Monday, June 2, 2008

The Art of Pitching

I hate to break it to all of you out there, but there is no formul out there for pitching. There will be a lot of people out there that tell you all of these great clues and tricks to pitching and yes, there will also be many who will honestly claim their pitch is the thing that sold the story.

While the pitch may have helped some, you still need to remember that it is still all coming down to the actual story you are selling.

Still, there are a few things to keep in mind when you are pitching. You only have ten minutes to make us love you and the story and you certainly don't want to waste that time.

So, with that said, here are some things to consider.

1. BE PREPARED - No this isn't a Scout thing but yes, they are right on the money. You should take some time to really do your research about the editor or agent you are pitching to. Make sure you know exactly what they are looking for and their likes and dislikes. The stronger connection you make with them, the better you will be.

2. BE PROFESSIONAL - You never get a second chance to make a first impression. This is a job interview and you need to treat it as such. This means to dress well. I don't care if you are an "artsy" person, this is a business so treat it like that. Be on time, have your materials with you including paper to take notes with, business cards etc. I know people say not to bring your manuscript, but you should dang well have it with you. I know I have been known for asking for a copy if it really sounds good.

3. SHORT, TO THE POINT, and MEMORABLE - Remember that we are seeing a lot of people at a conference. Things are often a complete blur. we do take notes but other than a list of names, there is not much for us to remember. You need to make sure you stand out as someone that really knows what they are talking about.

4. STORY, STORY, STORY - Focus on your story and what makes the thing stand out. I have had a ton of people come in telling me all the things that they struggled with when writing it, personal problems and health issues. I don't want to hear it. I am here to talk to you about your story and that is it. If I want to know more, then I will ask.

5. BE PREPARED FOR MORE - Many times editors and agents will want to hear about future projects or other current Works In Progress. Think them out. Don't just wing it. You have plenty of time to prepare. I know several of my writers that have sold not one but three and four books in a pitch because they had "other things to offer."

6. BE CLEAR - This is not a time to be cryptic with your writing. This is not a time to be full of metaphors and similes. Make it very clear to the editor and agent exactly what your story is about, who the characters are, and all of the other details. We should not have to guess.

7. BE TRUTHFUL - Don't lie. Look if your story is not done, don't tell me it is. Don't leave off the fact that you have already been with 5 other agents. Don't leave off the fact that editors run from you when they see you. Above all, tell us that you are likely involved with a multiple submission situation.

Now, with all of that said, here are some things to also consider... (this is also the depressing part).

* Many editors and agents will ask everyone to send a full. This does not mean they like it. This can be done to sort out those that are far from ready. It is also a great way to insure if the story is good, we don't have to wait for the rest of it.

* Many editors are "acquiring" for other lines. Needless to say, they may say to send it but it will be forwarded over to the editor who is really in charge of the line and as much as the first person likes it, it all comes down to the other person saying yes or no.

* Many people pitching don't know their own work. Needless to say, they are pitching stories that really have no business at that house or agency. Make sure to know your work otherwise, fully expect to see a rejection arrive on your doorstep.

* We are not bad people. We will not make you cry and we will not yell at you (unless you are abusive). We know you are terrified and we certainly don't want a suicide on our hands.

Look, the key is to be ready. If you aren't then you have absolutely no business pitching. Come back when you are ready.



  1. I agree with everything you said, but I have one thing to add...

    Editors and Agents are people too.

    Greet them at least with a smile and thank them for their time when you're done.

  2. Being nice certainly does play a big role. Remember, if I don't like you, then why would I want to read your work?