Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tell Me What You Know re: Pitching

Okay, I'm totally using you. Help a sister out. So I'm presenting on pitching to agents and editors. I'd love to go in with some real-life war stories. Which means I need you to tell me yours.

Or, if you haven't pitched to an agent or an editor at a conference, point me to some blog posts that blew your mind.

I want to do a good job, and I need to expand outside myself.

So pitching to agents and editors. Stories, blog posts, experiences, advice. Anything is welcome.

56 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

I used some of the pitches that won on Market My Words (search pitch contest) as examples to try to craft mine as well as a few Query Tracker links. You probably know those.

I think if you have some real examples of good pitches--some maybe you can craft from well known books, that is really helpful. Maybe show a bad example of it and a good one of the same pitch to highlight how to do it right.

Tell people to remember the agent/editor is just a person. You really don't pitch to the editor--it's a critique where you discuss their comments to the chapter you submitted usually.

The other thing I've learned in submitting the same chapter over 7 times is how subjective the opinions are and they can be inconsistent in suggestions.

I had mostly positive experiences but I had 2 bad ones with an agent and editor where they hated my work. One I had to have lunch with the next day. You just have to remember how subjective it is and try to pretend it didn't happen when you interact with the person so you don't burn any bridges. It's important to remember it's one person's opinion and to take all comments with a grain of salt. Don't give up!

Theresa Milstein said...

I pitched at a conference last year. When I had a manuscript critique, the editor asked if I had any other pieces so I told her about the one I was working on. I think I gave a blurb from the query. But at the time, the query was terrible.

You know what, don't ask me. I can't offer help. There's a great post on Chuck's Writer Digest Blog:

http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/How+To+Pitch+To+An+Agent+At+A+Writers+Conference.aspx

Candyland said...

I've never been face to face with an agent or editor but I've won many pitch contests:/

Jonathon Arntson said...

Okay, well, the walk to the mound is very important. You have to have some swagger, but not too much. Once you're to the mound, you must have a quirk. Whether it's kicking the north side of the mound six times or twirling your ball cap on your finger for sixty seconds.

Then you're to the pitch. It's all about form. Simultaneously step your left foot forward, lift your right leg behind the left one, raise your left arm as though you're blocking your chest, and sling shot your right arm back, then shoot it forward for a fastball.

That's how you pitch.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I forgot to mention that James Dashner's review of your book is awesome. Congrats!

Em-Musing said...

When I pitched, I had a killer opening line. It got the agent's attention which calmed my nerves. I practiced my pitch beforehand so often, my cat finally told me to knock it off. I imagined all the questions I could possibly be asked and rehearsed my answers. I also wore a killer outfit that made me feel confident.

Tracey Neithercott said...

I've never pitched to agents or editors before, so no war stories from me.

I would just like to say congrats on that awesome blurb from James Dashner!

roxy said...

I once pitched an agent who had been listening to pitches for three, uninterrupted hours. I was pretty sure she was tired and maybe even experiencing a sugar drop so I brought her a package of plain M&M's. She remembered that when I queried her months later. Setting yourself apart somehow and thinking of the agents as people always helps your pitch.

~Jamie said...

If it's in real life, don't sweat it. Almost all agents request the full manuscript anyway because the last thing they want to do is embarrass you in person-- so instead just be yourself and impress them with your awesomeness.

Kelly Bryson said...

I blogged about pitching an agent last year- in fact, I went back to get the link and saw that you'd commented on it. Thanks again:)

http://bookreadress.blogspot.com/2010/05/you-too-can-win-friends-and-influence.html

Shana Silver said...

I don't have any interesting stories about pitching but I'll chime in on the best advice I heard about how to write a great pitch/logline. Basically, practice writing hooky loglines for other people's books, movies, TV shows, etc. If it's a movie, you can compare how you did with your logline to the one on IMDB. I think it's easier to write a logline pitch for work that's not your own because you're not too close to it. And if you practice enough, when it comes time to writing yours it will come much easier.

Also, critiquing other people's queries helped immensely. If you can spot what's wrong with someone else's and how to fix it, you can apply it to your own work.

Amy Jarecki said...

Per the pitching guru, Katherine Sands - 25 words or less. Have it memorized. Smile, be warm and frinedly with a firm handshake. Take your time, don't let your nerves rush you through it. Practice it with someone else over and over until you wake up in the morning reciting it (OK, that one was from me).

Melissa Sarno said...

