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Raquel
03-31-2012, 05:45 PM
I have a pitch session at a conference coming up and I was wondering how important those first few lines are about your book and exactly what they should consist of.

Should it be a fantastic hook that will make the agent start asking questions?

Or should it be more along the lines of the main conflict?

I've also heard conflicting things on length. A lot of people say two to three minutes then go on to say four to five lines. I don't know about others but I can get out four lines in less than a minute and I'm not that fast a talker.
So which is it?

Cyia
03-31-2012, 06:06 PM
Is this the sort of thing where they want your query letter, or is it more of an elevator pitch scenario?

If it's the query, then 300 words, tops. Title, length, genre, plot. That's all you need. Who's the Main Character, what does he/she want. What's in his/her way? What happens if he/she doesn't get it?

If it's an elevator pitch, it's similar but more streamlined. Think one or two sentences, like a logline pitch. Like this:


PIXIE RUST is a 65000 word Young Adult novel about clockwork faeries replacing human children with automatons loyal to a steampunk Avalon.

(also, I think I need to go write this book now...)

lauralam
03-31-2012, 06:32 PM
You're brave! When people ask me about my book in person I go "....it's umm, about stuff...flibbertygibbet errrr....*awkward silence*"

Calla Lily
03-31-2012, 06:47 PM
It's been awhile, but I had a single sheet of paper prepared with the query on it, in large type with lots of white space, plus my contact info. When I pitched to the agents at the conference, I gave them an elevator pitch and then answered any questions they had. They all skimmed the "one-sheet" and wrote a few notes on it.

Good luck! Agents at these things know you're sweating bullets and they try to put you at ease.

Snowstorm
03-31-2012, 07:36 PM
Great ideas above, but one thing: practice, practice, practice your pitch. Time it even, to find out if you're dwelling too long or perhaps give yourself more time if you're too quick. Good luck and best wishes!

rac
04-06-2012, 02:18 AM
I wonder what percentage of pitches are successful. It would be interesting to know (even at a specific conference).

amschilling
04-06-2012, 02:59 AM
I wonder what percentage of pitches are successful. It would be interesting to know (even at a specific conference).

My experience has been that unless you vomit on them or come at them with a sword, they tell you to send them pages. Might not hold true for every conference (or agent for that matter), but it's what I've experienced.

Not discounting the experience: I got to give them partials and put the coveted "REQUESTED MATERIALS" in the subject line of the email when I sent what they asked for. I'll take that over just emailing a query any day.

Raquel
04-06-2012, 03:03 AM
My experience has been that unless you vomit on them or come at them with a sword, they tell you to send them pages. Might not hold true for every conference (or agent for that matter), but it's what I've experienced.

Not discounting the experience: I got to give them partials and put the coveted "REQUESTED MATERIALS" in the subject line of the email when I sent what they asked for. I'll take that over just emailing a query any day.

From what I've heard of the conference I'm attending this is normally the case unless of course you are pitching to an agent who is not in your genre. We'll see what happens.

Christine N.
04-06-2012, 03:46 AM
My experience has been that unless you vomit on them or come at them with a sword, they tell you to send them pages. Might not hold true for every conference (or agent for that matter), but it's what I've experienced.

Not discounting the experience: I got to give them partials and put the coveted "REQUESTED MATERIALS" in the subject line of the email when I sent what they asked for. I'll take that over just emailing a query any day.

Uh, no. I had a pitch last year with some little chippie who apparently had something to prove. I introduce myself to her at the Friday mixer, saying I had a pitch with her: "Oh, I can't listen to it now."

Uh, no, of course not, I said. I would never do that, I said, only saying hi. (first indication she was going to be difficult).

And I flubbed the pitch horribly when the time came. It was only five minutes and I was nervous. All she said was "it's too long for a first novel."

Uh, well, I've had four other books published with small presses. She was unimpressed.

I left, walked out the doors, and bawled my eyes out. I felt about the size of an ant and so STUPID. But she wasn't my dream agent, as a friend pointed out, and so I had to let it go.

And let's see if she's there this year when I'm giving a workshop at this same conference, and where I'll be signing those books she put her nose up at.

The same conference to which my agent is considering showing up. (no, not bitter. Not at all. Just a teensy bit smug.) And I mean that sincerely. I'm not trying to be all neener-neener. But it does feel good to have some justification after someone basically grinds you into the dirt.

But anyway, that's my pitch story. I do better at pitches when they're casual -- like over a networking lunch. I got a request to send pages to an editor at a Big Six house that way before.

What everyone else has said applies. PRACTICE. Write crib notes if you have to. Be prepared and be confident!

