I have a confession to make. I’m a published author. I’m a writing chapter leader. I can talk for hours to any group you put in front of me with hardly a stutter. Yet when it came time for my first pitch, I walked into the agent’s room, sat down…and totally forgot everything I knew about my book.
I blew my first pitch. Totally, utterly blew it.
Trust me, nobody was more surprised than me when I walked into my pitch appointment, forgot everything I’d worked on, and
entered some sort of fugue state. It was as though the doorway to the room had some sort of evil power, robbing me of my ability to talk coherently about plot, themes, or put sentences together. I babbled like an idiot, my throat so dry it actually made a click noise when I swallowed. Like a beached dolphin, I sat opposite a wonderful, kind agent, and clicked and chirped my way through a 7 minute pitch appointment. When I left with her card and an invitation to send her my 1st 25 pages of my manuscript, I knew I’d just been the recipient of the agent ‘Pity Pass’–she felt so bad for my pitch distress, she gave me a pass out of sheer empathy for my clicking/chirping nonsense.
This time, as I’m prepping for my first time pitching at an RWA National Conference, I’m going about it differently. As I ready myself for the opportunity of a lifetime, I’ve gathered some great resources I wanted share with you. Even if you’re not attending now, bookmark this post for later–I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did my first time around!
Pitch to WIN tips:
1. Write an amazing pitch. This step takes the longest, and is the one you should spend the most time on before you go. If you’re a member of our chapter (Sunshine State Romance Authors), then you’ll have access to our folder of members’ pitches that WORKED (i.e. resulted in a request for material and eventually a contract!), as well as this handout created by our own Loretta Rogers called “Pitch Generator” HERE in our Files section of Yahoo groups (must be a member and logged in to access this file). SSRA members can also watch our presentation on query letters, synopsis and pitches on our website HERE (you must log in to watch the video).
2. Refine the Pitch & Practise. Read it to others you know that have pitched, reader friends, the stranger behind you at Publix–whatever it takes to get feedback that people understand your novel, and that you’ve pitched it in a way that makes them want to read it. I don’t advocate memorizing the pitch–that did NOT work for me–but know it and SAY it to dozens of different people before pitch day to optimize success.
3. Be ready for the jitters! The first time I pitched, I figured I had it down pat–I talk all the time to our chapter, to rooms full of people without so much as a stutter. I figured I could do this without nerves impacting me. I was wrong. This time, I’m going to plan for the jitters, and plan how to BEAT them! There’s a great post from Writer’s Digest HERE, called “5 Important Tips on How to Pitch a Literary Agent In Person“–it’s got 5 great tips you don’t want to miss for beating nerves on pitch day!
4. Research your Agent/Editor. This should be obvious, but many writers go to conference and ‘blindly’ pitch to an agent/editor without knowing what he/she represents or has done in the past. In my previous appointment, I’d researched my agent, subscribed to her blog and found commonalities we had–these are what I’d planned to use as ‘ice breakers’ in my pitch appointment. (That sort of went awry, too, because my mojo was thrown off by my environment. See #4 below.) Being able to say you’ve read their blog, or feel they’d be a good fit for you because of x, y or z goes a long way in establishing how serious you are about pitching to THEM (vs. just any agent). Agents are people, too, and a little judicious flattery can’t hurt!
5. Know in advance WHERE you will be pitching (location). If possible, go see it! This is part of what threw off my mojo during my first pitch. I was prepared for a conference table, standing at a bar table, or even just sitting in chairs, knee-to-knee, no table at all. Here’s what I wasn’t prepared for: pitching while sitting on a king-sized bed. In a hotel room. With the agent in a chair pulled up by the bedside, like she was visiting a convalescing, dolphin-clicking writer. This time, I’m going to be ready for whatever room/situation they throw me in! (Hot tub pitch? No problem! Bring it!)
6. Psych yourself Up! Watch all that you can on pitching, read all that you can on pitching, and do all that you can to perfect your pitch…then relax. If you fail, the world won’t end. I can personally guarantee that much. And here’s what else: any attempt you make is better than not pitching at all. As many of our members can attest, it’s not magic, it’s mathematics. The more opportunities you have to pitch your book, the more you increase your chances of success!
Good luck to those members going to NYC with me at month’s end–drinks on me after your pitch!!
SSRA President (who is pitching her new YA series!)
Dylan married her high-school sweetheart and they are busy living out their own happily ever after in sunny Florida with their two incredible daughters and a snoring Shiz-Tsu.
Dylan can be found online at: DylanNewton.com