Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Getting Ready To Pitch

Right before conferences, it is always interesting that writing chapters put together "practice pitch sessions." While this idea has its merits, I do think the concept itself does promote some pretty bad behavior when it comes time for that author to sit down with a prospective agent or editor. Yes, it is important to prep before going into the pitch session, but be careful what you are prepping.

One of the things that authors fail to remember is that a pitch session IS a job interview. Even if the editor or agent is going to request material from everyone, even if that individual does know it all comes down to the manuscript, the way you present yourself at that session will leave a lasting memory. As I always say, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." That interview or pitch session, if done improperly may ruin every chance you get to see a contract.

When we say to prepare for a pitch, it does not mean that you write out a perfect script that you are going to read to the professional. Along the same lines, it does not mean you will memorize that pitch because you have heard that "reading it gives the wrong impression." First of all, yes, reading it doesn't come across as being professional, but I will have to say, sounding like you are memorized does just the same things. Come on people! How long have you worked on this story? Just tell us about it.

Prepping for questions IS the right approach but DO NOT memorize! Just think in advance the things that the editor or agent will want to know:

1) What is the title, genre and word count? Just start with this. It will get the pitch going much like starting your story with "Once upon a time." Besides, if you have a rocking title, you can already get that editor or agent hooked.

2) What is the high concept for the story? No, we are not talking about a witty line about "This is a story of The Smurfs meeting Frankenstein with a romantic twist." We want to know what the big take away is for your story! What is it that makes this story stand out? What is the theme? Stay away from those generic themes such as a "this is a story of reconciliation." This just makes you look like everyone else. The goal is to make this story sound marketable.

3) What is the central story arc? Give us a run down of the beginning, the middle and the end. Leave out all of the smaller scenes and things that are nothing more than support for that central story arc. Focus on the main plot.

4) What is the central conflict? This will probably work into the story arc but make sure it is there!

5) We need to know who the protagonists are. Again I don't care about the secondary characters. Yes, bring in the villain but that is it. Show us how that person comes into the story.

Be prepared for the editor or agent to ask questions. Because they have a short period of time with you, they need to find out as much as they can. Be prepared for questions such as:
1) So why does the character want to do this in the first place?
2) How will the character solve this problem?
3) Why does the villain hate the protagonist?
4) Why did you put it in this setting and/or time period?
5) What is the theme of the story?
6) Where do you see this story being marketed?
7) Who is the target audience?

Because we are looking for someone for the long haul, you need to be prepped for questions that apply to you and your writing career. This means to focus in on just that. I don't care about you and your cats. We don't want to hear about your personal problems. Focus on the writing.

Questions might include:
1) So how long have you been writing?
2) What other projects do you have?
3) Have you been previously been published?

Now, this is a big one! You need to be ready to write down anything the person is looking for. I recommend just having a legal pad with you to write down the material. You will not be asked to hand them anything. Don't offer. If they really do want the material, you can tell them you can email it once you get back to your hotel room.

Personally, and this is a pet peeve for me, DO NOT hand them your business card the moment you sit down for the pitch. You can have one but wait for the person to ask for one from you. In reality, do you sit down for a job interview and hand the person a business card? Probably not! So don't do it here.

The key to being prepared is to know what they want, know what you have to offer and just tell them. Don't try to "WOW!" them with smoke and mirrors. Do your research and know how your story fits with that person! That time you spend thinking about your project and what you want to say will be amazing.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy reading your posts and get a lot out of them. Thank you for posting them.

    I'm editing and removing monologue tags once I'm in close point of view and it's my POV character doing the action. Do you have a list of words that writers shouldn't use once they're writing in close point of view or any other tips on monologue tags?

    As I edit, here are the words on my radar: knew, thought, noticed, wished, wondered, spotted, remembered, watched, aware of, reminded herself.