Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Answers to some writers on pitching

So here is what they wrote in the last blog post. I figured it would be easier to do it this way...

I was at the RWA Convention and my critique partner pitched numerous times. She actually snagged a few more appointments on Friday morning. They all requested either partials or fulls. So here's my question; is there really an advantage to pitching? Because frankly, it scares the bejesus out of me. I can't imagine that an editor or agent would appreciate me stumbling over my words or getting a really bad case of verbal diarrhea. The whole idea makes my stomach roil. I realize the whole purpose of pitching is to spend less time in the slush pile, but do I stand a chance with just a query?


Most newer authors don't know how to research an agent so it would help if the sponsoring organization would offer a a tip sheet on the attending agents before the event and during the event.

For both of these questions, I would simply argue to take your time. Far too many authors rush into this business and are not even close to being prepared. It is interesting though, I told an author this while in New York and their first answer was, "I know what you mean. That's why I want to read through my manuscript one more time before pitching."

Wait a minute!!!!

Taking your time and being prepared is not simply about having a manuscript ready. Again, I am going to remind you - this is a JOB INTERVIEW!!! When we apply for a job, we have taking the time to be educated in that career. I don't just apply for a teaching position without being trained. I don't apply to Microsoft without understanding the I.T. industry. The same goes for writing.

For that reason, the comment about someone providing a tip sheet... there are honestly a lot of resources out there. Still, it is a matter of common sense. We cannot continue to think the publishing industry is anything different from any other business.

Now, as far as the question on is pitching worth it. Sure. We know there is a great importance on showing the person behind the face. This is where human connection takes place. Sure, interviewing isn't something we all want to go out there and do, but again, with that research and being prepared element added into the scheme of things, that stumbling over your words will not be there.

As far as getting out of the slush pile... if you present yourself, and more importantly, actually have a story that isn't just a carbon copy of other things out there and is unique, when you pitch the story, it will make it out of the pile. I have heard editors and agents get very excited (and not just pretending) about a project and ask for it immediately. They tell their assistants to keep an eye out for it as well.

But, if your story is not all of that, will pitching get you around the slush pile? Absolutely not. You are there again. It doesn't matter if you pitch or send a query. Your fate will be the same.

Good questions.



  1. Scott,
    You've definitely enlightened me. I totally understand the need to make that personal connection now. I guess the bottom line is, get your butt in the chair and make that manuscript sparkle and shine. That's what serious writers do. Maybe you'll see me at a pitching session in the not too distant future:)
    Many thanks for taking the time to give such great advice.

  2. My comment that a tip sheet should be offered was more for your convenience than the authors. If the wannabe author learns that Agent X handles graphic novels and you don't, you won't have to listen to those graphic novel pitches, but those writing categories know that you are interested.

  3. Marilynn,

    I understand what you are saying. With that said, you will find that the majority of agents have very clearly listed guidelines on their websites for what they are looking for and what they don't like.

  4. It's nice to know what happens at conferences and that writers who pitch are still in the same boat as writers who are just querying.

  5. As Scott is constantly saying, we need to treat this as a business and when you pitch or query, you are on an interview. When hunting for the "day" job, would you go in to an interview blind or would you take the time to research the company? That's what agents are asking. For us to take the time. The information is out there, it truly is. Sometimes, you have to dig for it and sometimes, like Scott's, and others, it's right out front for all to see. I was with Scott watching those pitchees as a volunteer on both Thursday and Friday and I saw exactly the same thing he did. The same people pouncing on ANY open spot and running willy nilly between agents/editors. Believe me, if Scott saw it and I saw it, others did as well.

    I get the desperation (and sorry, that's truly what it is), I do. I've felt that way before. But don't sacrifice your maybe one shot opportunity with a particular agent/editor just to get the coveted pages request.

    Because, here's the other thing. I've talked to many agents and many of them are NOT like Scott and will not say no to an author's face. They'll wait to the pages and do a form rejection. It's the nature of the industry so you really do yourself a disservice by pitching to all and sundry (I've always wanted to use that in a sentence. :-D).

    Thanks for the insights, Scott! Always appreciated.