by Danyelle Ferguson
Many Authors Incognito members are signed up for pitch sessions during the Storymakers Writers Conference. For some, it’s their first time pitching to an agent or editor. Just the thought of being in the same room with a highly sought after agent or editor is stressful enough for any writer to sweat through his freshly applied deodorant. To lessen some spine tingling nerves, I have compiled my tips for a smooth-as-possible pitch session.
Danyelle’s Essential Guide to Pitching
- Research the Editor or Agent. I’m not telling you to stalk him or her. I’m just saying go to his website, look to see what books he represent. If he has a blog, become a follower and actually comment on his posts. Wow. Amazing to think something so simple could make you stand out from the other conference attendees, but it can. If he has a newsletter, sign up for it. Pay attention to what the agent or editor is communicating so you can comment on it when you meet up. “John, I enjoyed your post about killer query letters. That one query about the yellow dog was hilarious. I can see why you liked it.” You may think it’s schmoozing – and it kind of is. But what it shows is that you take your writing career seriously and you took time out of your day to find out about the person you were meeting with. Agents and editors get tons of pitches from people who have no clue what books they represent or their preferences. Be a writer who stands out right from the beginning.
- Choose which book you want to pitch. You can’t walk into a pitch session and say, “I have five books I want to tell you about . . . “ Choose the manuscript you think is the best match for the editor or agent you are meeting. You should take a second book to pitch, but only share it IF and ONLY IF the editor or agent asks if you have anything else in the works. It’s important to be prepared, but at the same time be respectful of his time.
- Write out the pitch. If you don’t know how to draft a pitch, go check out a bunch of book cover blurbs – you know, the description and hook on the back cover. In fact, this is an excellent thing to do before writing your pitch. Go to a library or better yet – a book store. Why is a book store better? Because they have all the current best seller’s in your genre prominently displayed. Read all of their back cover blurbs. THIS is what you want your pitch to look like. You also want it to be about that same length. A pitch should take 3 minutes max. I know it sounds painfully short, but three minutes is a lot of time.
- Practice the pitch. Say it in front of the mirror, to your kids, the dog, or your neighbors. Call your writer friends on the phone and practice introducing yourself and transitioning into your pitch. Practice. Practice. Practice. Then practice the pitch out loud at least ten more times. While you’re pitching, if you stumble on words or a sentence seems awkward, then change it. Fine tune your pitch so that it’s easy to say and flows off your tongue like you don’t even need to think about it. Your goal – to pitch your book to 25 people (okay, I guess the dog counts too – but only once!). If you do this, I promise you will feel so much more comfortable when you’re actually sitting in front of the editor or agent.
- Cheat Sheet. Write your pitch onto 3x5 cards to take with you to the pitch session. Then, just in case you do get super nervous, you can refer to the notes. Remember, being prepared is one of the keys to a great pitch session.
- Dress for Success. First impressions are a huge factor. How you show up and act represents the kind of public figure you would make, too. Dress professionally. It doesn’t need to be a suit and tie, but definitely business casual for the guys. No jeans, please. Ladies, slacks, skirts, or dresses are all fine. Again, dressy casual or business casual.
- 45 Minute Prep. I usually leave my conference classes 45 minutes before the pitch so I can change into fresh clothes, freshen up my hair and make-up, run through my pitch three more times, then the most important detail, kneel to pray. Take a few deep breaths, then go for it!
- Arrive Early. Be sure to get to your pitch session at least ten minutes early. I usually shoot for fifteen. This way if someone didn’t show up or they are running ahead, everything can continue running smoothly.
- Be Friendly. I can guarantee you are going to be a nervous wreck. I’ve pitched to Lisa Mangum twice and we’ve become good friends. But still, whenever we first see each other – whether it’s for a lunch date or at a conference – I get this initial surge of “ACK! She’s THE editor!” Remember that the agent and editor are both real people, with real lives. They have bad morning breath just like we do. =) Smile, shake hands, and be the nicest version of you.
- End on a Good Note. No matter how the pitch session goes, be sure to leave on a good note. Thank the agent or editor for attending the conference and giving the attendees an opportunity to meet with him. You can also leave your business card, in case he might decide to contact you later.
After the pitch session, you’ll breathe a huge sigh of relief . . . and realize the experience wasn’t quite as daunting as you had built up in your head. In fact, it was awesome! My one last tip is to save a little piece of chocolate as a reward for surviving your first . . . or thirtieth . . . pitch session.
Danyelle Ferguson is the Authors Incognito Activities Director. To learn more about Danyelle, visit either her blog at www.QueenOfTheClan.com or her website www.DanyelleFerguson.com.