I get it! Pitches are tough. Pitches are those stressful situations that many introverted writers have to face to get their stories in front of an editor or agent. But understand that a pitch is absolutely no different than an interview for a potential job. In fact, that is what you are doing - applying for a job as a writer. Still there is stress, and that stress comes from the time constraints. You only have 5, 7 or 10 minutes to make that great impression.
But here is the thing... too many authors screw up pitches because they simply use their time poorly. Wasting that time could be the difference between getting a request and getting a lukewarm response, or even an rejection.
Too often, writers spend much of their time talking about the conference, sharing their personal background in writing, or even making small talk. They think they are doing this to make the pitch personal and allow us to see who they are. Yes, this is important, but remember, we are also looking at the story. If we have very little to go on regarding your story, we are going to be less likely to be overly enthusiastic about your project.
Let's break down a basic 10 minute session. If you have shorter pitch sessions, just scale things down. So, let's start the clock.
30 seconds - Introductions and niceties - "Hi, my name is..." and "Hope your conference is going great" and the thank you for being here talk.
1:30 - During this block of time, you will give the editor/agent the basics of your story:
- Why you selected this editor or agent for your story. Demonstrate what it was in their bio, their talk during the editor or agent panel, discussions with other authors, or their information from the website that makes you the perfect candidate for submitting
- Genre - Be very specific using the language the editor/agent always uses
- Word Count
- High Concept - This can also include comparable titles, but if you do use these, make sure you state exactly what it was about those other titles that make your story similar
4-5 min (NO MORE THAN 5) - Talking about the story.
- Talk about the plot of the story. Give us the beginning, the middle and the end
- Make sure to talk about the conflict
- Give us a sense of the protagonists. Make sure we have a true sense of their GMC's. What are their goals in life, what are their motivations and what is potentially holding them back.
- Focus your attention on the central story arc and don't dive into all of the sub characters
- Make sure to describe your story to always target what the editor or agent likes in a project like your story. If, for example, they like strong heroines, or heroes with a crack in their façade, make sure to show that.
- Where you see your career going
- If this is part of a series, tell us what the other stories are going to be about. Be really clear here such as "The second book in the series will focus on the brother who is faced with..." or "The next book will focus on a [insert character name] who will be having this similar theme].
- You can also talk about how this story has maybe won some contests or your other writing.
- Organize your notes
- Think about their responses and how you will shape the material you will be sending.