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Best Seller Crime Fiction Pitch

Ian Rankin’s twentieth installment of his detective Rebus series hits number one in the UK charts this week.

On radio, I caught his pervasive Edinburgh brogue detail how he introduced each new novel to his publisher before he wrote it. He sent simply;

“a 30-word pitch and a title”.

Which seems quite enough. Admittedly you suspect a successful author may not be constrained by the intense scrutiny the less read may feel, yet the point about brevity is a good one.

A plot got across in just thirty words? And still sounds compelling? That’s a trick many a new product pitch can surely take from.

I was further intrigued by his comments on title.

His publisher always wanted snappier ones. By which they meant shorter. They claimed that the lengthy draft epithets he evolved towards wouldn’t sit well on the spine. Crucial for point of sale impact you sense.

Similarly for slidedeck, Proposal and general project names you fancy.


I further liked his remarks on how a book comes together. Just as with a winning sales campaign, the outcome is unknown to him upon embarking.

He believes he is not looking at a “geometric puzzle”, with beginning, middle and end, as a crime moves to resolution. Most writers he knows develop it as they go along. They don’t know the ending when they set out. And that’s why they write the book, to find out how it ends. Motive interests him more than the whodunnits.

Many a prevailing sale sees the same lifecycle. Indeed why must – and crucially how can – you know all the answers when you set out at the start?

So long as you follow the right process, glory will flow…

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