Happy Friday everyone! Casey here.
On May 12, 2012, CTRWA (Connecticut Romance Writers) will host their annual Fiction Fest event (for those of you in the area - there’s still time to join us). After much dithering on my part, I decided I would pitch again. This is mostly so my skills won’t get rusty and to motivate me to stay on top of my writing goals for the year.
Here are my tips for pitching to an agent or editor. Full disclosure – this is what has worked for me. Give them a try. It’s better than pulling out your hair or giving yourself an ulcer.
1. I know this is obvious – plan out what you are going to say. I don’t memorize my pitch. Last year I read from my query letters. This doesn’t mean I stared at the paper and barely made eye contact. The trick is to know what is on the paper and loosely follow it along. The editors I pitched to didn’t mind at all (I pitched 4 times and got full/partial requests from every editor).
2. Practice what you are saying. I know I just told you not to memorize a speech. But reading always works better if the words are familiar in your mouth. Say them aloud so you sound convincing when you speak. This is to build your confidence in what you are saying and it will make the pitch easier when the time comes. I have heard repeatedly from A/E’s that they don’t like it anymore than you do if you approach them as a blathering ball of nerves.
3. Do not ramble – see #1. (Please, please, please, do not pepper your pitch with “umms” and ”I knows”). Last year, I used my query letter format because a query contains important information like word count, genre and the premise of the novel.
4. Listen to editor or agents questions, then pause before answering. Think, then speak. If you don’t understand the question, ask for clarification.
5. Slow it down and take your time when speaking. When you’re nervous or stressed, it’s natural to speed up your speech so make an effort to slow down.
6. Ask questions. This means you should research, ahead of time, the agency or publisher before you sit down in front of them. Do not waste their time pitching a genre or story they are not interested in.
7. If they make a request (congratulations), write down what they want. Repeat back what they have asked for. Better to be clear now, them send the wrong information later.
8. Smile. Relax. They put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us. They want to find the next great story as much as you want to sell it to them.
9.Thank them for their time. Again, obvious, but you’ll probably be elated/nervous and it’s easy to forget. And please, practice a firm handshake. No wet noodle, limp hands.
One final note, because this bears repeating. Jamie did an awesome post about appropriate dress for pitching. Please read it.
At all the conferences I’ve pitched at, the agents and editors have all dressed professionally. So I say take your cue from them. Publishing is a billion dollar industry. Show them you are serious and dress accordingly.
Many times when I write, I am in my pajamas or sweatpants. I would never go to an outside business meeting dressed that way. Or a job interview. I work from home full time, yet I do have an outfit or two I can wear to the office (or funerals or writer’s conferences). Invest in your image. Even if you are indie published, I hope you wouldn’t go to a book signing dressed in pajamas. Respect your industry. Just saying.
Okay. Had to get that off my chest. I’ll stop beating the dead horse now.
Remember – Believe in your book. Believe in yourself. Because if you don’t, no one else will either. Good luck. You can do it.
Who wants to share pitching stories? Successes? Disasters? What words of wisdom can you share for anyone apprehensive about doing it?