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Snappy
01-12-2011, 12:25 AM
I'll be heading to a conference this year with a completed, polished MS to pitch! I've been to conferences before, never pitched in person before.

HELP! What do I do? How do I do it? What the heck do I wear? Advice needed!

waylander
01-12-2011, 02:55 AM
Be able to answer the question 'which books published in the last 3 years would you compare yours to? Whose readers are you trying to steal?'

Karen Junker
01-12-2011, 03:23 AM
First of all, remember that the agent or editor is likely as excited as you are -- they're looking for their next bestseller!

I've pitched at lots of conferences (I put on a writers' conference) and the agent/editor will likely be very helpful. They understand that you are nervous. I've even printed out my pitch on a notecard and read it because I was too anxious my first time!

What they're looking for is a sentence or two that summarizes your hook, then if they want more information they may ask you about your characters, their goals and motivations, etc. It helps to be able to relax and talk comfortably about your story. Please don't ramble--you can go on too long about the story and then their eyes are likely to start glazing over!

What I've found is that unless you are pitching something totally opposite to what they're looking for, most of them will ask for more material.

Best of luck!

Linda Adams
01-12-2011, 03:53 AM
I run the pitch room for my conference and have done it for about 6 or so years. These are some do's and don'ts of pitch sessions.

Make sure your book is completed, and that you are pitching a book. We've had people try to pitch three chapters and short stories.

When you pick your agents, make sure that they represent the genre you're writing in. We had people who couldn't find a second agent who repped their genre, so they picked a second one who didn't, figuring she'd listen to their pitch anyway. The agents turned them away.

Once you get your agents reserved and the times, print a copy of the schedule for yourself. We had someone who didn't bring her information, went to the reception desk to get it, and either got it wrong from the volunteer or wrote it down wrong. If you have the schedule in hand, you can refer to it easily.

Wear a watch. And, if necessary, set the alarm and then show up for your pitch session early. Seriously. We had a lot of people show up late because they literally weren't paying attention to the time. In most cases, they were lucky, and the agent saw them anyway. But one fellow showed up 30 minutes later, and the agent was gone.

Dress nice, but in clothes you are comfortable with. Meaning that you can do jeans if they look nice, and you don't have to do a suit unless you want to. Your favorite colors are encouraged if they make you feel lucky or comfortable!

Bring a notepad and a couple of pens. When I pitched this last time, the agents told me what they wanted, and I wrote it down on my notepad. Do have your synopsis and first 3 chapters handy, but expect the agents to ask you to email it to them.

Don't sabotage yourself. We're big on staying on time at our conference, and we get the writers in and out. We tell them if the agent is still with someone just to get in the agent's sightline. Usually the agent breaks when the writer does that. Sometimes the agent doesn't, and we work around that. But we had one guy who literally hid in a corner because he didn't want to bother the agent. He was so well hidden, he was five minutes into his ten minute session before we noticed--and he still refused to "bother" the agent. I had to march him over so he would get his turn. And once the agent saw him, she stopped her session and went right to his.

Always, always, always, smile and be polite, even if the agent doesn't rep your work. If you meet an agent outside your genre, they will likely still ask you what you're working on, and you can practice your pitch. Maybe you'll even get a name from the agent on who to send it to.

Don't try to sneak into the sessions. Every year, it seems like we have one person who creates a bad impression because he wants to get over. One guy showed up early for his pitch session, then wanted to hang around for his next pitch session. We told him he needed to go check in, which he did. After he finished that pitch session, he wanted to go see an agent he claimed he had the next pitch session with (he was lying). We told him to go check in again, and he kept trying to wheedle a session out. The agent was on a break, checking her email, and he kept going, "But she's not doing anything. Why can't I see her?" Every time we get one of these guys, we tell the conference coordinator. We usually don't see these people at the next conference.

If you require any special accomodations, tell the conference people when you schedule the pitch and see if they can schedule (if you have more than one) pitch sessions together. Last year, we had one woman on a walker, and her pitch sessions were more than half an hour apart. We let her sit at a table so she wouldn't have to go back upstairs.

Finally, don't be nervous--or at least don't make yourself more nervous about worrying. Agents are generally nice people and will understand that it's a nerve-wracking experience. To give you an idea of what we see, when it was time for the woman on the walker to do her pitch, the agent hopped up and went to see her.

Mr Flibble
01-12-2011, 04:18 AM
So last year, I was in the same position

I was at aconference with my writers' group

Waylander pointed out a Prominent Editor. Waylander said 'Go pitch!' So I approached (and notice that Waylander had left me to find my confidence on my own. At the time my thought was 'git!' but I see why he did it - so that I would dooo it, on my own.

