Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Category: pitch sessions

Writer Conference Pitch Pro Tips

It’s springtime! That means the Writer Conference season is upon us. And you know what that means, pitch appoints with agents and editors.

I do think yoga breathing exercises are essential to do pre-pitch so you might want to brush up with some practice before you go.

And just in case you’d like a few more tips to help you through, I put together my quick and dirty list:

1. For a 10-minute pitch appointment, plan to spend about 2 minutes talking about your book and 8 minutes interacting with the agent.

2. Nail your pitch in two succinct sentences. Three at most. If you can’t do that, you’ll be in trouble during your pitch.

3. Include one thing about yourself that will make you memorable (but in a good way, LOL). Maybe you have an interesting job that plays a factor in what you write. A funny conference story that is safe to share. A hobby passion that is interesting.

4.. Be prepared to talk about what inspired you. What made you excited to write this book?

5. Come intending to pitch only one book. If, however, the agent asks what else you’ve written or what you’re working on, be prepared to answer that question.

6. Know that this pitch appointment is not a make or break it moment. Not for you as a writer, not for your career, and not for your book; it all comes down to the quality of your writing.

The pitch is simply one stepping stone to getting you read. And if it doesn’t go well, plenty of opportunities to simply query agents the old-fashion way through email. Plenty of authors landed their agent doing just that.

Last but not least, smile and breathe. Most agents and editors are lovely people and they want you to succeed in the pitch appointment.

Scout’s honor!

Pic Credit: Dan Govan


A Pitch Is A Pitch Is A Pitch – A Query Is A Query Is A Query

STATUS: Working though 245 emails in the inbox. You can’t hide from me!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  DON’T STOP by Foster The People

An yet, writers always have some confusion on what is the difference between a pitch and a query. Seems like a good topic to tackle (as I can already see a myriad list of sub-questions within this topic).

Let’s start with the basics.

A query is a professional business letter that introduces your work to an agent or editor. These days, this letter is sent by email rather than snail mail. In the query letter, you will have something called a pitch paragraph. The query letter will also contain an introduction and the author’s bio or credentials. It will be one-page long.

A pitch is the verbal delivery of the main pitch paragraph from your query letter. In other words, you need to have a quick way to sum up the opening plot catalyst of your novel in a sentence or two while talking to someone. That way your audience gets a clear and immediate gist of what your novel is about.

Here’s a great example from a novel I just sold by David Ramirez called MINCEMEAT. It’s a good example because in this instance, I actually did something unique. I pulled out the pitch from the main pitch paragraph. I don’t always do that but I did so in this instance. Also, when I was in New York in May, I verbally PITCHED this work to editors using the one sentence pitch highlighted in pink.

Here’s my submit letter to editors–which in essence is the agent’s QUERY letter to editors (to draw a comparison to what writers are doing when they approach agents):

Hello XXX,
It’s pretty rare that I send an email about a manuscript submission that I can sum up in a one sentence pitch. Trust me, I tend to be wordier than that!

But here it is:
All that is left of humanity is on a thousand-year journey to a new home aboard one ship, The Noah, and this ship is carrying a dangerous serial killer.

Intrigued? I hope so. At its heart, the concept for this SF novel MINCEMEAT by David Ramirez is quite simple but what unfolds is layer after layer of complexity.

Since most editors prefer I don’t leave it at one sentence, here’s a little bit more about the manuscript:

Priss Dempsey is a City Planning Administrator on the Noah, a vessel carrying the last survivors of Earth on a thousand-year journey to a new home.  She is equal parts psychic, economist, hacker and bureaucrat, a vital part of the mission, but her life seems to lose purpose after she experiences Breeding Duty.  Kept asleep through the impregnation and birthing that all women are obligated to undergo, she still feels a lost connection to the child she will never be permitted to know.

Policeman Leonard Barrens approaches her with a request for hacking support in the unofficial investigation of his mentor’s violent death. Only Barrens knows that a crime has been committed because he came across the mutilated remains before Information Security could cover it up. To everyone else, the missing man was merely “Retired,” nothing unusual.

Their investigation takes them through the lost dataspaces in the Nth Web and deep into the uninhabited regions of the ship, where they discover that the answer may not be as simple as a Mincemeat Killer after all. And what they do with that answer will determine the fate of all humanity.

May I send this novel your way?

All Best,
Kristin

Next up, I’ll tackle the log line versus the pitch.


What Kristin Requested From Pitch-A-Palooza

STATUS: Started out the week with 354 emails in the inbox after being out for RT. Only 203 to go. Progress!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? TUFF ENUF by Fabulous Thunderbirds

Does it say anything about trends? Probably not but just in case you are curious, here are the types of projects I requested.

2 paranormal adult romances
1 contemporary adult romance
3 women’s fiction projects
1 SF romance (haven’t seen one of these in a while–kind of excited!)
1 SF (but not a romance)
2 contemporary YA
2 paranormal romance YA (I have to be honest, this genre is getting to be a tough sell to editors who have seen nothing but this for the last two years.)

And my sincere apologies to anyone that I had to turned down during the Palooza. When it’s a speed dating format like that, I do have to say no to projects that don’t grab me immediately to reduce the amount of material we receive and have to review. We requested 12 projects but I had over 25 pitches that day. That’s a lot in 90 minutes.