Deb Kinnard
04-06-2012, 04:02 AM
Christine, it's totally true that success is the best answer.

I'll tell a short story here. I was at a conference last year, at which each luncheon table was "hosted" by an editor. The rest of us, 8 or 9, were authors who'd chosen to sit at that particular editor's table. Over dessert, she suggested, "So, how about we go around the table and you tell me what you're working on?"

She was sitting next to me, so I was last. I listened to each author tell, in 2-5 minutes, the plot-summary of her novel. Some, of course, were shorter, some longer. But I understood each one's basic theme and story, in some cases more fully than I'd have liked.

When my turn came and the editor's attention was mine, I said, "I want to take my readers to 973 Wales." And stopped. And picked up my fork (it was a really nice carrot cake).

She leaned forward. The other writers at the table leaned forward. I said no more, but I felt pretty good. As the luncheon was breaking up, the editor touched my sleeve and said, "Do you have an appointment with me? I'd like to hear about this Wales project."

Yes! I told her I had in fact booked an appointment. We had a very profitable talk, and my book is under submission at that house, as I write this.

The point is, (1) sometimes you have to go with your instincts. (2) sometimes less is more. All I know is that I felt very good about varying my way of going about it, from the others'.

RKLipman
04-06-2012, 04:50 AM
Um, Deb? Now I want to hear more...

Taylor
04-06-2012, 11:15 AM
How bad is it that I can't afford to go to conferences?

Do you all think it really boosts your chances of getting published that much? As in, it makes it significantly more likely you'll get an agent?

twright
04-06-2012, 11:18 AM
My experience has been that unless you vomit on them or come at them with a sword, they tell you to send them pages. Might not hold true for every conference (or agent for that matter), but it's what I've experienced.

Not discounting the experience: I got to give them partials and put the coveted "REQUESTED MATERIALS" in the subject line of the email when I sent what they asked for. I'll take that over just emailing a query any day.

That hasn't always been the case for me. I've had a few where they just flat out said "Sorry, that just doesn't sound like something I could work with." But several times I they've asked for partials and once for a full.

Interestingly, I've also had a couple cases where they said they weren't interested in what I was pitching, and then asked what else I was working on. When I told them, they said "Now THAT is something I would be interested in seeing, send me something when you're done."

Old Hack
04-06-2012, 11:55 AM
How bad is it that I can't afford to go to conferences?

Do you all think it really boosts your chances of getting published that much? As in, it makes it significantly more likely you'll get an agent?

Don't worry about it, Taylor.

The main benefit writers derive from conferences is that it's a way to feel less lonely as a writer.

Pitching to an agent at a conference isn't going to make it any more likely that you'll get an agent. You need to write a good book to do that, not pitch to an agent.

Christine N.
04-06-2012, 03:24 PM
How bad is it that I can't afford to go to conferences?

Do you all think it really boosts your chances of getting published that much? As in, it makes it significantly more likely you'll get an agent?

If you can't afford it, don't worry about it (but I claim it as a business expense on my taxes). I have only been to the conferences that my local SCBWI hosts each year. Yes, it is pricey. But I started out with a single-day mentoring conference, which was cheaper and worth every single penny. 30 pages of my manuscript and my synopsis went to a Big Six editor, and she gave me a WRITTEN critique, as well as a personal meeting to go over it. So worth it.

The best thing I've found about our conferences (and since we're close to NYC, we get a lot of big names) is that now I KNOW some of these editors and agents. And after a couple of years attending, they remember you, so when my agent puts my manuscript on their desk (so to speak), they can connect my name with my face.

Our conference gives us stickers to put on our submissions (if you mail them) so that they go to the top of the slush pile. You can also get pages in to otherwise closed agencies that way, OR just have your sub looked at quicker, because a lot of the attendees say 'please put 'conference name attendee' in the subject line of your email. You have lunch with editors and tell them about your work and they give you their card.

There are perks, but it's not a golden ticket to representation or a contract. I recommend them, but don't put yourself in the poorhouse to get there. I couldn't afford them for years and years and finally just saved up enough to go to one because I thought I needed to do something else because I was stagnating.

Raquel
04-06-2012, 07:04 PM
How bad is it that I can't afford to go to conferences?

Do you all think it really boosts your chances of getting published that much? As in, it makes it significantly more likely you'll get an agent?

