With the Moonlight and Magnolia conference right around the corner, I thought I would talk a little today about Pitching. I’m sure everyone who is pursuing a writing career knows what it is to Pitch, but let me give a short definition, just in case. Pitching is when you have a few moments with an agent or editor, to give them a quick description about your book. They will then and there decide if they would like to request a partial or on some occasions, the full manuscript, to review for possible representation.
This pitch usually happens when you’ve signed up to meet with them at a conference face to face. But pitching can actually take place anywhere, so you must be prepared. It could be at the cocktail lounge of the hotel. It could be in an elevator going up to your room. It could happen at the banquet dinner. But from what I’ve been told, it should never happen in a bathroom. Everyone deserves bathroom privacy. Plus, you don’t want it to go like this: The agent gets home after hearing a thousand pitches and gets your partial in her in-box. “Something about this writer rings a bell,” She says to herself, “I sort of remember her pitch, there was something about it that stunk.” (Get my point?) No bathroom pitching.
From my experience, it normally happens like this: You sit down at a small table across from the agent or editor, in a room with other small tables with other pitches going on at the same time. Don’t let the crowded room intimidate you. You’re not listening to them and they’re not listening to you. Just focus on your appointment with your agent. There is a brief introduction, and then you give them a line about your book to get them interested. That line is called a hook. A one liner that gets them hooked on your story and makes them want to hear more. Once you’ve given them the hook, you go into the important facts about your book. You introduce your hero and heroine. They will want to know your conflict. The main conflicts your characters are going to have to overcome to become the happily-ever-after power couple you have intended them to be.
Once you have quickly given them the important facts about your manuscript, it usually flows into a question and answer session. Be prepared for the agent or editor to ask you questions outside of the book. For example: What author do you feel your writing simulates? Or what publishing house do you feel your book would fit best? Do your homework and come prepared.
So you think you’re ready. You have your mind blowing hook, you’ve practiced the pitch over and over in your head and then the unimaginable happens: The disaster pitch. I’ve had this happen to me and I’m sure I’m not alone. I sat down across from an editor and I became so nervous that my body started to shake, including my voice and I forgot EVERYTHING. I forgot my hook that I’d practiced a thousand times. I even forgot my characters names. My beloved characters that I know better than I know myself. My mind was a complete blank. But don’t freak out. They are use to nerves getting the best of us. Be prepared for this to happen even if you think it could never happen to you. Take an index card, with all the information written down on it. This will pull you out of your brain blank, and get you through. They are used to the cards so don’t be embarrassed. Just don’t use up all of your quality time telling them how nervous you are. Keep the pitch about the book.
Don’t panic if you give the disaster pitch. Even my demoralizing pitch got me a request for a partial. They need us as much as we need them. They want to find the next big thing as much as we want to give it to them.
It’s good to learn a little about each of the agents and editors that are going to be at the conference. You may get the chance to pitch to a couple you weren’t planning, so study them all. Of course, you can find out whatever you need to know on the internet. You can also Google pitches, and watch one live. Our very own Elizabeth Michels has won a video pitch contest, so look her up. She’s great.
If you’ll be pitching at M&M or some other conference in the future, good luck and don’t freak out. You can do it. Let me know how things go. I would love to hear about it.
Remember to Dream Big!