Many smart aspiring authors these days are busy registering for quality conferences where pitch sessions with editors at top houses and agents at top agencies are on the agenda. However, what many of these writers don’t fully understand is that most editors and agents that attend these workshops, conferences, and events do not come with the expectation that they’ll walk away with any book deals or new clients. In fact, it’s much the opposite. Think about it this way: editors at top trade houses receive upwards of thirty agented manuscripts per day. It isn’t like there’s a dearth of material out there. Good material, perhaps, material that really gets their individual engine going, but a shortage of material? No.
This fact alone makes these pitch sessions all the more challenging, but far from hopeless. Any opportunity to pitch to an industry professional is an excellent learning experience at the least. This is the time to test out your perfect pitch, your brilliant lines, and all the golden kernels that will go into your query letter to send out wide. It’s a great way to gauge reactions and to test the waters for your unique product.
That being said, there are a few tips to keep in mind when pitching.
1. Get the other person excited. This is a basic rule of pitching and it arguably takes a rather charismatic person. You have to display a personal investment in your product that is contagious enough to draw the other person in and to persuade them to see how what you have is so great.
2. Keep it succinct. “It’s High School Musical meets Carrie. A romp through the trials and tribulations of teenage peril – as if high school wasn’t hard enough without zombies on their trail.” When a screenwriter pitches his screenplay, he has to use a log line, a description as clear and succinct as a line of poetry, to get his story across. Many writers forget this, but it’s the most important trick in the book.
3. State your platform. Agents and editors rarely take on parenting books written by ex-cops or a stay at home mom, even. If you’re writing nonfiction, you need to establish yourself as a credible source and as much an expert in your field as you can. If you’re writing fiction, the more writing credits (short stories, magazines, etc) you have, the stronger your platform.
4. Keep it short and sweet. Don’t let your nerves make you ramble. Remember that these people are being bombarded with potentially several hours of pitches. Make your point, keep it almost painfully short and to the point, and end it. A professional will remember the pitch that was succinct and tantalizing over all the ones with detailed step-by-step synopses and character histories.