Friday, April 1, 2011

Pitching IS a Job Interview

I want to take the time to again address some confusion writers seem to have about the publishing world and the real world. I have mentioned this before in other situations, but honestly, it is always good to have a bit of a reminder every now and then.

For some authors, this will be a chance to finally meet with an editor or agent face to face and "pitch" your story. Unfortunately, too many authors blow this chance with an awful pitch. I am not talking about what they say, but about their presentation as an author in front of that editor or agent.

Despite what many editors and agents say, that "we know some people struggle with pitches and it always comes down to the story," the reality is that we cannot avoid that pitch. A bad pitch  is at least one strike against you.

What writers seem to fail to grasp is that a pitch to an editor or agent IS a job interview. In the case of a job interview, it is your chance to show that future employer that you are the right person for the job. In the case of a pitch, it is your chance to demonstrate to that editor or agent that you have a project that is right for us and you are professional and have a future with us.

Let's step away from writing for a second and talk about job inteviews;

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

An interview gives you the opportunity to showcase your qualifications to an employer, so it pays to be well prepared. The following information provides some helpful hints.

  • Learn about the organization.
  • Have a specific job or jobs in mind.
  • Review your qualifications for the job. 
  • Be ready to briefly describe your experience, showing how it relates it the job. 
  • Be ready to answer broad questions, such as "Why should I hire you?" "Why do you want this job?" "What are your strengths and weaknesses?"
  • Practice an interview with a friend or relative.
Personal appearance:
  • Be well groomed.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Do not chew gum or smoke.
The interview:
  • Be Early
  • Learn the name of your interviewer and greet him or her with a firm handshake.
  • Use good manners with everyone you meet.
  • Relax and answer each question concisely.
  • Use proper English—avoid slang.
  • Be cooperative and enthusiastic.
  • Use body language to show interest—use eye contact and don’t slouch.
  • Ask questions about the position and the organization, but avoid questions whose answers can easily be found on the company Web site.  
  • Also avoid asking questions about salary and benefits unless a job offer is made. 
  • Thank the interviewer when you leave and shake hands.
  • Send a short thank you note following the interview.

 We've all seen similar lists such as this. None of this information should come as a surprise to you. These items are things that present you in a positive light to a prospective employer.
Now take all of those same items in the list above and replace terms that deal with publishing. Employer for agent and editor and so forth.
There is no change.
And a couple of other things to remember. I don't care if the conference you are attending is a working conference, when it is time to pitch, you need to be in "interview mode."
Also, you will remember that you would never apply for a job and interview "just to get a chance to practice your interview skills." The same goes for pitching. There are often few slots for pitch appointments and taking up the time of an editor or agent when you are not ready is taking up the spot from someone who might have been ready to move on.
Just something to chew on this weekend.