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Development and Pitching 101: Pitching

Photo by Tim Morgan CC BY 2.0

Two years ago, when I was writing Greenlit: Developing Factual/Reality TV Ideas From Concept to Pitch, I had to write a book proposal before I could submit my book to an agent. Knowing nothing about the world of publishing I bought a couple of books on proposal writing and studied them carefully and followed their advice to the letter.

While a TV proposal is no longer than one page (at least in the first instance), a book proposal runs to about 25 pages, plus sample chapters. At first glance, the two types of proposals seem like very different beasts, but as time went on, it became apparent that there are a lot of things we can learn from a book proposal that will help us with pitching TV ideas.

A book proposal contains the following:

  • Title
  • Synopsis of the book
  • A chapter breakdown
  • Technical details, such as number of words / photos / illustrations / delivery date etc.
  • Audience – who are the intended readers and how many of them are there?
  • Marketing – what opportunities are there for the author to promote the book – via websites etc?
  • Author credentials – why this author is the best person to write this book
  • Writing sample – several chapters to show you can write and the style of the book

By the time I’d completed my proposal with all this extremely detailed information – down to exactly which books it would sit between on which shelf in the bookstore – I was convinced that I had a strong proposition and was confident that I was ready to pitch it to an agent.*

One of the most important parts of the TV pitch is the preparation stage and you shouldn’t pitch your idea until you:

  • Have found a killer title
  • Can describe your idea in a single sentence
  • Have a clear narrative structure
  • Know the duration and number of episodes
  • Have a clear vision of how you are going to construct the programme – with interviews, archive or video diaries, for example.
  • Know who your audience is – and which channel is the best fit. And the time slot where they might screen your show.
  • What the multiplatform opportunities are – and why people are going to be compelled to watch your show. What’s the hook?
  • Are confident that you can make the show – and have a track record to prove it. Or have found someone who does who can lend credibility to your project.
  • Have some visuals – usually a pitch tape – to help visualize your concept and prove your production skills. (Greenlit has a whole chapter devoted to making a pitch tape.)

Once you’ve got all this in place you will be prepared to pitch your idea to a channel. All you need now are some good contacts, good timing and a lot of luck.

*Within a couple of days of mailing my proposal I had secured the interest of an agent.

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