I pitched an agent at BEA, which is NOT a place for pitching agents, so I was completely unprepared. A writer I was talking to introduced me to her agent and he said 'Tell me what you're working on' I nearly fell on the floor. I told him what my novel was about and perhaps it wasn't the most elegant explanation, but as I got into it, I found myself gaining more confidence. At the end of the pitch, I flat out asked him if I could send him a query. (Not sure if this is appropriate, but I went for it) He said, 'Don't send me a query, send me the manuscript'. I'm not sure why I responded this way but after the whole thing was said and done I said, 'That made me really nervous, pitching my book to you.' He said, 'Don't worry about it, you did an amazing job. It's always awkward, for everyone involved, so you just do the best you can.'
So, I think there is a lot of advice in there. Have a pitch ready even if you think you'll never pitch an agent in person ever (cause you never know). And remember that you know your book better than anyone, so you are the most qualified person to pitch it. Also, just be human about it, when I told him I was nervous about it, it surprised me that he said the whole pitch thing was awkward for everyone involved. Agents are human too and you just do what you can. It's not the end of the world.

Rachel said...

Elena

I am getting ready for my first conference where I'll be pitching so I have done a lot of research on this lately. My favorite resource was Pitch University online--http://www.pitch-university.com/-- free source and full of info!

Everything else I found in my obsessive research I kind of put together in this post on my blog:
http://theendingunplanned.blogspot.com/2011/01/wip-wednesday-pitch-that-novel.html

Liza said...

Wish I could help. Love your pink hair and once again am so impressed by how you all help each other out!

Elana Johnson said...

Thank you, everyone! Great advice here! I knew I could count on the blogosphere.

Scott said...

Holly Bodger @ Random Notes from Holly Bodger has some great info on her site about pitches. In fact, she helped me refine my pitch. She's getting a comment in my acknowledgements section one day (oh,and so are you)!

Her site is: http://hollybodger.com/

Check it out. She's awesome.

S

JoLynne Lyon said...

My most informative pitching session was at a writers' conference when I was face to face with an agent for the first time. I gave her what I thought was a good summary and she said, "Is there a main character?" She helped me understand something I would have taken much longer to figure out on my own: my book was way under-focused.

Stephanie McGee said...

A couple weeks back an agency did a pitch session on twitter. They graciously allowed us to pitch for feedback on that pitch rather than as a means of getting our manuscript in front of them. I tweeted mine and it came off as the wrong genre. Which was very valuable advice I couldn't get otherwise. (Obviously I could probably have found something online but to get that direct feedback was awesome.)

Chris Phillips said...

The one thing I know about pitching is that if I had to do it face to face with an agent or editor I would seize.

Angela Ackerman said...

Oh man, my first pitch? Major suckage. I did exactly what you shouldn't do: I memorized a 'written pitch'.

As hard as it might seem. the best advice I've ever gotten is to talk about the book as if you were telling a friend, not rehearsing lines for a performance! Trust that your enthusiasm & knowledge for the story will come through. :)

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Melissa Gill said...

I was so nervous the first time I pitched to an agent, that I don't even remember what happened. It was like my brain totally tuned out and I just sat there quivering like a giant exposed nerve ending. I probably let my mouth hang open and drooled all over my MS. But fortunately I don't remember that humiliation.

The next time, I would relax! I'm much tougher and more experienced now.

You turned me on to "Save the Cat" he proposes pitching to total strangers as a way of guaging the interest in your story. While I haven't gotten up the courage to do this, yet... I think that would be a fantastic way to prepare. I'm going to force myself to try this before my next pitch session.

LeishaMaw said...

The first time I pitched to an editor I convinced myself that she wasn't an editor. What can I say, I have a great imagination. This actually worked for me because I wasn't nervous and was able to be myself. It went great. AND she asked me to submit.

Carolyn V said...

I'm pitching this spring. All I've heard is "be prepared". yikes.

Sara B. Larson said...

I don't have much advice, but I'm sure you'll do awesome. Good luck!

Susan R. Mills said...

Can't help you there, but I wish you lots of luck!

Kate said...

Pitching is just talking, it shouldn't be hard or scary.

DO NOT memorize your query letter and recite it, that doesn't go over well.

Practice by talking to other writers at the confrence. Ask them what they are writint, and tell them about your project. Just have normal conversations and figure out how to describe what your writing in 30 seconds or less.

Then when you go to pitch to an agent, pretend like they're just another random confrence attendee. Tell them the same thing you told everyone else. If you're story idea is good, and you're relaxed and straight foreward when you talk to them, chances are really high that they will ask you for a partial.

Just have a conversation. About a topic you know a lot about and hopefully care a lot about - your book. It's that easy.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'd say ask Matthew at The QQQE blog - he'd know a bunch of people who've pitched.

