Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Pitching In-Person

I'll be at BEA's Pitch Slam http://www.writersdigest.com/bea/ on May 30th, so I figured I'd write briefly about pitching in-person. Most of the things listed below are obvious and can be found on other websites, but just in case...

  • Dress code. Wear whatever you're comfortable in. I really don't care if you're wearing a suit or shorts, just whether you can write. Pitching your book isn't easy, and the last thing you should be is uncomfortable because your pants are riding up.
  • It's OK to be nervous, but try to get over it. We're just people, and we're most likely going to ask to look at the work - it's pretty hard to say no in person. If for some reason the agent or editor doesn't want to look at it, it typically means there's something seriously wrong with your pitch anyway (for example, it is totally out of the realm of what we represent or edit, or if you haven't finished it, etc.).
  • Be nice. Just remember that the agent or editor is sitting there, listening to pitches all day. I know its tough to present your work in a short period of time, but it's not easy for us to listen without our eyes glazing over.
  • Reasonable expectations. No one is going to make an offer of representation at a conference - we have to read your work first. In fact, you probably won't hear too much of substance from an agent or editor regarding your book; about the only thing we're able to do is tell you if we are interested in taking a look at a few pages. Remember that this is still better than just sending an unsolicited query.
  • Get the facts out. You don't have a lot of time, and most writers don't have extensive experience pitching, so introduce yourself, tell us the title, the genre, comparable titles, the setting, and the hook. But remember, this is a conversation, don't lecture us or memorize every little thing that you're going to say. Eyes will glaze.
  • It's OK to be passionate about your book. In fact, I hope you are. Getting a book published can be a long and arduous process, even with an agent, and commitment is essential.
  • If you haven't finished your book, don't pitch me, unless its nonfiction. Maybe other agents or editors will look at uncompleted novels, but I won't.
  • Know what the agent or editor represents or publishes. You're wasting your time and mine if you pitch me romance.
  • Don't chase me down afterwards to tell me more about your book. I just sat through forty pitches and won't remember every detail of every conversation. Don't worry though. I take notes; you should too.
  • Do chase me down if you want to have a beer at the bar and talk about publishing generally.
  • I'm not going to take anything home with me, with the exception of a card or possibly a one page summary.
  • Don't ever, ever pitch me or anyone else in the bathroom; this is hallowed (and definitely not hollowed, thanks for pointing out my typo) ground.

Now, you might look at the above and at the other websites and glean that agents don't really love these pitch sessions. You're right. So why do we do it?

Sure, it gets our name out there. Yes, its fun to get away from the city for a weekend. But ultimately, we're looking for authors, and if you're attending a conference, it means you're serious and committed. You've probably gone through a number of edits. You've done your research about the market and competitive titles. You've shown it to your writer's group. And all of this improves the odds that the project might be right for us.


Anonymous said...

Don't ever, ever pitch me or anyone else in the bathroom; this is hollowed ground.

Hollowed ground?

1. Having a cavity, gap, or space within: a hollow wall.
2. Deeply indented or concave; sunken: "His bearded face already has a set, hollow look" (Conor Cruise O'Brien).
3. Without substance or character: a hollow person. See Synonyms at vain.
4. Devoid of truth or validity; specious: "Theirs is at best a hollow form of flattery" (Annalyn Swan).
5. Having a reverberating, sepulchral sound: hollow footsteps.

Hm, I guess I'll have to go with #1, though #4 is a close call.


Jonathan Lyons said...

Thanks to you any others who have pointed out typos. Sadly, this blog only catches incorrect spellings, and not typos of this nature.

I'm certainly not a copyeditor, and since these postings are made in a mad rush when I have a few seconds of free time I imagine more typos will follow. Feel free to point them out as you see fit, in your wonderfully witty ways.

Jonathan Lyons said...

of course, there was a typo in the above comment. "Thanks to you AND any others..."

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

THANK YOU for the bit about the clothing. I actually belong to a writer's group whose conference is coming up. In their latest newsletter was this bit about how we are supposed to dress in business casual. I almost asked for a refund on the spot; I'm a mom and the wife of a techhie. To us, business casual is jeans and a pullover.

I am who I am. Take me or leave me, be it in jeans or pink paisley pants from Neiman Marcus. Because your next sentence was perfect: it's all about how well I write.

Julie Rowe said...

If you're looking for info on how books make money (or don't) check out the very excellent post on ex-Tor editor Anna Louise's blog:



sex scenes at starbucks said...

Most of my editing and writing relationships take place online, so clothes are, er, optional.

A lot of the writers at my local conference wear business casual (that ranges from jeans to pants here in Colorado) and most of the agents and editors were a step above that.

But then, I guess they're actually making a living at this. :)

sex scenes at starbucks said...

And I just found a typo of my own: were should be WEAR.

See, Jonathan, you're not the only one!

Robin L. said...

I love your blog! I just found you via Nathan Bransford and added this blog to my blogroll. :)

Jameson Reed said...

What's your average response time on paper queries? I know you say that you prefer paper to email, so I wonder if the response time is better for paper?

Jonathan Lyons said...

About six weeks...

Jonathan Lyons said...

E-mail is faster, though I prefer paper queries.

Al from Question Of The Day said...

Just found this blog, via Nathan Bransford on My Space. I will be at the conference and I found this post to be very helpful. Thanks for posting!