So I did and Said Lady asked me to come back after the panel she was on,

I spent half the pitch ensuring my trembling hand didn't spill tea on her. But I started with 'This is my first ever pitch, and I'm a bit nervous' and she was FAB. She said 'We've all got to start somewhere' and then listened to my pitch and asked for the full(ultimately rejected but hey, the pitch worked)

Be honest

Be yourself

Pitch it as best you can (I stammered through half of mine....)

OneWriter
01-12-2011, 04:35 AM
Bring a print out of your first 3-5 chapters, your query, and the synopsis. They usually ask for an electronic copy, but you never know. Tell them it's your first pitch ever and that you're nervous. They'll smile and the atmosphere will relax. If you're dreading it, put yourself in their shoes and think of what they have to go through, sitting through hours of pitches. My second one was going fairly well, except in the middle of it the editor stands up and tells me he really needs to go to the bathroom. He gave me his email, told me to send the full ms and kicked me out.
I haven't heard back, though me thinks he asked to see the full just so he could go to the bathroom. So, if they look jittery or shaky, don't assume it's because your pitch sucks. They might just have to go. ;)

Oh, my best pitches ended up being the ones at breakfast because a bunch of agents sat at the table next to mine. They were very normal and very pleasant people. :D

ETA: I forgot that before going to the conferences I printed out a bunch of pitch suggestions from the archives of Kristin Nelson's blog. There was a 12-installment back in 2008 on how to pitch your book with several examples, and I'm told her webinars are based on those installments. It was very useful. I spent the evening before the pitch rehearsing with a friend.

rainsmom
01-12-2011, 05:25 AM
Work on your pitch ahead of time, and do it for other people at the conference. Keep tinkering until you get that WOW response. Seriously -- I spent a solid year tinkering with my pitch and presenting it to other people, and I always got a "That's interesting" response.

I *knew* it was a good story, but clearly, I hadn't found the right pitch. Finally, at a practice pitch session at the last conference I attended I said in frustration, "But it's really about..." and pitched the emotional story underlying the plot I had been focusing on. Eyes around me lit up. WOW.

I got two full requests at the conference.

Seriously: Start working on the pitch, and don't stop until you get the WOW.

blacbird
01-12-2011, 12:31 PM
I went through the pitching gauntlet three or four times at major conferences. The agents were invariably polite and pleasant.

It was still a horror, every time, and got me nowhere. I felt like dying afterward, every time. I'm horrible at such things, and don't think I'll ever try it again.

seun
01-12-2011, 03:10 PM
I've only ever pitched on the phone - and that was by accident. I called to check the agent's subs guidelines and ended up trying to not sound like an arsehole.

I'd need to improve my people skills before I could do it face to face.

Snappy
01-13-2011, 10:12 PM
Thank you all for the advice! :)

ajkjd01
01-13-2011, 10:58 PM
Bring Altoids. Keep 'em in your pocket.

If you're nervous, you'll get dry mouth. That can mean bad breath.

Hence the Altoids, mints or similar.

Not gum. A lot of people think that chomping on gum is vulgar. A mint you can chew up in a hurry if your turn comes faster than you think.

Jamesaritchie
01-13-2011, 11:38 PM
I've only pitched on the phone, as well, but never to an agent. I have pitched to editors and directors. Probably about the same.

The best advice I ever received was, "Stay calm. Sound like a pro who's been there and done that, even if you aren't, and sound like you know what you're doing, even if you don't."

But this is much easier to do on the phone than in person.

blacbird
01-15-2011, 09:43 AM
What do you do if the agent you're pitching to is wearing a black helmet and breath mask and demanding to know where the plans are?

latourdumoine
01-15-2011, 10:36 AM
I've only pitched on the phone, as well, but never to an agent. I have pitched to editors and directors. Probably about the same.

The best advice I ever received was, "Stay calm. Sound like a pro who's been there and done that, even if you aren't, and sound like you know what you're doing, even if you don't."

But this is much easier to do on the phone than in person.

Funny you should say that, and 99.9% of all the people I know would agree with this. I actually find the opposite to be true. It's much easier talking face-to-face because then you can see the facial expression. But then I'm good with talking in front of people, and even back in college and school, I always preferred oral exams to written ones. Even during confession, when given the choice of a confessional or seeing the priest one-on-one, I'd choose the latter. My logic is, you can read their facial expressions and immediately switch tactics if your original plan doesn't work out. On the phone you don't get that luxury.

But I do realize that most people don't think like that. So hopefully my perspective can offer another point of view.

blacbird
01-15-2011, 10:44 AM
It's much easier talking face-to-face because then you can see the facial expression.

Yeah.

Or, to quote Joseph Conrad:

"The horror! The horror!"

mscelina
01-15-2011, 11:25 AM
Bring a print out of your first 3-5 chapters, your query, and the synopsis. They usually ask for an electronic copy, but you never know.