What Not To Bring To A Pitch Session?

Status: Have glass in wine in hand, am good.


What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? LONELY NO MORE by Rob Thomas (acoustic version)


This might qualify as my oddest blog entry yet but I had something happen on Saturday that I’ve never run into before.


A writer sat down for her pitch session and not a minute later, I started sneezing.


From what I can gather, I must have been having a reaction to her perfume (which by the way was not overly strong or anything).


But during the whole session, my eyes started watering and I got the sniffles. Luckily I had a break right after and was able to pop outside to clear my head. When I returned, I was just fine for the rest of the afternoon.


So this probably wasn’t something you had thought of but you might want to forgo the perfume or strong fragrance on the day of your pitch!


Fun Facts On NLA Clients

STATUS: Ack! Can’t believe it’s 5 already. Where did the day go?

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CALLING ALL ANGELS by Train

Once an author is established, it’s kind of hard to think of them as having a beginning but every successful author has a fun fact about their beginning. I thought it might be fun to share today.

Gail Carriger—Four years before she sent me SOULLESS, I had read a YA novel from her, passed on the manuscript but sent along a letter with feedback. She remembered that fondly and so queried me with SOULLESS.

Ally Carter—I signed Ally for a novel (adult) that we’ve never shopped.

Sara Creasy—(who by the way was just nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award—HUGE!!!) I made her revise SONG OF SCARABAEUS twice before I signed her and then went on to sell it.

Jana DeLeon—For her first book, RUMBLE ON THE BAYOU, had an editor who so wanted to buy her. Got shot down at her house. It sold elsewhere but just recently, this editor asked for every book she’s written since so she would have them on her vaca. Oh yes, we obliged@

Simone Elkeles—had only one offer to buy PERFECT CHEMISTRY. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to sell it!

Jamie Ford—When he first submitted HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, he had the manuscript entitled THE PANAMA HOTEL. Sounds like it’s set in Latin American. We went through about 100 titles before settling on the one it was published with before submitting it to editors. Now people can’t imagine any other title for it. One bad suggestion was Burning Silk—after the one scene where Japanese women start burning their wedding Kimonos after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Janice Hardy—Sold me on her manuscript during the 10-minute pitch session at the Surrey Writers Conference. Right after the pitch appt. I called my assistant (Sara at the time) and asked her to send it to me the minute it came in. She did. I read it and immediately offered rep for it. It’s rare to take on a novel from a pitch session but it happens.

More to come tomorrow!

More Train music on iLike

The Risk of Pitching A Memoir

STATUS: I always enjoy doing my local conferences so it’s no surprise that this afternoon that I find myself at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference. Two conferences back to back, glutton for punishment I guess. Grin.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DON’T SPEAK by No Doubt

Last conference blog entry, I promise (at least for a little while anyway). This really occurred to me when I was out in Hawaii and I think it really needs to be said.

When you are pitching a memoir, don’t take it personally if an agent declines to look at pages.

I know. Impossible. After all, most people who write memoirs probably didn’t have a happy time of it and thus why they want to write it to begin with.

As an agent, when it’s clear that the memoir is something that might simply be too painful for me to read, I’m between a rock and hard place. Do I ask for the pages even if I know I’m not going to be able to handle reading them? Or do I decline?

One time I did decline and I felt awful because it was clear the writer was on the verge of tears. Even though I explained why I was passing on looking at pages (nicely but honestly), I knew that the writer felt like it was a personal rejection of the validity of the story and what the writer had experienced.

Ack.

So, what do I do for the future? Ask for pages knowing it’s not right for me or do I request them—knowing in my heart of hearts that we are going to pass?

I have no answer and I’m sure I’ll handle it case by case (or pitch by pitch as the case may be).


Glazed Like Doughnuts

STATUS: Back in Denver after a red-eye flight. A little bleary.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU’LL THINK OF ME by Keith Urban

Last year it felt like I had done about 8 conferences too many. Big Grin here. So this year I was very careful on how many I actually committed to so truth be told, it’s been a while since I’ve had to do pitch sessions. I certainly got back into the swing of things this weekend with over 30 pitch sessions.

Because it’s so fresh in my mind, I have a couple of things I’d love to share with you readers—just in case you are doing a conference in the near future.

1. As hard as this will be to actually do, try not to be nervous. Agents are pros at helping writers through the pitch session. Even if you botch it to start, we’ll help save the session for you so do let us. In other words, don’t ramble on about your project. If you’ve missed, just stop, ‘fess up to it. Chances are we’ll be charmed and we’ll start asking questions to help you get it right.

2. This one is crucial. Limit your pitch to under 2 minutes and I recommend 1 minute if you can do it.

Why?

Because if you talk for the full 10 minutes, trust me, we’ll start glazing like doughnuts and our thoughts will start drifting. It really is hard to focus on someone talking straight for that amount of time without any interaction (and we really try not to glaze).

Luckily, this only happened once for me and when I realized I had lost my focus, I tried to get back into the session. I have no idea if the writer noticed or not. I hope not.

When the glaze is happening, I do look for an opening to see if I can interject and ask a question. Another good piece of advice? If the agent does that, don’t go back to your pitch! Let it ride and move forward from there.


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