Stacy Henrie said...

When I went in to pitch to an editor in a room full of other people pitching to agents and editors, there wasn't a chair for me to sit in at her table. Someone had taken it and we had to wait for another one. At first it was a little awkward, but I could tell she felt bad, too. And that broke the ice. We were able to have a little time to chat about where we were from, etc., before they brought my chair.

So like others have said, remembering agents and editors are people helps and thinking of a few things to say to break the ice instead of launching straight into the pitch.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I had two awesome pitch sessions, one with an agent and one with an editor. Agent asked for full and editor wanted proposal. I think remembering that the agent and editor are human helped me to feel relaxed and quite myself (which has scared some in the past) but apparently worked to my favor in these meetings.

Going into the meetings knowing they're rooting for you and hoping to find a good story helps too.
~ Wendy

Andrew Rosenberg said...

I just did Pitch Slam at WDC11. Here are my posts:
http://blog.dawnsrise.com/2011/01/writers-digest-11-conference-report.html

http://blog.dawnsrise.com/2011/01/whoa-factor.html

My biggest takeaway is that you some kind of "wow" factor in your pitch, especially if you only have a couple seconds. (your "elevator" pitch)

And practice your pitch, esp with other writers.

Amanda said...

Dang! I wish I had some good pitch stories. Every time I try to pitch something to my agent, she tells me to focus on my current series and save my other ideas for later.

As far as pitching to an editor, when we sold my series, we presented one detailed and one "teaser" synopsis for the next two books in the series. Seemed to work pretty well :)

Margo Berendsen said...

I signed up to pitch to an agent at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference and while I was waiting my turn, a moderator said that someone had missed their scheduled pitch with the editor of Tor and did anyone want to fill in last minute? So I had a fantasy on the backburner but I figured, what could it hurt and I volunteered. Absolutely unprepared. Fortunately the editor was a gentleman and listened very politely to my ramblings and then asked a question that completely changed my writing life: "what's unique about your story?" I mumbled out a lame response, and then thanked him for sitting through my impromtu amateurish pitch. He was so kind and not condescending, I considered myself lucky even though I didn't get a request out of it.

Donea Lee said...

I've only really pitched to one agent, although I did attend a conference focused specifically on pitching - Algonkian Workshops. From my own experience - I'd suggest, try to relax, go in conversationally but prepared to answer any plot/character question that could possibly be thrown at you and be confident in your answer. (I did the exact opposite...sadly.) Good luck - I'm sure you'll do great! :)

Nicole Zoltack said...

Wear comfortable, but nice clothes. Nothing is worse than wearing something itchy and not being able to scratch!

Be enthusiastic but not over the top. You want to sell your book to them, you want to make them enthusiastic about it!

Bring notecards but try not to use them. Use them as a security blanket.

Don't memorize your pitch. It won't sound natural and if you screw it up, you'll become so flustered.

Take a deep breathe before you start talking.

Introduce yourself and shake their hands. Be sure to thank them at the end.

Hannah Kincade said...

I listened to a podcast recently about pitching. writingexcuses.com I'm not sure of the actual date but I'm sure it was in the past few weeks.

Stasia said...

I find pitching terrifying. Much prefer a workshop setting--or a meal. Once I "pitched" a manuscript to an agent during dinner and it worked out great BUT I discussed my ms more in terms of asking his thoughts about whether I should be looking for agents at this point and the conversation kind of went from there. So, for me, I guess the key to pitching is to focus more on the work and not make a ms request my objective. If it works out, great; if not, it wasn't meant to be anyway. Hmm...this probably isn't very helpful. Good luck with your presentation all the same!

Martha Ramirez said...

My first pitch was to an agent in a chat room. I somehow got the passwords mixed up and so when it was time to enter the room I couldn't get in. Talk about adrenaline rush! I finally made it but I was so nervous.

Anyway, I think ull do great, Elana. You have a great personality and you are very talented. That speaks for itself when pitching.

Best of luck! can't wait to hear all about it.
Here's a link to Bookends about how to master your pitch: http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2010/07/mastering-elevator-pitch.html

Matthew Rush said...

I've never done it and hope I never have to, even though I know better.

Carrie said...

I've never pitched so can't help you with a story, sorry. Just wanted to say congratulations on the blurb! Very exciting!

Holly Ruggiero said...

Okay, I’ll bite. What exactly is pitching? Verbal querying?

L.T. Elliot said...

All I can really say about it is that if you're not 100% finished with your book 100% polished (as much as you can get it) then you shouldn't go to one. Well, that's my opinion anyhow. It's kind of a waste of your time if you're not ready and definitely a waste for the agent/editor.

