Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Taking the Leap and Surviving the Pitch

On Saturday, I volunteered at the Writer's Digest Conference in Ft. Lauderdale. For most of the day I helped oversee the pitch room, with two other ladies, including one of my critique partners and a new friend who writes mystery and romantic suspense. There were eight agents there, representing just about every type of book you can imagine, from non-fiction and memoirs to genre fiction and children's books. While the speaker talked about craft and the publishing industry, the three of us were busy shepherding authors in and out of the pitch room. Each author was allowed 10 minutes to "sell" their book and get a request, so most of our day was spent staring at our phones to make sure no one went over the time limit.

The authors would congregate in the hallway outside the room and wait until they were allowed in. This gave us plenty of opportunities to talk to them during the wait. Most of the authors I talked to seemed very new, and very nervous. It's been a long time since I did my first pitch, so at this point I don't really get nervous, but I understand how nerve-wracking it can be to sit down with a stranger and try to sell your book in only 10 minutes. I ended up calming a lot of them down, with pretty much the same advice. So I thought I'd share my tips for surviving a pitch for the newbie authors.

1) Remember you LOVE this book!!!

With every nervous author, I would ask...do you love your book? After a moment of stunned realization, they would always get a huge grin on their face as they replied "yes". So I told them to just go in and tell the agent about the story they love. That's all you need to do.

2) Remember to Breath...

It may sound silly, but doing deep breathing exercises helps every time. It's an old theatre trick I learned way back in Junior High. You inhale to a count of 8, and then exhale to a count of 8. Do it several times. It helps calm you down and center your thoughts. 

3) Remember the pitch doesn't have to be perfect...

The point of a pitch is not to show how good you are at pitching. It's to tell them enough about your book...so they can tell if they're interested in seeing more. I've heard editors and agents say that a "good" pitch doesn't always translate to a "good" book. By the same token, a person might bomb at pitching, but their writing could be great. So don't worry if you aren't polished perfection. 

4) Remember editors and agents are normal people...

Agents and editors are not mythical creatures, with special powers (other than the power to represent or buy your book). I have heard a few stories about nasty encounters in pitch rooms, but for the most part they are extremely nice. They WANT to find a great book and they hope yours will be the one. So approach them like you would anyone else and just talk to them.

So there you have my pitch tips.