Don't EVER do this.^^^

No one wants to be handed a manuscript at a convention. The people who start pulling out manuscripts at conventions are the people everyone runs away from.

IF an agent or editor is interested in your work, they will ask you to submit it to them. Listen to how they want you to submit it. Then, the week AFTER the convention, follow their instructions EXACTLY. (Write them down--they won't think less of you if you do) Start off your email/letter with "I met you last week at *insert con name here* and really enjoyed talking with you blah blah blah..." If there was something specific that happened that will help to jog their memory as to who you are, throw that in there. Keep the message courteous, brief and professional.

When pitching, it's hard not to be nervous. I mean, after all--it's easy to convince yourself that your whole career boils down to the next five minutes, dangit! Well, that's not necessarily the case. BEfore you even go to the convention, write out a brief pitch for yourself--an elevator pitch. Boil down your plot into a few brief sentences or maybe even one. (Mine that worked? Something Wicked This Way Comes meets Phantom of The Opera in contemporary American theater) Be able to encapsulate your plot in a couple of paragraphs. usually the best way to do that is to lift it directly from your query letter--I read my query paragraphs straight from the letter. Then, the agent or editor will ask you some questions. At that point, it's just a conversation and the best advice I can give you is just to be yourself. Be pleasant. Be polite--not only to the agent but to the other writers waiting and for goodness' sake to the intrepid souls running the pitch session! Every bit of your behavior at those pitch sessions is not only noted but remarked on and remembered. But in the end, just be enthusiastic about your work. Love your work and translate that love to the person you're pitching to. If the agent is interested, you'll get a request.

Best of luck to you!

Jamesaritchie
01-15-2011, 08:02 PM
Well, sometimes an agent or an editor will take manuscripts or partials at a convention. The trick is not to offer, but to wait until you're asked. But it's always smart to have both a partial and a full handy, in your room, just in case you are asked.

Linda Adams
01-15-2011, 08:51 PM
Well, sometimes an agent or an editor will take manuscripts or partials at a convention. The trick is not to offer, but to wait until you're asked. But it's always smart to have both a partial and a full handy, in your room, just in case you are asked.

And you definitely don't want to slide a manuscript under a bathroom stall. Evidently that happened because my writer's conference actually put it it into their guidelines.

Karen Junker
01-15-2011, 09:02 PM
I have never seen an agent or editor take partial or full manuscripts at a convention. Are you kidding? Why would they want to lug that stuff back in their suitcase?

Kate Thornton
01-15-2011, 09:22 PM
I would take them as a tangible reminder of what you are there for - take them so *you* have them. And if, by some weird miracle, *anyone* asks to see them, you are all set.

It's not like you can't be prepared for anything - and it might boost your confidence if you are a first-timer.

Other things to take:
cash, extra undies, the charger for your phone/toothbrush/whatever, a positive attitude


...

rainsmom
01-15-2011, 09:27 PM
*hand raised* I was asked for pages -- whatever I had with me (and she wasn't thrilled it was only a chapter) -- at the last conference I attended. I vaguely remember she asked for a printed full from someone else too. At the first conference I attended, an agent asked at the pitch table to read my first few pages, so again, it was helpful to have the print out.

Bring the pages. Just don't offer 'em unless asked.

Jamesaritchie
01-15-2011, 10:39 PM
I have never seen an agent or editor take partial or full manuscripts at a convention. Are you kidding? Why would they want to lug that stuff back in their suitcase?

Who says they do lug them out? But a conference only last so many hours each day, and if you make a big enough impression, teh agent or editor may at elast read part of your manuscript before turning in for teh night. If he likes what he reads, lugging it home is a joy, not a chore.

And it isn't like they ask every writer there for a partial or a manuscript. Besides, some want an e-file, and these are easy to carry.

But it does happen. I've seen it happen several times, and it never, ever does any harm to be prepared.

Jamesaritchie
01-15-2011, 10:41 PM
And you definitely don't want to slide a manuscript under a bathroom stall. Evidently that happened because my writer's conference actually put it it into their guidelines.

I can't remember who or when, but I'm sure I read an article where teh writer said this actually happened to him at a conference.

It would be terribly tempting to, ah, use a page from the manuscript to finish your stall visit, and shove it back to the writer.

Christine N.
01-16-2011, 12:44 AM
Business cards. Have them.

Practice your pitch until you know it by heart. This will be immensely helpful.

And while I'm not one for the 'It's like THIS meets THIS', having some context to compare your work to will help the agent to understand exactly where your going. Condense the story down to the most interesting nugget you can; once you've got their attention, you can go on with details.

And they expect you to be nervous :).

ajkjd01
01-16-2011, 03:03 AM
Many have their own laptops, iPads, etc. that they can check you work on an email.