AWESOME blurb from James! Way to go, Elana!

Alli Sinclair said...

I've pitched to at least eight editors/agents over the past three years and done a pretty good job at getting their interest and remembering my "pitch". But the last time I sat down in front of an editor I totally forgot EVERYTHING except the title of my manuscript. Mind you, I had practiced my pitch so many times and had it memorised. I'm not sure why I had a brain freeze. Luckily the editor was extremely friendly and engaged. I came up with a tagline off the top of my head as I had to say SOMETHING, right? Her eyes widened and she grinned and said, "I love that! Send me the full!" and as of three weeks ago it's been sitting on her desk.

Lesson: even if you flub the pitch, agents/editors will normally understand it's because of nerves. They're human, just like us and a smile will get you everywhere.

Lisa_Gibson said...

Okay I'm worthless in this arena. Best of luck with your presentation. :)
Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

Write Chick said...

I got some great advice from Nathan Bransford's site before I did my first and only pitch. It was about a year ago, so I don't know how easy it would be to find.
I think there are three things you have to have in order to do a great pitch.
1) Confidence (so dress in something that makes you feel amazing)
2) Know the deep, down highest stake in your book and how your book is different than anyone elses.
3) Talk to the person like you are having a natural conversation. Don't memorize anything...except for #2 above. That is the most important thing.

My pitch session was fabulous. I felt like the agent and myself really clicked, but honestly my writing wasn't where it should be. In the end, that is all it is really about.

Jen Daiker said...

Holy Toledo I adore your pink hair!!! That's too awesome!!! Email me on where you found it (please) I'd love to join in on the fun!!!!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

The SCBWI LA conference doesn't have the opportunity to pitch (whew!), but I will have a chance to pitch at the local RWA conference in the fall.

Good luck with the presentation, Elana!

Jemi Fraser said...

Wish I could help - but I've never pitched - looks like you've got lots of great help though!

Serenissima said...

Although I can be terribly shy, I've pitched to a bunch of agents and editors at conferences, and did pretty well, I believe.

The two main points I'd stress are:

1) Most of the agents/editors are quite pleasant (all of the ones I've met, actually) and are NOT there to do a Simon Cowell on you, so try to relax and start with a hello, how are ya? before getting into the pitch. Some agents/eds will lead the convo by asking you questions about your ms. Then it's even easier.

2) It helps a zillion percent to PRACTICE your pitch with other writers first. At the conferences I've been to, every writer I met totally understands where your coming from and seems happy for a chance to practice on each other. Yeah, the first time or two may feel weird, but it does for them too. After you've given the pitch a few times, it'll feel way more natural when you give it to a pro.

Good luck with your presentation!

Ca.ll.y said...

This wouldn't by chance be your presentation for the Utah Valley Writers conference with ASD would it? If so, I am looking forward to it even more than I was when your topic was listed as TBA.

Yay!

Shari said...

Congratulations on your review. That must feel incredible.

As to pitch sessions--make sure you are prepared. That's it.

ali said...

You're such a user, E. ;) But smart, too!

So, um, my expeirences? Hmm.

1. Agents are really just normal people. I know! Whoda thunk it. So be relaxed and expect to meet a friend, NOT the ruler of the universe. Chances are you'll be more yourself and are more likely to make a good impression.

2. One time I went in and the agent, who was supposed to do a query/synopsis review of our q/s beforehand, had totally not read my stuff. So she used most of our time together to read my stuff right there and gave me only the most cursory response. I felt kinda jipped (how do you spell that?). At first I was just kinda ticked--and she didn't even tell me if she liked it and/or wanted to read a partial or anything!

After a while I got up the nerve to talk to catch her in the hall and ask, "Hey, I didn't get to ask you if you'd be interested in reading any portion of (book title). Can I send it to you?" And she said YES.

So be brave, go George, and don't be afraid to approach the agent even outside of the pitch.

Kristen Knight said...

My suggestion is to practice your two sentence pitch - MEMORIZE IT. Then, when you're sitting, sweating, in front of the agent and your pitch beginning comes out perfectly, it helps you relax. Oh, also, SMILE while you pitch, it helps relax you no matter what. : )

Heather said...

I've discovered that the pitch must be concise and compelling. It also must get the point across in less than two minutes. Rambling is evil. It also helps to remember that agents and editors are looking for us as much as we're looking for them.

Stephsco said...

You all are so helpful. I've learned more from the comments section than I could ever imagine!

Karen Lange said...

Okay, I got nothing. Sorry. But I will be rooting for you. And ready with the bacon if you need to stop by KY in your travels.

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