Friday, March 4, 2011

My First Live Pitch: I need your help!

I have an appointment with a real, live agent in three weeks.  This will be my first big writer's conference as well as my first pitch. I am desperately trying to finish my manuscript and polish it by then, but I also have to think about the interview and what I'm going to say.

I also don't know what to bring with me.  Should I have the first three chapters?  A synopsis?  Business cards?

Help!  Give me your best tips, helps, anything you can suggest.  Thanks!


  1. How exciting! Which conference are you attending? Having been to a couple and now having pitched my first agent, I do have some tidbits.

    1. Wear layers and bring a sweater or a shawl or something. I was hot/cold/hot/cold and was grateful to have a large pashmina to add or subtract and drop into my bag.

    2. I brought my pitch (just to read over and over), and a few copies each of: my first page (there was a 1st page session I was attending), my first 10, my synopsis, and my query. I had no use for chapters. If you're asked to submit, I'm thinking they will want you to email the submission, not hand the chapters right over at that time.

    3. Business cards

    4. Notebook and pen

    5. A tote/large purse. I brought my purse to the first conf and was constantly fighting with it. I brought only a tote to the 2nd conf and it was much easier and comfy and helped carry all of the stuff I collected and purchased.

    6. Breath mints or gum.

    For your pitch, all the advice I have heard says you should have it memorized for sure and you should present it as naturally as possible because the agent is a nice human person who wants to hear about your book. You can read a close replica of my pitch (without the parenthetical bits) on my website under the "Corinne Writes" tab, text in blue.. After you're done pitching, be quiet and let the agent ask questions and then have a conversation. Also, be mindful of the time as there is usually not much padding and you don't want to take away from the next guy. Thank the agent and pay attention to the details if they give you submission instructions.

    Good luck, I was a nervous wreck for my first pitch.

    Hope this was helpful!

  2. Thank you so much, Corinne. How long was your pitch? What did you focus on in crafting it?

  3. My pitch is two short paragraphs. And is modeled after my query. You can read it on my website if you wish (under "Corinne Writes"). I focused on the MC and the things that defined him and the things that happened that forced a change. I left out all the other characters, world stuff, the villain, and anything that might muddy the pitch and sidetrack.

  4. Thanks! I have several query letters, none of which I'm totally pleased with, but no pitch yet.

    I will be going to The Write Stuff conference in Allentown, PA on March 26th. I'm so excited! My first one. I was waiting until I could afford to go, and until I had something to pitch.

  5. You're welcome. I really struggled with my query letter until I talked to another write about it and he said, "just talk about the MC and his transformation." This made something click and really honed my focus to the core of the story.

    Have you shard your query letters with others?

  6. Yes, I have shared it at the Doctor Query website in Nov. 2009. But I don't think the query I finally concocted captures the spirit of the book.

    I read yours... Thank you so much! Normally I would be doing a lot of research on composing a pitch and talking to agents, but I really have to finish this book first. I'm so afraid it won't be done in time, but I don't want to miss this stellar opportunity, either.

  7. Krista M. from Philly Lit is going too!! I've never done a face-to-face pitch so the only advice I can give is from things I read while querying:
    - Be yourself
    - Talk about the book...not you (unless you have time at the end)
    - Understand that the agent is just a person...just like you
    - Do your best to not talkreallyfast ; )
    - Business cards are good - so are first chapters - in case the agent wants to see something right away

    I wish you THE BEST of luck and can't wait to hear how it all goes.

  8. You'll have to look me up, I'll be there! :)

    The first thing I can tell you is to wear comfortable clothes. You don't want to have to itch or try to ignore an itch when you're sitting across from an agent.

    Introduce yourself, shake their hand, and take a deep breath. It sounds simple, but it helps to relax the nerves.

    Give your logline and then a few more sentences about the book. Then stop talking. Let the agent then consider what you said. Most of the time, they will ask questions. Answer them as completely as you can.

    It doesn't hurt to have your pitch, first page, or first chapter with you. Maybe also your synopsis. BUT most agents will not want anything physical (other than maybe a business card) so don't expect them to take them off your hands.

    If they ask for a partial or the full, ask them if they want it emailed or through snail mail.

