Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What Are We Thinking About During Your Pitch Session?

There are times, I am sure, that some of you are thinking that editors and agents are simply thinking of "what they could be doing" instead of sitting there listening to pitches. I have had several authors say to me, "I could never do your job! You just sit there for hours and hours listening to one pitch after another. Doesn't it get tiring?"

O.K. I do have to admit, there are times it has gotten tiring, but to tell you the truth, it wasn't because of the pitches, it was due to uncomfortable chairs, weak coffee, a long flight or a long conference. It wasn't the writers.

Still, I was thinking about this last night. What does it look like from the other side?

First of all, you have to understand why we do these pitch sessions. We are indeed looking for new authors and new projects. Yes, we do tend to reject a lot of people after pitch sessions, but that is more due to the fact that authors are pitching things to A) the wrong people; or B) stories that aren't ready yet. But we are looking and yes we are interested.

Let me walk you through the thoughts going on in my head as you pitch. In many ways, we're going to attach a speaking voice to my head, much in the same way we made Doug the Dog talk in UP!

I am a firm believer in an author beginning with the title, genre and word count of the story. I push for this in query letters and I certainly push for this in a pitch session. Here is the thing... Once I have the context for what type of story you are going to pitch, my brain starts thinking about potential placement of the story. In other words, based on that initial criteria, what publishers would this go to and which ones would I eliminate. This is especially true when it comes to a series romance. If someone tells me they are pitching a Harlequin American, I start listening to the story to see if it fits that line, or if it potentially fits another line at Harlequin.

Now, as you start into the central story arc, I am now thinking of how I would pitch this story to an editor. What are the critical elements of the pitch that I would need to bring to the forefront of a pitch. This block of thoughts will also revolve around thinking of other projects that might be out there already that are similar to this. In other words, if I have heard this story over and over again, then the project will either have to be AMAZING in the writing, or provide some unique twist in the story itself that the author is failing to bring up.

I am also thinking of how much work this story will require. We get that stories might need a little bit of work when you pitch it. The question is, how much? Is this project going to require a complete over-haul, or is it something that we can tweak and turn a little? Maybe this is a project that just needs to be fleshed out a little and cut back in word count?

Finally, after you have gone through your pitch, or I have heard what I need to hear, I will often ask you a series of questions. This varies from one author to the next based on what you told me in your pitch. Sometimes, I ask more questions about your story. This may be due to some missing pieces that I didn't catch or you didn't tell me. I might also have to ask these story related questions because I think that might be the piece of the puzzle that isn't going to work for me. But through all of this, I am also asking questions because I want to learn more about you as a writer. I am not so much interested in the scripted pitch you carefully prepped and ran through your critique group. I am interested in who you are. Remember, we are looking for a long-term relationship here.

So, the next time you pitch and you start seeing that "deer in the headlight look" from the editor or agent, it might not be so bad. We are thinking about your story. We are thinking if this is going to work for us, or maybe one of our colleagues. We are thinking if we have the skills and knowledge to fix the story if it is something that we might not normally work with in a project.

Or maybe we're just thinking about....SQUIRREL!


  1. Another great post full of helpful advice. Thanks so much.

  2. Very helpful information. My fear is that I will be the one with the "deer in the headlight look."