"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Friday, June 29, 2012

7 Tips for Pitching to an Agent or Editor at a Conference

The 2012 BWG Conference will host both an agent and editor who will be accepting pitches. The conference costs $50 at the door and is cheaper if you preregister. Agent and Editor pitches are free. For more information: http://www.bayouwritersgroup.blogspot.com/p/2012-bridge-to-publication.html
So, what is the best way to pitch?
1.)    Research the agent or editor – Be aware of what they are seeking. DO NOT pitch a genre they are not seeking. Take time to review their guidelines and wishes. Look to see who and what genres they represent.
2.)    Be aware of time constraints – Some agents and editors offer 20 minute pitch sessions while others only give you five minutes. It’s important to stick to your allotted time so practice and time your pitch before the real session. This will also help with nervousness.
3.)    Begin with background – Introduce yourself. “My name is…and I wanted to meet with you because…I’m writing (genre)…My publishing history includes…”
4.)    Then begin your pitch – “Today I want to tell you about…” This should only be a few sentences that introduce the title, word count, main characters, setting, theme, plot and conclusion. Be sure to focus on the plot catalyst and major conflicts the characters will encounter. Try a basic format such as: [Heroine] wants [goal] in order to [motivation] but she can’t have it because [conflict]. [Hero] wants [goal] in order to [motivation] but he can’t have it because [conflict]. This approach focuses on goal, motivation, and conflict. Remember, you don’t want to summarize the whole story, just the highlights. Be sure to specify if it is complete and if it is a standalone piece or a part of a series. This should only take two or three minutes because you want to:
5.)    Leave time for questions – You may have questions for them based on comments they make. Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are you. An agent or editor will have questions for you based on the interest you were able to arouse and their current publishing needs and wishes. They may ask you:
a.      What published author’s style would you compare your writing to?
b.      Who are your favorite authors in your genre?
c.       Have you worked with a critique group or professional editor?
d.      Have you pitched this idea before? If so, what was the response?
6.)    Accept Criticism – Remember they are making a decision and commenting based upon the information you are giving them in a small amount of time as well as their current marketing needs. DO NOT take it personally. The publishing world is smaller than you think. Editors and agents talk and if you come off as belligerent and ungrateful, you can ruin any future possibilities as well.
7.)    End on a high note – When your time is up, end by thanking the agent or editor for their time (even if you are unhappy with the outcome). Professionalism will be remembered. If the editor/agent invites you to submit material, ensure you know what they’re asking for. Do they want a synopsis, chapters, a full manuscript? How much, how long? Should it be sent by mail or email? Be sure to get their business card. After you leave the meeting room, immediately jot down a summary of the consultation. Include important points like advice, requests, referrals, and preferences. If you've scheduled multiple consultations over the course of the conference, the rapid pace will soon blur everyone and everything. Get it down on paper while it's still fresh in your mind.

What suggestions do you have for pitching? Please share your tips and horror stories below. We'd love to hear them. BEST OF LUCK AND HAPPY WRITING!


Aimée Jodoin said...

This is a great post and very helpful! Good advice. :)

Jenny Milchman said...

Very good tips. Pitching is an art, for sure. I teach at New York Writers Workshop Perfect Pitch--a conference I'd definitely recommend--and it seems to me that the pitches that go over best read a lot like flap copy. Find books in the same air space as yours, read their dust jackets (not their product descriptions if possible) and then write the version that would go on your book's jacket/cover.

Also, remember that editors/agents are people, too, only many writers don't treat them as such. The more you can make your pitch a conversation, the better it will be. Don't feel you have to get tons and tons of information in. Just let it flow and make a human connection. Then they'll want to know about your book.

MunirGhiasuddin said...

Thank you for the tips and the advice. I made a mistake of publishing a book through Lulu. I did not get an ISBN and now I cannot sell it through a book store.

Britney Gulbrandsen said...

These are awesome tips! In-person pitch sessions terrify me!

P.S. I left you an award at my blog.


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