We’re continuing our pitch series here at Between the Sheets. Today we’ll discuss tips on HOW TO DELIVER your pitch. (If you missed the COMPONENTS of a Rock Star pitch explained in Part 1, click HERE.) Also, check back next week for our pitch workshop and finally, an opportunity to get your pages in front of literary agent Michelle Brower of Folio Literary Management (more details below).
So let’s begin!
One of the most important things about pitching is precisely what most writers forget—a pitch is a MARKETING TOOL. Not only is your pitch a snazzy combo of phrases aimed to tempt readers, it’s an integral piece in SELLING yourself as an author. Remember that agents and publishers, even readers, are taking a risk by investing their time in you and your novel(s). This means the craft of your pitch is AS important as HOW YOU DELIVER it.
Let’s take a look at the two different ways to give a pitch—online or in person—and tips on how to deliver it like a rock star.
WHERE CAN YOU PITCH ONLINE? Dozens of author blogs and writing blogs run contests. How do you find them? Scour the #amwriting hashtag on Twitter, check the “contests” or “opportunities” threads in the forums you belong to, or google “pitch + blog” and you’ll have plenty of links to choose from. One great group that offers many pitching contests is Savvy Authors.
FOLLOW GUIDELINES You aren’t being clever or “thinking outside of the box” by ignoring the rules. The worst thing you can do is show that you don’t know how to read and follow directions! If the pitching guidelines in a contest call for three sentence, that’s what you give them, otherwise your entries will be deleted and you’ll be chalked up as just another author who isn’t savvy about the business.
RESEARCH This is an obvious point, but for some ungodly reason, lots of writers fail to do this! Look up the agent you’re interested in pitching to–what genres do they represent? Are there any sub-genres they prefer? How do you find out this information? Go to their agency websites or blogs. Check out their sales on Publisher’s Weekly. Read the blurbs for novels they have sold. Is there a common thread between these novels and your own? USE THIS INFORMATION TO YOUR ADVANTAGE.
PITCHING IN PERSON
WHERE CAN YOU PITCH IN PERSON? Usually in person pitch opportunities are available at writer conferences, but on occasion you may be able to schedule meetings at book festivals, or chapter meetings of local writing groups. Do NOT show up at an agent’s office unannounced. I PROMISE this won’t go well—it’s not being “clever”, it’s being a stalker!
RESEARCH Here we are again! Researching is one of the best ways to prepare for a perfect pitch delivery. Once you’ve received the conference brochure, look up every single agent that represents what you write. Not sure who reps your genre? Research them all to BE SURE. Yes, this takes a lot of time, but it’s worth it. You’ll be wasting your time and the agent’s if you pitch a novel that doesn’t match their preferences. Plus, if you know your stuff, you’ll avoid unnecessary heartache and rejection.
Another quick note—I’ll repeat what I said above—find a common thread between the novels you write and those your chosen agent sells/reps.
EX. If your dream agent just sold SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN, you should say something along the lines of: “My fantasy novel SLEEPING BEAUTY THE DRAGON SLAYER has similar themes to SNW&H in that it is based on a classic fairy tale, and my heroine is a warrior princess on a quest for freedom from an evil queen as well as eternal love”. Random example, but you get the idea.
KNOW THE MARKET This also falls under research. As a writer, it is your responsibility to know what books are similar to yours out there, which movies are similar, what is hot in your genre, what’s overdone. You also need to know what novels/bios/films are about to be released. How are you supposed to know all of that? Go to B & N and study the new release shelves, check out magazines or e-zines that review novels in your genre, and study boook review sites like Goodreads. Read Entertainment Weekly magazine or others similar that review TV, movies, and books. You want to be able to highlight the DIFFERENCES, the super COOLNESS that makes your book stand apart. To do so, you need to know what’s already out there. Remember—THINK MARKETING TOOL!
BOOK APPOINTMENTS EARLY Schedule time with as many appropriate agents and editors as you can and do it the minute you know you’ll attend the conference. The early bird gets the worm! You want to make sure you can meet with the agent of your choice AND you may even be able to choose the time slots you prefer. Consult the conference’s website or your registration info and FOLLOW DIRECTIONS.
PRACTICE YOUR PITCH on your friends and pets—anyone who will listen. It may even be a good idea to record yourself. Pitching in front of a camera is uncomfortable. You feel silly, but it mimics the same uneasy space you’ll be in when you’re pitching to agents. So practice, practice, practice! The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll feel.
DRESS TO KILL Look hot. This doesn’t mean stilettos and fishnets hot, but pressed, pretty, and comfortable hot. Again, think MARKETING TOOL. An agent wants to sign a writer who is going to write well AND dress the part. Remember, they’re trying to sell your work and you as an author. The more you look/act like a professional, the more likely you are to gain their attention in a GOOD way.
BREAK THE ICE Start your pitch session by introducing yourself, asking a friendly question or two about the conference, etc., and then begin your pitch.
KEEP IT SHORT Time yourself while you’re practicing at home—your pitch shouldn’t run longer than 2-3 minutes, EVEN if the time slot is 8-15 minutes in length. You want to leave time for the agent to ask questions, or time for you to ask your own! If your pitch runs over two minutes, condense it.
AVOID THE ROBOT There’s nothing more annoying than listening to someone recite a pitch that sounds like a script. Yes, you should practice a lot and be comfortable with the catch phrases you’re going to use. But you don’t want to sound like a humanoid that lacks emotion. Remember, you want to not only tell an agent what your book is about, you also want to demonstrate that you’re enthusiastic about it!
PROJECT CONFIDENCE You wrote a novel! This is a monumental accomplishment! You should be proud of yourself, of what you have created. So act like it. Remember that agents want your work and NEED your work. That’s the whole reason they do what they do! Be calm, look the agent in the eye, and above all, remember they’re just as hopeful as you are that you’re a perfect “fit” for them.
COME WITH QUESTIONS Asking questions shows that you’re taking an active role in the future of your writing career. Some sample quesitons might be: What types of projects are you looking for right now? Can you tell me a little about your selection process? Are you a hands-on, editorial agent, or do you leave your authors to do their own thing? Is there any sort of setting, character, etc that always excites you?
HAVE FUN The entire process of agent hunting can be nerve-racking, stressful, depressing, fantastically exciting. Try to enjoy each step of the process, as difficult as that may seem. One day you’ll look back and think fondly about those times and wish you were in the midst of something so exciting.
Stay tuned for our pitch workshop. Sign-ups will begin next Monday.
The week of NOVEMBER 5th, join us at Between the Sheets and flex your PITCHING skills. Post your badass pitch in the comments section of the PITCH-ILICIOUS CONTEST POST for a chance to win. Three pitches will be selected by an anonymous judge to move on to the FINAL ROUND.
Here’s the best part.
Other prizes include FREE critiques from editor extraordinaire (yours truly), and a variety of books. MARK YOUR CALENDARS! This isn’t an event you want to miss.
October 29th-31st: Sign up to join the pitch workshop–give & receive feedback from myself and your fellow writers
November 1st & 2nd: Hop from blog to blog to give and receive feedback on your pitches
November 5th-November 9th: Post your pitch in the comments section to enter a chance to get your firt ten pages in front of agent Michelle Brower