The Scribes welcome Jordan K. Rose today. She’s agreed to share her “pitching” techniques. Thanks for being with us, Jordan, and take it away!
The querying process can be a dreadful, tedious process with all it’s researching and formatting and emailing. But pitching, face-to-face pitching, is absolutely terrifying, right? Sure. But does it have to be? Nope. When I have a manuscript ready to send out, that is, it’s in as perfect a condition as I can get it without an editor, I pitch at every conference. Why? Because for me conference pitching is the only opportunity I have to spend eight minutes sitting with an agent or editor who is totally focused on me. I strongly recommend that any writer with a manuscript that’s ready to go do the same.
I prepare for each meeting in exactly the same way. I research the person to whom I’m pitching. First, and this seems rather obvious, I never pitch to anyone who is not actively accepting the type of stories I write. It makes absolutely no sense for me to pitch my paranormal romance to an agent representing sports biographies. Not only are you wasting your time, but you’re making a bad impression.
Researching editors isn’t always easy to do. Agents tend to have a lot more information out there. When I can’t find anything on an editor or agent, I use a few standard points, listed below.
- Draft a back of book blurb to use as a pitch. They’re short and enticing. Exactly what you need.
- Know where you believe your book should be marketed. Editors and agents always want to know that you understand what your market is. Have you written an urban fantasy with lots of juicy sex scenes and vampires and werewolves? You probably want your book shelved beside Laurell K. Hamilton’s and not with Debbie Macomber’s.
- Be absolutely secure in explaining your writing goals. Do you intend to write full time at some point or are you just planning to write a few books over the next several years? Neither is a bad goal. But be sure you know what your goal is and that you’re able to articulate it.
Those are some basics. The agent/editor will ask you questions. She will want to know about your hero’s foibles or why the homeless heroine doesn’t simply move out of town when she inherits her aunt’s estate in sunny California. The agent will lead the conversation. Don’t you worry about that.
Most agents and editors want you to be comfortable so that you are able to pitch. They want to buy books. They want to make big sales. They’ve attended this conference and agreed to take pitches because they want to meet with you.
Remember, this is a business meeting. The goal is to sell your book and not just to anybody. Oh, no. You want to sell your book to the right person. You want to be represented by the best agent for you. Just because you have an opportunity to meet with one of the most popular agents in the industry does not mean that she is the best agent for you. Just because she has sold her last twenty books to one of the Big Six does not mean that she can help you reach your goals.
Interview her. Ask her the questions that you need answered before deciding if she’s the agent for you. What’s her process? How often does she communicate with her authors? Does she do any editing before sending books out on submission? What can she do for you that you can’t do for yourself? Can she tell you about a time when she caught something in a contract that she thought would have been detrimental to the author? How did she handle it? Where does she see the market going in the next twelve months? What trends in terms of promotion does she think work well? What does she suggest a writer avoid?
These are only examples of what you could ask. Think about what is important to you and ask it. Be professional. Asking her about her children and how she will juggle your career and having another baby is not appropriate. Women have been juggling families and work for years and years and years. Don’t waste your precious eight minutes on a question like that.
As with any meeting preparation is key. Know your audience. Put your best foot forward. Preparation will make your presentation professional and boost your confidence. After all, you’re the talent. You wrote a wonderful story that thousands of readers are aching to read and one lucky publishing house is just dying to buy. Now go out there a pitch like a pro.