose title, The Hemp House, was suggested by a senior editor from a top London publishing house whom I had the good fortune to meet and who read and enjoyed a small sample from an early draft some years ago.