Pub Rants

Pitch Perfect

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STATUS: Just when I finished one contract, in comes another. I guess that’s what happens when you sell a lot of books in a short period of time. As you can probably guess, contracts are time-consuming. Analyzed some royalty statements too. I’m awaiting one more and that’s it for the spring sheets. Setting up my appts. for New York next week. Lots of lovely editors to talk to.

What song is playing on the ipod right now? MAXWELL’S SILVER HAMMER by The Beatles

Since I’m back from Dallas, I feel the urge to dispense some more little tidbits of nonsense or wisdom—depending on how you see it.

As I mentioned, it was a great conference. The writers of DARA number something like 160 and they have many already published authors. These gals (and a few guys) are quite savvy. So I haven’t got an inappropriate bathroom tale to regale you with.

I did have a person come up to me and pitch a work I had already rejected once. Not sure why. Maybe he/she thought meeting me in person would change my mind about the material but the truth was, and I told the writer this, that the work wasn’t right for me. I admire the writer’s courage though in trying again. Persistence is certainly 80% of this game if not more.

But back to my little wise tidbit.

I had some great pitch sessions while at the conference, and I wanted to distill why. Here’s what I noticed.

The best pitch sessions were

1. begun with a personal comment or observation to create rapport. A couple of writers mentioned that they read my blog and what they found helpful. (Even if you read it for the first time the night before, I’ll never know. Another hint: Mention or compliment one of my authors. Even better, if you can mention one scene you loved in one of their novels, I’ll be even more impressed because then I’ll know your compliment is genuine.)

2. concise and well-prepared. The writer boiled down her story to one pitch paragraph on a little note card and didn’t ramble.

3. done in 2 minutes—leaving the other eight minutes for questions—either mine or hers. I had some great, memorable conversations during these meetings because of this.

4. relaxed. A writer can be nervous and that’s fine but at least stay open to being put at ease. Your career is not riding on this meeting—contrary to popular belief. If you write well, you’ll find that perfect agent match even if you don’t pitch in person.

9 Responses

  1. Bandit said:

    It’s nice to know that there is a right way to approach an agent at a writer’s conference. I just attended one in VA and when the mob rushed the platform to try to meet the agents, my immediate reaction was “Give the poor people a break, stop waiving your children’s book manuscript in the air.” And I left without talking to a single agent. So maybe I missed out, but again, it’s good to know there’s a human way to do this 🙂

  2. Matt said:

    I just wanted to say that this is the first time I’ve been by your blog, and that I found it both fun and informative. Thanks!

  3. Sam said:

    Lovely post – I hope you don’t mind if I cut, copy, and post it to my author group along with a link back. A few gals are off to RT and have gotten appointments with agents (and they are nervous already)
    Last year at St. Louis I was one of the people in charge of introducing the authors to the agents for their pitch. The authors would literally be quaking in their shoes as they peered into the room where the agents sat (very cool, with ciggies and glasses of water, lol)
    I think your advice here will help –
    thanks bunches!

  4. DanStrohschein said:

    This information is more valuable than gold, in my opinion. I don’t have any conferences coming to my area until November, so I am trying to learn as much as I can now to be prepped for what to expect, having never been to one before. Thank you so much.

  5. Anonymous said:

    Nerves did me in at my first agent appointment. I spent weeks crafting and memorizing a tight, one-paragraph pitch. When the time came, I pretty much fell apart. Not only did my voice shake, my HEAD shook. The agent probably thought I had some sort of palsy condition. I ended up reading my pitch to him. What a dweeb. (Me, I mean. The agent was very kind and even requested a partial.)

  6. Patrice Michelle said:

    Great advice! Wish I’d had this advice four years ago when I did my first pitch.

    The only piece of advice I was given was to make my pitch 25 words or less. It fits on an index card and it’s easy to remember less words.