Thursday, September 16, 2021

Pitching - Use Your Time Wisely

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
  • Title
  • 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
We're 2 minutes in with 8 minutes to go...

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 fa├žade, make sure to show that. 
We now have about 3 minutes left...
During this last block of time, be prepared for additional questions from the editor or agent. This is also your time to talk about the following:
  • 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. 
1-1:30 left

Make sure that you leave enough time so that the editor or agent has a chance to give you the information on what he/she is interested in seeing, to get notes on how to send material, or to give them your card (ONLY IF THE EDITOR OR AGENT REQUESTS ONE!). 

Make sure that you say thank you, shake hands (or in this world, elbow bump) and make your exit. Remember that the editor or agent will want to get their notes in order because someone else is coming in right behind you.

Now, after the pitch, take the time outside of the pitch room to:
  • Organize your notes
  • Think about their responses and how you will shape the material you will be sending.
At the end of the day, or in your first moment you can get to a computer, email the editor or agent thanking them again and stating exactly when they should expect to see your material. It should be within 1-2 days and not weeks!

Honestly, this all comes down to using your time wisely, and more importantly, making a great first impression!

1 comment:

  1. Talk about great time management, this is great for those who need to practice for their presentation. Definitely a keeper! Thank you so much, Scott, for all that you share.