With Moonlight and Magnolias Writers’ Conference next week, pitching has been a major topic of conversation. Here on Bad Girlz Write and on Twitter, I’ve heard a lot of pitch chat. But, today I want to talk about the anti-pitch. Yeah, I just made up that term, but it works.
The anti-pitch is the art of selling yourself to an editor or agent outside of a pitch appointment.
This time last year I was flipping through my note cards, excessively preparing for pitch appointments. It was all I could think about. I could say my pitch in my sleep. My family quizzed me on my manuscript and heckled me while I pitched it to them. But in hindsight, I think I was too prepared. I pitched it the same way to every agent, never reading the situation or the person. That is, until I got to my last pitch of the day…
I was beyond tired. I’d lost my nervousness from earlier in the morning out of sheer exhaustion and I simply talked about my story. When asked where I wanted to be in 5 years, (and yes, I cringed over this later) I said I wanted to be sold just down the grocery store isle from the peanut butter. This is a true statement, but certainly not rehearsed and not what I had in my notes. It was honest. It was a glimpse into who I am as a writer and as a person. The agent asked for a partial at the end of the pitch session, even though I was pretty sure this was simply to get rid of me and my peanut butter dreams. *grins* The following day, at the Maggies awards dinner, I happened to sit at the table with that same agent. Over dinner, everyone at the table talked about college football, we laughed about an “acquired” traffic cone, how we fan girl one another for fun and then we all tore up the dance floor together. Now, a year later, she’s my agent.
My point is this: agents and editors are people too. They have hobbies, interests, families and goals. This is someone you will work with for a very long time and not only on one manuscript. So, pitch your story, then let it go and have a good time. Who knows, you might end up friends with your dream agent or editor.
Here are a few guidelines for the anti-pitch:
Don’t make every conversation about your characters and your plot outside of your pitch appointment or even within it. Your discussions outside of your pitch session should be about you and the agent or editor as individuals and any common ground you may have with one another. If you see an agent or editor at the hotel bar, say hello. Sometimes sharing a drink with someone and chatting about the conference will get you farther than pitching your manuscript. This happened with one of the bad girlz last year, in fact. It went something like this, “I know I didn’t pitch to you, but you’re cool as hell. Can I send you my first 3 chapters?” And the answer? Sure!
Don’t follow an agent into the bathroom. We’ve all heard these stories and you don’t want to be the one who breaks this rule. But, if there’s a long line for the ladies and you’re standing beside Agent X, make a joke about it. If your dream editor is beside you at the sinks touching up her makeup and she has on a killer lipstick shade, tell her so. Everyone likes a compliment. And if you see Editor X standing alone at a function, for goodness sakes go strike up a conversation. No one wants to stand off to the side feeling awkward, even your dream editor.
And finally, if you do pitch and get a request, send it! All of the jokes and drinks in the world don’t matter if you neglect to send in your submission. At the end of the day it is all about your writing, but not during the conference. While you’re there, just have fun with it!
Are you going to M&M? What’s your pitching plan?
XX – E. Michels