Taylor, my experience with conferences is this. I've always wanted to be a writer, thought I wrote pretty well, I even had a few critique partners who were helping me get better. Then I went to a conference. It was a stretch because I was broke and had to scrape together every penny I had to attend one and then sell some stuff to get there, and I'm telling you it was worth every penny.
During that conference they said that if you really wanted to succeed you needed to write, and write, and write. They suggested writing a million words, which is somewhere between 10 and 15 novels. The classes also gave me so many pointers and suggestions that my writing transformed. I did exactly as they suggested.
Then my writing wasn't worth an agent even taking a look at, but it was the conference that truly changed that for me. It's worth every second of time they take now.
My suggestion is to find a way to a conference, even if it's just the online conference that is held once a year for writeoncon.com (this is free by the way.)

Cyia
04-06-2012, 07:40 PM
I've never been to a conference.

If you can't afford to go, then start with what's free. Get a Google account, whether you blog or not, and start interacting on agent and editor blogs with the name you want to publish under. You'll get the benefit of the advice they give on their blogs, and might make an impression they'll remember when they see your name on a submission.

RKLipman
04-06-2012, 08:01 PM
I've never been to a conference.

If you can't afford to go, then start with what's free. Get a Google account, whether you blog or not, and start interacting on agent and editor blogs with the name you want to publish under. You'll get the benefit of the advice they give on their blogs, and might make an impression they'll remember when they see your name on a submission.

Additionally, someone already mentioned WriteOnCon, which is a digital conference that is free every year - and the archives from last year's are still available (and worth perusing).

Christine N.
04-06-2012, 08:31 PM
And check with the conference coordinators - sometimes they have a 'scholarship fund' set up for people who can't afford it. You'll probably still have to pay for the lodging, but most times you can find someone to split a room with.

AndreaGS
04-06-2012, 09:13 PM
I went to a conference recently and it was a really great experience. I found only a few of the workshops personally helpful, but those few were amazing. And the networking opportunities were great.

There was only one agent I wanted to talk to there, so I didn't do the pitch session.

I talked to one of the agent's assistants after, and she said the biggest pitfall was that people went on too long and didn't cover the main conflict of the story.

Erin Latimer
04-07-2012, 05:37 AM
Conferences are great fun, you learn lots and meet amazing people. But don't put too much hope in it. I went and did my big pitch and everything, the agent requested pages, I happily sent them along and was devastated at the polite "no thank you" I received. Ridiculous, right? It's because I put WAY too much hope in that one pitch. Don't do that to yourself.

And for those that can't afford a writer's conference, don't worry about it. Some people get an agent from a conference, but MANY people get an agent from a plain old query letter (myself included).

blacbird
04-07-2012, 07:50 AM
My experience with "pitch sessions" (several, some years ago) is that a more dreadful non-violent personal experience is hard to imagine. Awful, with a capital AWF. Like begging for dimes with a used coffee cup on a streetcorner.

No, worse. You'll probably get a few dimes.

caw

Filigree
04-07-2012, 10:04 AM
I'm so bad at pitching in person that I wind up stammering. Once I'm hanging around someone I know, I'm okay, but I'm always leery of overpitching myself and my work. So I end up trying to say less than I'd like.

Christine N.
04-07-2012, 03:43 PM
I only did the pitch that once, and had the critique an another short one-day mentoring deal.

What I did love about the conference was not the idea of getting an agent that day, but networking and taking the workshops. At this point most of them aren't helping me (hence the reason I'm GIVING one this time) since many are for more beginning writers, but if you need something to jump-start your writing you might think about trying one.

Determination
04-07-2012, 05:42 PM
I pitched recently at a conference and it was a great experience although admittedly nerve wracking! Our appointments were five minutes long so I prepared a three sentence pitch and then let the agent ask questions about word count, characters etc. I was asked to send my manuscript but the general consensus was that the agents were asking everyone for material unless it wasn't a genre they represented/excessive word count etc.

The other great thing is that other than the obvious 'don't pitch in the bathrooms' the attending agents were open to being approached any other time. I was lucky enough to have an agent sitting at my lunch table so I pitched to her and I approached another after a workshop.

I ended up with three requests but as others have said it doesn't mean much more than if you query. They'll still only read the synopsis and first page or two to see if they like it. The bonus is the coveted 'requested material' you get to attach to your email. On top of that you get to see that agents are really just regular people like the rest of us!

Deb Kinnard
04-10-2012, 12:35 AM
To the poster who asked how "important" it is to go to conferences -- I sold my first two books before attending my first conference. And only once have I had a sale take place directly from interaction at a conference. We'd already decided that this house would be publishing that book -- we simply met briefly to hammer out certain details and make a handshake contract. I didn't find my agent at a conference and I've never met my other publisher (five books, working on three more). That'll change this week at RT.

:hooray:

Taylor
04-11-2012, 11:50 AM
To everyone who took the time to answer my question, thanks. For once my intuition was right.