Thursday, May 7, 2009

The One on One Pitch

So you have the chance to meet face to face with an editor or agent. You have fought tooth and nail to get that pitch appointment. Now what.

I have heard a lot of solutions for this and frankly a lot of the solutions are a simple piece of garbage. I want to take some time today to go over a couple of things to remember when it comes to those face to face pitches.

1. Be Professional - This one is crucial. Remember that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. When you walk into that pitch session, you have to look like someone who is really going to be a professional writer. This means you dress the part, and you act the part. This is not a time to be cute or funny. This is not the time to "dress like you always do" or "dress in costume." This is a job interview.

2. Be Prepared - Know what you are going to talk about. You should know that they will want to know the genre, word count, title and high concept for your pitch. They will want to know a bit about you. Know this. Be prepared for anything. If they ask for a full make sure to tell them it is ready to go and you can send it to them first thing in the morning (again a benefit for memory sticks or online storage of your manuscript).

3. Be Flexible - Be prepared to make those changes on the spur of the moment if you see they are interested in something else. This does not mean that you should be pitching something that your story isn't. Just be ready. If they believe they have an idea for your story, be ready to make those changes.

4. Be Relaxed - This is a matter of professionalism and confidence. If you walk in looking like you can't handle the public pressure, then guess what, we will have doubts about whether you can handle public books signings or book talks. This is public profession so be ready to be out there.

5. Be Confident - Look. You have been working on this story for a while. You are ready to sell, so show it.

Now for some don't's....

1. Don't pitch to someone that isn't buying your work. I don't know how many times I turn people away because they are pitching stories that I simply do not acquire. There is enough research out there about the editors and agents out there to prevent this. I don't care if it is the "only appointment available" (this one goes out to those of you signing up for RWA appointments), if they don't acquire it, don't pitch it.

2. Don't read your pitch - This is the confidence thing. Frankly, when I see someone reading their card to me, I see someone that has no clue what their own story is about. Along the same lines, cranking out that "memorized version" makes you sound fake. You have to be human.

3. Don't throw your recently printed business card at them. Anyone knowing a thing about the business world knows the business cards are the last item in the appointment. Sitting down and throwing that material at them is just too agressive. Besides, half of the time, the editors and agents already have a list of the authors they are meeting. Your card means nothing to them unless they ask for it.

4. Don't throw them your full manuscript or other ideas. I recently heard an author state that you should have that full manuscript sitting next to you when you pitch. Sure, that might have been how it was done in the 80's but now, 20 years later, we just don't want to see that manuscript. We have luggage that is already packed and we have no desire to carry how your project. Now you can have it on a memory stick and if they are interested in the project and want it emailed to them, go to the business center and send it. Otherwise, it is a waste of your time to have it. No, it doesn't prove you have finished the project.

5. Don't keep pitching new ideas if you see it isn't working. If you see the pitch session isn't going anywhere, don't just keep throwing out ideas. You should be pitching what you know they are interested in. Not all of your rejects. This is especially true if your other projects aren't in the same genre.
Now, if you hear they state they are interested in a certain type of project and you have it, then you can bring it up, just be careful.

6. Don't lie and fake it. If you story is not done, don't pitch. If it isn't the right word count, don't lie. If it isn't that genre, don't call it something else. Not only will you get a rejection, you will end up with a serious red flag against your name in their database next time you pitch.



  1. I hate pitches. Never sold a book of mine. I think they are a waste of time. Do they work? Have you picked up a new client from a pitch session?

  2. Great post. This is information that should be kept. Anyone else printing these great tips?

    Thanks Scott, for taking the time to do this.

  3. Brilliant Scott! I don't do to bad at the face to face. I could probably do better in the area of being flexible. It is true, I know as I saw a woman dressed in costume once and I often wondered if that worked for her.

    Anonymous, I had an agent request a full. She declined to represent me but she gave me great feedback so I would say the session was worth it.

    Murph, I'm printing them. Now tell me where have you been?

  4. I try to do some of these things but I really suck at pitches. I always try to be confident and look the person in the eye when I'm talking to them but it's nerve racking.

    Like you, Babs, I had an agent ask for a full. She declined but did give me some good feed back.:)

    Murphy is buried doing revisions.:(

    If only I could be so lucky!

  5. Oh! Thank you for clarifying that bit about having the full there at the pitch session. I heard it at the same place as you and it at first struck me as a great idea, then as a pretty bad one. Glad to know how you feel about that.