    Thank them for their time.

    If you still have time, you can then ask them any questions you have about the publishing industry in general.

    Good luck!

  9. Just a few more comments...

    I always bring in a piece of paper with my pitch on it, just as a security blanket. I don't bother to memorize my pitch because then it can sound forced and I'm too afraid that if I forget a word, that I'll get all flustered.

    Instead, I focus on my book, what makes it unique, and try to show my enthusiasm for it. If you aren't enthusiastic about your book, why should they be? I think enthusiasm is key when pitching face to face.

    And pitching is a conversation, it's not one way. So that's another reason why I try to be more natural when I pitch, to talk to the agent, and not give a rehearsed speech.

    I've pitched several times face to face and have always been asked for a partial, so hopefully some of my insights are good! Good luck!

  10. Hi Nicole,

    I certainly will try to find you! I love meeting other writers in person. Thank you so much for the tips. That's great that you got requests for partials.

    K.M. - Thank you, too! I have fifteen minutes (I think) so I should have enough time to give my pitch and then answer any questions the agent has. I'm too new to the process to have any of my own yet.

    I actually know Krista. We are in the same writing group. She is so cool! I love her. We were going to drive together, but she's going earlier and I can't be there until Saturday.

    Back to writing... I am so stressed out over this. I just hope I can finish in time.

  11. You've got plenty of good advice here. No one will expect you to have your pitch memorized--I remember an agent blog saying "this isn't an acting audition!"

    I'd recommend that you prepare a few questions of your own to ask the agent so there's no awkward dead time in the appointment. The pitch itself will probably take you only a minute. This is a great opportunity to get insights into the current market, trends, etc. Heck, I asked for a quick crit of my opening scene during a pitch session--I was concerned my piece wasn't market ready and got great advice and encouragement.

    Good luck!

  12. That last comment reminds me - if you know which agent you';ll be pitching, see if they have a website or anything where they talk about their preferences in these things. Also might be good to know what else is on their list.

  13. You have some great tips here on these suggestion is to be yourself and speak from the heart~ go in with confidence and assuredness no matter how scared you are~
    Keep us posted...

  14. I might be repeating other advice - no time to read here. But here's the scoop, from what I know (having talked to lots and lots of agents and editors and even getting drunk with some of them...)

    No cards, business or gift, no chapters, nada. Seriously. They can't haul all that away from the thing. They'll give YOU contact information if they're interested in seeing more.

    Smile.They're sitting in a room doing this every 10 minutes or so. They need a friendly smile. They're actually on your turf.

    Relax. It's all casual. They sit down to poo, too.

    Don't memorize anything but have that ready answer, which you should practice many times in the con bar... "What's your book about?" Start with a short one-liner. "My book is about demons who rebel against the demon-king Asmodai."

    I once pitched SENTINEL to an editor standing in line at dinner. I never told her what the book was about. Instead I asked her if she was interested in an urban fantasy with hot boy demons. She said YES! And asked me a couple of other questions that led to more detail. (Didn't buy it but she was very nice about it and obviously read my partial.)

    You also can do a "when" thing: When X happens to your protag, s/he does this that makes it worse (how).

    You want to draw questions from the agent or editor, not yes or no questions like "this is urban fantasy" but "How do the brothers interact? Are we talking Supernatural or Biblical sibling rivalry?" (A little of both)

    GOOD LUCK!! :)

  15. Oh, and I've edited hundreds of queries and written quite a few myself. I'm happy to look yours over. Feel free to email me.

  16. Thanks, SSAS. I really appreciate it. I'm just trying desperately to finish the @#*! manuscript first!!!

    I finally came up with this one-liner for what my book is about:

    It's a fantasy novel about two people who essentially see themselves as sidekicks, but suddenly find themselves in the middle of their own adventure and have to figure out not just what to do, but what they really want.

  17. Oh, Christine, I'm so proud of you for taking this big step! I wish that I had some advice for you, but I haven't gotten to that point yet. So, all I can say is that there already seems to be a lot of good advice here. Just speak naturally and be yourself - and don't forget to breathe! Good luck! Can't wait to hear all about it!


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