Sunday, August 19, 2012

What To Expect When Pitching

So you're ready to pitch your book to an agent and you've signed up for a writers conference. I hope you enjoy mental torture. But then if you are a writer it is obvious you do.

Make sure to read the agent bio's to find the perfect fit for your manuscript. Pitch sessions are not free and the last thing you want to do is sign up for someone who does not even represent what your trying to sell. This may sound obvious but I talked to people that did this. Then the next thing you're going to need is an engaging pitch. Need help with that? Here is a link to "How to Craft a Winning Book Pitch" from the San Francisco Writing University. There you will find a step-by-step format that's easy to follow. I used it and two out of the three people I pitched to requested partials.

At the 2012 Willamette Writers conference I attended a panel where selected participants got the opportunity to practice their pitch to agents and get instant feedback. I personally did not say my pitch but I got to listen and hear the suggestions given to those who did. I think that is where I learned the most valuable thing I learned from the entire conference and I am going to share it with you. EVERY AGENT IS DIFFERENT AND YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO PLEASE THEM ALL.

Though all were gracious and kind, they did differ on opinions on what they liked. Some said keep it loose while the agent next to them said give it more structure. Some said give a personal bio while the next person said, "If I don't care about your character I won't care about you." This went on about many different things, so I have this suggestion. Craft your pitch to the best of your ability and pitch it until you find someone thats like you and your style. Those agents are out there, but you just may have to search.

There was one thing that ALL agreed on. They must care about the character.

The Willamette Writers sessions went like this. At check in you get your name tag. On the back of that is your schedule. Your times are predetermined before your arrival. If you are attending a work shop and need to leave early for your session they just ask you sit near the back and leave with a minimal disturbance to others.

Sessions started every fifteen minutes. All the agents/editors were in the same room (the grand ball room to be exact) and each at an individual table. Out side of this room was an area with seats and refreshments while you waited your turn. When your time came up a coordinator opened the flood gate and all of us aspiring writers spilled into the room.

From there you have ten minutes. I introduced myself, let the agent/editor know why I picked them and jumped into my pitch. Now lets back up a second. The way I let them know why I chose them was very casual. I complimented their book and/or blog.  I did not go on and on, but I wanted  them know I stalked researched them and their agency so they did not think I chose them at random.

After my pitch they jumped in and asked questions. I got asked things like, is it dark, is it edgy, is there romance, how many subplots, it is a series, and what makes this stand out from every other book out there. I suggest you make a list of everything you think they might ask so you don't freeze.

During the session a person announces the time remaining so you know when to start wrapping things up. Then when the ten minutes is up, you leave. If they want to hear more they will give you their card and tell you what to send. It may be a query, synopsis and/or a certain number of pages.

I attended one group session and it was the hardest. There were six of us at the table with the agent and you get two to three minutes to sell yourself. It seemed very rushed and unless you have a dynamic pitch don't waste your time. Because if you don't, you don't have the time to talk causally about your book and let them know other key qualities you could not fit into your pitch. Plus, if the person before you argues with them, (yes this actually happened to me) they don't have time to cool off before it's your turn.

One other thing I feel I should mention is, do not pitch unless your book is done and ready to be read. I did meet a couple people that went to pitch their "idea". Do not do this. Unless your are well established and successful in the industry, you will have to be prepared to hand over a finished manuscript.

 Remember, they want to say yes. We just need to give them something to say yes to.


  1. Kriston - I love the last sentence where you mentioned that agents want to say yes - I think I'll write that out and stick it near my writing table! Thanks for the great post.

    1. One of the coordinators said that to us before our session. She just kept saying..everything will be okay, they want to say yes. She was a crack up. It really helped keep me calm.


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