Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Your Best Pitch

The ACFW conference is less than two months away. Scary, because I haven’t done even half of all I have to do to get ready.

But today I’m going to talk about pitching, which might rank among one of the most nerve wracking experiences ever. There can either be one of two outcomes. Either the editor/agent really likes your story…or she really…well, doesn’t. I usually have nightmares about the latter. :) It’s one thing to write the book. It’s another to walk into a room where (insert dream editor’s name) is sitting and have to tell them what the book is about. What if they think it’s the most inane idea they’ve ever heard? What if another star author already wrote a book just like it?
Thankfully, there are a few things that can help in creating and giving the perfect pitch.

1 – Keep it succinct – You want to have something that can be said in less than three minutes, which means it has to be under 100 words. You can’t outline every plot point or go into deep character analysis. It has to be short. For a long-winded writer this is not easy. J I generally aim for under 100 words but others say to keep it to three or four sentences. I’ve never been able to pare mine down to that length, but do try and keep the word count in your pitch down. The editor/agent will have questions for you too, and you’ll want to give them time to ask them.

2 – Do your research – Perhaps this should be number one, because your perfect pitch for a historical romance will be wasted on an editor who only publishes young adult. Definitely check out the editor/agent’s website and guidelines and if they publish a blog read that too. If you’re going to the ACFW conference this September, ACFW has a brief bio for each professional, along with what they want to see during an appointment. Read it!

3 – Practice – Don’t let the first time you pitch be to your dream agent. Find some guinea pigs first. It could be your family, another writer friend, the mirror, even your dog (although he isn’t likely to give you much feedback J). I practiced several times before I actually pitched, even having several role playing scenarios.

4 – Be professional – Yes, you may be terrified and barely able to remember your name, let alone the title of your book, but when it comes time to give your pitch, professionalism is a must. Have your one sheet and business card ready when you walk in but don’t shove it at them! Also, say a polite hello when you walk in don’t just launch into your pitch. Think of it as a job interview where there is naturally give and take involved in the communication. Calm your nerves by remembering that agents and editors are interested in what you and your book have to say or else they wouldn’t be there.

5 – Be prepared – Along with your pitch, you’ll want to have included on your one sheet or have the answers to some questions such as: What’s the word count? What’s the audience of your book? They also might ask you some follow-up questions about your story and plot so be prepared to give those as well without too much rambling.

6- Follow up- It’s very likely that after they look at your one sheet they’ll hand it back. This doesn’t mean they aren’t interested, it just means they don’t have room in their briefcases for a ton of loose paper. If they request further info they will give you a business card telling you to contact them and what they want you to send after the conference is over. Directly after leaving the appointment it’s a good idea to write down exactly what they requested on the back of their card. I didn’t do this last year and had to wrack my brain to remember who wanted what. Don’t make this same mistake!

Following these steps should make pitching a less stressful procedure. After all who doesn’t enjoy talking about their book to someone who actually wants to listen? Remember the agents and editors are there because they are looking for writers and you wouldn’t be there pitching if you weren’t one.

As always, happy writing!

Let’s talk pitches. Any pitching horror stories? How did your first pitch go?

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