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.