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OneWriter
08-16-2010, 02:53 AM
Hi all, I need input from any of you who has experience pitching an agent during those dreadful 10-minute one-to-one sessions with agents. How the heck do you do it? Do you bring the synopsis along? The first paragraph? The query? Tips on how to behave and what to say, other than "do not pick your nose while talking, cough in your elbow, and try not to look stupid" are greatly appreciated.

I also have a few other questions.
I was selected finalist in the conference contest. Does that mean I can only pitch that one novel? The thing is, that manuscript still needs a few rounds of beta reading, whereas I do have another novel that's complete and ready to be queried... Would they get annoyed if I sit there, tell them, "hey, I'm finalist, HOWEVER, that's not the novel I'd like to pitch today...." Or maybe, since that's not the novel I will be pitching, is it better not to mention the contest at all?

Argh.

Your input is greatly appreciated!!!

Linda Adams
08-16-2010, 03:23 AM
I run the pitch sessions at my writer's conference, so I see all kinds of things. The first thing to remember is that agents are not ogre monsters. If you're nervous, they'll understand that. Most of them are nice people.

* Read the rules of the pitch sessions for your conferences and follow them. Some of what I mention below will be on the list.

* Make sure you have a completed manuscript for book-length fiction. We always get writers who show up with only three chapters done. We get the nasty grams from the agents afterwards.

* Don't pitch short stories. We always get one of these every year, too. We get complaints from the agents for this, too.

* Pitch to the appropriate agent. This year we had a lot of writers who showed up for pitch sessions to agents who didn't rep their genre. I guess the writers figured the agent would be so wowed that she would agree to rep the work. Instead, the writers were turned away without being able to pitch. We get complaints from the agents for this.

* Be on time. If you're bad with time, wear a watch and set the alarm. Write down the times and the names of the agents so that you remember who you're seeing and when. We had a lot of writers who showed up late or for the wrong time or couldn't remember who the agent was. One showed up half an hour late. His agent, concluding the guy was a no-show, had left for the day.

* Be friendly, pleasant, and polite. Smiling goes a long ways. If you've ever done customer service, put on your customer service face.

* The agent is not a celebrity! They're a small business owner looking for clients.

* Be assertive, but not aggressive. We've had a run of both, where one writer actually hid and another tried to force his way into the sessions. Neither is a good image.

* Know your story and your hook. If necessary, rehearse your pitch, though that depends on you. If I'd rehearsed for my two, I'd have screwed them up--I do better off the cuff.

* Don't waste time. We had one chatty writer who didn't get around to making his pitch session until time was up. He didn't do his pitch.

* Do bring your synopsis and first three chapters, but don't expect the agents to take the material. Both agents I pitched to asked me to email material to them.

* Do bring a small notepad and pen so that you can write down what the agent wants you to email, along with the email address. Ask them what they want in the subject line (they may have something referencing the conference).

* For any writers with special needs, please let the conference committee know. We had two at the last conference (one wheelchair, one with a walker), and we could have scheduled their pitch sessions together so they only had to make one trip downstairs. By the way, just to show you what agents are like, the woman with the walker stayed in the room to wait for her second pitch session and sat at the empty table next to us. When it was time, her agent hopped right over to the table so she wouldn't have to get up and had the pitch session right there.

And if there are any opportunities to attend an agent lunch or breakfast, take it--even if the available agent doesn't rep your genre. It's a chance to ask any questions you may have.

Regan Leigh
08-16-2010, 03:25 AM
Hi all, I need input from any of you who has experience pitching an agent during those dreadful 10-minute one-to-one sessions with agents. How the heck do you do it? Do you bring the synopsis along? The first paragraph? The query? Tips on how to behave and what to say, other than "do not pick your nose while talking, cough in your elbow, and try not to look stupid" are greatly appreciated.

I also have a few other questions.
I was selected finalist in the conference contest. Does that mean I can only pitch that one novel? The thing is, that manuscript still needs a few rounds of beta reading, whereas I do have another novel that's complete and ready to be queried... Would they get annoyed if I sit there, tell them, "hey, I'm finalist, HOWEVER, that's not the novel I'd like to pitch today...." Or maybe, since that's not the novel I will be pitching, is it better not to mention the contest at all?

Argh.

Your input is greatly appreciated!!!

Sadly, I have no advice for you.

(But Congrats, E! ;) Very awesome. :D)

Mr Flibble
08-16-2010, 03:36 AM
Okay pitching is hard. K? I spent my first pitch trying to make sure I didn't spill my tea over the nice lady as we went down the stairs (and yo, thanks for abandoning me after pointing her out Waylander.. *glares*.)


It bit different over here (uk) but I pitched twice and two people bit soooo. I used the 'it's a wizards of the Caribbean' style pitch. I understand this is not how you pitch to US agents, but you need a one line hook. Something short and pithy - why is your book different. Then you expand. (the agent I spoke to was very insistent on knowing 'whose sales do you want to steal' etc, and knowing that you knew your market. The editor was fab, and was more concerned that Samhain hadn't ripped me off lol. She was just as concerned when I emailed her to say I'd got a Carina contract and was she still interested? She was and is a fabulous lady who is very interested in writers)

So:

BE yourself.

Have a one line hook

Have a short description ( similar to the blurb in your query) at the ready.

Try not be too nervous (With editor lady I mentioned it was my first ever pitch, She was most accommodating - 'We all have to start somewhere'. Agents and editors are people too. Do NOT forget that.

OneWriter
08-16-2010, 05:51 AM
Thanks guys! What about the contest? I suppose it would be better not to mention it and just stick to the novel I'm pitching?

waylander
08-16-2010, 01:19 PM
Okay pitching is hard. K? I spent my first pitch trying to make sure I didn't spill my tea over the nice lady as we went down the stairs (and yo, thanks for abandoning me after pointing her out Waylander.. *glares*.)


You wanted me to do your pitch for you too?


Kristin Nelson has blogged about this http://pubrants.blogspot.com/search/label/pitch%20sessions
See entry for Sept 10, 2009

Mr Flibble
08-16-2010, 01:21 PM
Lol no.

But I felt lonely...

:D

spike
08-16-2010, 03:12 PM
I love pitch sessions! All of the agents want to see my work, of course none of them ever buy it...but that's a different problem.

What I do is a write a synopsis. I make it as long as it takes to get all the good stuff in it. Then, I edit it to half it's length. Repeat until you have about 1 paragraph.

Treat it like a job interview. Look professional. Make eye contact. Shake hands.

Be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is contagious. This part is hard for me, because I'm basically bitter and cynical by nature, but you can fake it. Remember, the agent has been listening to pitches all day and a lot will be from clueless people. If aren't excited about your work, who else will be.

Always bring sample chapters, but never offer them. Most agents don't want to carry that stuff around, but you never know. Generally, the rules of the pitch session is to bring nothing for the agent, but the agents don't always follow those rules. I met an agent while outside the building on a smoke break. We chatted and she asked if I had a copy of my work. Of course, she rejected me, but I was glad I had a copy.

And relax. 10 minutes is long time to talk about one subject. It doesn't sound long, but it is. Most of my pitches took about 3 minutes, the rest of the time was spent chatting.

Good luck!

Amarie
08-16-2010, 10:25 PM
I learned quite a bit from those pitch sessions and from talking to other writers. Make it very clear you know the business by stating what genre your novel fits. Also, focus on the unique elements. Their eyes will glaze over if you say things like "I've written a mystery about a police detective who is after a serial killer."

Don't say 'it's another ....(insert name of bestseller)', but you can say things like 'it's in the same vein as <name> because....'

Good luck!