Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why Conferences Might Not Be The Best Place To Pitch

There seems to be a common belief among writers that pitching at conferences is the way to go. According on one author I heard at a recent conference, "This way I don't get into the slush pile." Although that might be the case, I do personally believe that live pitches for inexperienced authors might not be the best direction. There are some cases when live pitches are good and I'll talk about those at the end, but let's talk first about the reason why this might be bad.

Pitches are unnatural In all honesty, I think the people who came up with the ideas of live pitches really got excited with the really BDSM in 50 Shades. When you think of a pitch, we are asking you to just show up and interview for a job without really planning on it. In many ways, it is very similar to going to job fairs (another place where you often don't find much success).

I would also add that there are often comments made by many of my colleagues in the publishing world that they don't expect to hear something or sign something. Now, this is not that they don't want to. They just know that too often, there are many authors just signing up and pitching stories that aren't a right fit for the editor or agent.

Time and Stress In most job interviews, you have the chance to chat for 30 minutes or more and you have been selected by the employer because they are interested in you and your work. Again, with pitches, we aren't looking for you, but you are looking for us. And now we add in the time factor.

You have 10 minutes (and less in some cases) to convince me that not only is your story the best thing every, but you are also the writer of the future, you have a career ahead of you, and that we like you.

Now we add in the stress factor of sitting in the waiting area, then walking in to find the editors and agents glaring at you like they want to kill you. If this doesn't add up to stress, I don't know what would. If you can't handle the stress, this is certainly not right for you.

You are an introvert This is going to be your downfall regardless of pitching live or sending in submissions remotly. For most writers, they hide away in their office and their only friends are the characters they create. When we get to the live pitch, you now have to interact with a live person. Again, if you can't do this, you certainly are not going to be successful in that pitch session. I would highly recommend that if you are a person in this group, start working on the personal skills first before you live pitch.

You were pressured Critique partners and writing converences are awful for this. There is either a stated or implied message that screams, "There are agents and editors here so get you butt in there and pitch." No way! If you aren't ready, then don't pitch. Just because the person is there does not mean you have to go and talk.

I did state that live pitches do have some great benefits. If you are an interview genius, then you may really rock the live pitch. Take advantage of that skill and put it to work to make that sale.

My authors also find the live pitch successful because we package it with my conversations with the editor before and after the pitch. The session now becomes a chance for the author to showcase their personality instead of their book.

Again, pitches are fine but please, consider before you do so. It might not be the right place for you!



  1. As an introvert, I thank you. Just curious--at what point in the publishing process would authors you represent live pitch a project? I'm already agented, so just file this under "she asks a lot of questions," and thanks for your response.

  2. The answer is simple. My authors pitch when we have the right match at a conference with an editor.

  3. As a writer, it's really easy to have the explanations, descriptions, arguments, etc perfected in my mind. I'm quite eloquent in my own head!

    But, actually talking about my projects (professionally, not just to friends and family) is another thing altogether. In-person pitching seems like it would be helpful in developing that skill, though I do cringe for all of the agents having to suffer through my fumbling attempts.