Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pitch Ettiquette

Pitching is a topic we spend a lot of time talking about at conferences and on blogs like this. In all honesty, we spend this amount of time to insure that A) you have a great pitch for the editors and agents; but also B) so that we as editors and agents get what we need to make a decision about your story. Still, it is amazing that with all of the information out there, so many writers completely blow those pitches. Of course, there are a few things you can do.

DO YOUR RESEARCH I have to say I was beyond amazed at how many writers were pitching projects to me and the other editors and agents when we simply didn't want that genre at all. During one session at the PNWA conference last weekend, over 50% of the authors were pitching things such as screenplays, memoirs and the like, but not romance or women's fiction.

Look people. The information is out there. The conferences do a fantastic job of putting together bios of the editors and agents. We do panel discussions where we tell you exactly what we want and don't want. And obviously, there are the websites. This is not rocket science out there. Read!!!

DON'T ARGUE WITH THE EDITOR OR AGENT We aren't going to ask for projects from all of you. There will be times when the story just isn't going to work for us. But, if we do say no, please do not try to justify why we need to take it anyway, or that we made the wrong decision.  I can promise you that we will not change our mind and suddenly say yes.

I actually had people telling me, after I explained their project wasn't a romance or women's fiction, why I was completely wrong. This, unfortunately happens far too often. If the story isn't going to work, simply say thank you, offer another project (if they ask) and if the project is what they want, and then move on. Who knows when you might have to come back to that person in the future.

KNOW YOUR STUFF Again, this might sound completely obvious, but know your story, know your genre, know your word count. It is not our place to have to drag that information out of you. I did hear one author pitch a story but didn't know what his genre was, and then proceeded to tell the editor that it was really up to the editor to decide on the genre. Not going to happen. This just shows us you are not ready to move into professional publishing.

DON'T READ YOUR PITCH Come on people. Are you telling me you don't know your story well enough? Reading the project simply shows us you are not prepared. I should also add that having it memorized lacks the sincerity as well.

BE HONEST Tell us the truth. If the story has been previously published, then tell us. If it is not done, then tell us. If you have already shopped your story to a lot of people, then tell us.

DON'T PITCH TO EVERYONE This is really important and there are two elements here to remember. First of all, your story is not going to fit with everyone so don't just pitch to people because there is an open time slot. You shouldn't be "throwing darts and hoping something sticks". Secondly do not pitch to multiple editors and agents at the same publisher or agency. This also includes if someone has already passed on the project.

BE PROFESSIONAL This is only obvious. You are selling not just your project, but also you as a writer. this is a package deal so show that you are a professional writer. Dress the part, look the part and sound the part!

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