I always take the first chapter, because I have had them ask to see pages during the pitch. They don't KEEP the pages, but they've asked to see the writing before deciding their response.

Here's what I take...

First chapter (for me that's 7-10 pages, I write short chapters.)
Synopsis
Query letter sample (which I might get critiqued randomly at the conference, and which
serves as my cheat sheet during a pitch)

I also have my flash drive in my pocket, and I have my netbook with me. If they ask for a partial or a full, I can duck into a coffee shop and email it five minutes after I walk away.

I would not take the full printout with me....no one's going to take it with them, and I don't want to lug it around, especially if I've had to travel to the conference.

Miriel
01-16-2011, 09:05 PM
I run the pitch room for my conference and have done it for about 6 or so years. These are some do's and don'ts of pitch sessions.

Make sure your book is completed, and that you are pitching a book. We've had people try to pitch three chapters and short stories.

When you pick your agents, make sure that they represent the genre you're writing in. We had people who couldn't find a second agent who repped their genre, so they picked a second one who didn't, figuring she'd listen to their pitch anyway. The agents turned them away.

Once you get your agents reserved and the times, print a copy of the schedule for yourself. We had someone who didn't bring her information, went to the reception desk to get it, and either got it wrong from the volunteer or wrote it down wrong. If you have the schedule in hand, you can refer to it easily.

Wear a watch. And, if necessary, set the alarm and then show up for your pitch session early. Seriously. We had a lot of people show up late because they literally weren't paying attention to the time. In most cases, they were lucky, and the agent saw them anyway. But one fellow showed up 30 minutes later, and the agent was gone.

Dress nice, but in clothes you are comfortable with. Meaning that you can do jeans if they look nice, and you don't have to do a suit unless you want to. Your favorite colors are encouraged if they make you feel lucky or comfortable!

Bring a notepad and a couple of pens. When I pitched this last time, the agents told me what they wanted, and I wrote it down on my notepad. Do have your synopsis and first 3 chapters handy, but expect the agents to ask you to email it to them.

Don't sabotage yourself. We're big on staying on time at our conference, and we get the writers in and out. We tell them if the agent is still with someone just to get in the agent's sightline. Usually the agent breaks when the writer does that. Sometimes the agent doesn't, and we work around that. But we had one guy who literally hid in a corner because he didn't want to bother the agent. He was so well hidden, he was five minutes into his ten minute session before we noticed--and he still refused to "bother" the agent. I had to march him over so he would get his turn. And once the agent saw him, she stopped her session and went right to his.

Always, always, always, smile and be polite, even if the agent doesn't rep your work. If you meet an agent outside your genre, they will likely still ask you what you're working on, and you can practice your pitch. Maybe you'll even get a name from the agent on who to send it to.

Don't try to sneak into the sessions. Every year, it seems like we have one person who creates a bad impression because he wants to get over. One guy showed up early for his pitch session, then wanted to hang around for his next pitch session. We told him he needed to go check in, which he did. After he finished that pitch session, he wanted to go see an agent he claimed he had the next pitch session with (he was lying). We told him to go check in again, and he kept trying to wheedle a session out. The agent was on a break, checking her email, and he kept going, "But she's not doing anything. Why can't I see her?" Every time we get one of these guys, we tell the conference coordinator. We usually don't see these people at the next conference.

If you require any special accomodations, tell the conference people when you schedule the pitch and see if they can schedule (if you have more than one) pitch sessions together. Last year, we had one woman on a walker, and her pitch sessions were more than half an hour apart. We let her sit at a table so she wouldn't have to go back upstairs.

Finally, don't be nervous--or at least don't make yourself more nervous about worrying. Agents are generally nice people and will understand that it's a nerve-wracking experience. To give you an idea of what we see, when it was time for the woman on the walker to do her pitch, the agent hopped up and went to see her.

This was very helpful to me -- thanks!

jonaki
01-17-2011, 05:53 AM
OMG I devoured every bit of advice here. I have a month to get my pitch act together. Is anyone going to the SF Writers Conference on Feb 18-20? Maybe we can buddy up and practice our pitches on each other?

yorkshirelass
01-18-2011, 09:09 PM
Great advice - all of it - thank you. I am attending my first pitch in three days' time. Have memorized my pitch, business cards in hand, flash drive in pocket, query letter and first chapter printed out. Now, all I have to remember is my name!! Maybe see some of you there (Writer's Digest conference, NYC)??

Procrastinista
01-23-2011, 10:44 AM
Sort out your hook. In just a few sentences lay down the foundation of your story and then say your hook. And most important. Stop talking. Let the agent ask questions. Answer succinctly.

I've followed this practice for about six agents and they've all asked for partials or fulls.