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Publishing Persuasion – making cover copy and book pitches work better and sell more

10 October 2022 at 9:30 am 11 October 2022 at 12:30 pm


Monday 10th October 09.30hrs – 12.30hrs

Tuesday 11th October 09.30hrs – 12.30hrs

Course description

Cover copy and verbal pitching are two of the most crucial, and most agonised-over aspects of publishing. One is difficult and time-consuming, and the other is difficult and terrifying (to many). But both are vital, to gather allies for a book and to persuade actual readers to buy it. Publishing Persuasion is designed to help us see our challenges with regard to these disciplines clearly and to overcome them, and thus publish better. Both halves of the course balance hints, tips and perspectives from an expert with peer feedback and live, practical work, in a safe and supportive environment.



  • Write cover copy for a forthcoming title. Ideally, one you or your organisation has just acquired, so you’re writing it from scratch. Use normal spec (word count etc) for your company but make it as persuasive as you can.
  • Write a one-minute pitch for the same title, to a mixed “sales conference” type audience
  • Fill in the Book Pitch Doctor personal workbook, attached

Day 1 – Copy

  • Discussion of current practice: who generates copy, when, and how?
  • Who checks it, is it discussed, how is it signed off?
  • Principles of effective cover copy, using examples (good and bad)
  • Genre rules and the conventions of copy
  • Practical exploration of new methods – working in pairs, giving group feedback

Day 2 – Pitching

  • “Discovery” session – examining our feelings about presenting in public
  • Role play – individual presentations and group feedback
  • …interspersed with hints tips and ideas from tutor, on both preparation and performance


Post course handout (attached)

Offer of ongoing support from tutor

Bio – James Spackman

James Spackman’s book career, which started glamorously in the post room of Bloomsbury Publishing, has involved sales and marketing roles there, at John Murray and at Hodder. He was MD of Watkins (then part of Osprey Group) before setting up on his own.

He now commissions geeky books about cycling for Profile, under the imprint Pursuit. In 2018 he set up The bks Agency with two ex-Hodder colleagues. He coaches publishers and agents in presentation skills as The Book Pitch Doctor and he is also the founder of The Spare Room Project (sponsored by Penguin Random House) which finds free accommodation for interns in London.