Pitch Like a Pro

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.

Thanks Jordan!  Jordan’s first book, Perpetual Light, will be available Winter 2012.  You can find more from Jordan at her website, www.jordankrose.com and on Crescent Moon Press.


19 thoughts on “Pitch Like a Pro”

  1. I’ve done one live pitch and learned a lot from that experience. All your tips are right on target with what writers should do. Great post.

    1. Hi Brinda. Thanks for stopping by. I learned a ton from my first pitch- most importantly I learned that I was not prepared enough. By my next pitch I was so prepared that I answered all the questions the editor typically asked before she got to ask them. When I asked if she had questions, she glanced at her notes and said, “No. You told me everything.” Quick learner!

  2. Live pitches are the best. Not only can you tell a lot from meeting a person face to face, but it helps you network and learn who’s who in the publishing industry and what they can do for you. Great tips and suggestions for questions to ask!

  3. Thanks Jordan, That’s great info. We are usually so nervous at pitch time that we forget not only are these agents/editors interviewing us, but we are interviewing them. Good point to have us prepare a few questions to ask them. I think they would actually appreciate knowing we have done our homework. Thanks.

    1. Hi Gerri. It’s amazing how personal the entire experience is for everyone. We feel like we’re putting ourselves out there to be judged. But if we all remember we have lives outside of the pitch session and our manuscripts, everything goes back into perspective. Thanks for stopping by. JR

  4. Boy you make it sound so easy. I think it’s like most things, you get out of it what you put in to it. Preparation!! I get prepared before speaking to my boss or before my training classes, and before making a presentation. Why would I do any less pitching my beloved manuscript? You made some good points. I’ve Taken notes. Thanks

    1. Hi Kathye. It always sounds easier until you’re the one in the waiting area practicing your pitch over and over. But really, if you’re prepared and look at it as a quick conversation about a topic you love to discuss, you can’t go wrong. You can pull it off with minimal anxiety. Thanks so much for stopping by. Jordan

  5. Hi Everyone. Thanks so much for stopping by. I’m sorry for my delayed responses. At my day job the scribes are blocked! Apparently their secrets are too much for my company to handle. Jordan

  6. WOW! That was an eye opener for me. Reading all your advise reminded me of doing a sales pitch in any venue. The idea to stay focused is crucial. Thank you for the venue tips in this profession.

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