Pitch Perfect

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?

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14 thoughts on “Pitch Perfect”

  1. Oh, THANK YOU for starting my morning off with a pic of my biggest crush ever, Alex O. OMG…those eyes…mmm. Okay, enough fawning.

    Awesome advice on pitching, Casey. I actually thought about pitching my dystopian trilogy, but thought better of it since I haven’t finished book one yet:-) Although my current plan is to Indie-publish the series, I’m still a bit on the fence about crossing over to some traditional publishing just to get the opportunity to work with a big six editorial staff and have the mass distribution options.

    I would say, in terms of advice to writers wanting to pitch, make sure your story is ready. A/E expect that you are pitching a completed novel. And in case they want to see a partial or full of your manuscript, you want to make sure it’s in great shape and ready to go. If you make them wait months for you to send it in, they’ve long since forgotten you and may not even be looking for that kind of story any more. For those of you ready to pitch, I wish you all the best of luck!

    1. Alex is all for you! I had sooo much fun looking for the right photo (and one big enough to showcase all his dreamy glory!) Thank you for mentioning to pitch completed novels! I know, I waffled back and forth, but in the end I added a few agents to find out what they could do for me (if anything!). We’ll see how it goes.

  2. Hi Casey. I agree with what you have said. The only thing I would add is to smile. I have found the only outward difference between being nervous and being excited is the smile. When I approach an agent or editor I smile and tell them I’m so excited to tell them about my novel. Let’s face it, if you aren’t excited about your book, how do you expect to get an agent or editor excited about it? Yes, I dress as if I am going on a job interview, because if you think about it, you sort of are. Good luck to everyone who will be pitching at Fiction Fest this year. See you there.

  3. Great post. I’ve never verbally pitched, but your information is an invaluable tool for when I do. Thank you for the picture of Alex. Besides Hawaii 5-0, he was also in The Backup Plan with J-Lo.
    Good luck on your pitching. I hope you have a wonderful time. Take lots of pictures.

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