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JudasFm
09-23-2013, 03:22 PM
First of all, I apologize if this is in the wrong place; it seemed the best forum to post in :)

I'll be flying to LA to attend the Writers' Digest conference at the end of this week and I've booked a space on the pitch (basically going around from appropriate agent to appropriate agent). This is the first time I've done anything like this and I'd welcome any thoughts and advice on the following points. I know they probably seem pretty obvious to some people, but this is all new to me and I don't want to screw it up too badly ;)

1. The conference organizer told me it's ninety seconds each; in other words, I spout my stuff for ninety seconds, then the agent gives me their thoughts for the other ninety seconds. Yes, this is how it was presented to me when I asked.

So would it be better if I learn a few key sentences, such as "Hello, my name's Jude Austin and I'm here to tell you about my YA sci-fi novel Journey Home, which is a little over 60,000 words and complete" (okay, that intro would need a LOT of work, I know!) rattle off a logline or very brief blurb and then invite the agent to ask questions? Or would it be better if I aim for a slightly more natural introduction along the lines of, "Hello, how are you?" (bearing in mind that ninety seconds isn't a long time and every second counts!)

2. Do the agents often attend the cocktail reception? I've got no plans to pester anyone here - I understand they have their own people, eg editors, to meet and talk with - but I'd like to know.

3. A couple of literary agencies who I would really love to work with are sending agents along to the pitch session. However, these particular agents aren't the ones who rep what I write. I noticed in the Talcott Notch thread (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=8309210#post8309210) that one agent said they often pass promising projects from writers at conferences onto other agents in their agency:


If one of us gets a query that is really better-suited to another agent here, we WILL pass it on to her. We do it all the time. I have found wonderful writers at conference, as well, and brought their work home to our other agents, who have signed and sold them.

Does this mean I should consider pitching to those agents who don't rep what I write, since their agency does? I was erring on the side of no way, but I'm open to correction on this :D

As always, thanks for reading and any thoughts/replies would be greatly appreciated.

Niiicola
09-23-2013, 05:49 PM
I went to the Writers Digest conference in NY this spring. They did a session beforehand on how to pitch to the agents. I just looked up your conference schedule and they have the same one, called "Pitch Perfect" with Chuck Sambuchino. Definitely go to that, as he breaks it down really quickly and simply.

Aside from that, do you have a query letter written already for your book? If so, I'd say do that in a more conversational tone. You don't have to take up the whole 90 seconds, and if you've boiled your plot down to three paragraphs already, that's going to be super helpful to you in pitching. If agents want more clarification on your story, they'll ask questions.

In terms of choosing agents, I would say only pitch to the ones you'd want or who rep your genre, purely because if they like your pitch, they'll give you their personal business card and ask you to either query or send part/all of your manuscript to them directly.
ETA: If that agency specifically said they pass on writers to people in their agency, you could always try pitching them as a special case.

"Hello, my name's Jude Austin and I'm here to tell you about my YA sci-fi novel Journey Home, which is a little over 60,000 words and complete" seems like a good opener to me. Honestly, the agents are going through soooo many people that it's not going to make/break your pitch. If they like your story they'll ask for it. Almost everybody I pitched to was really kind and sympathetic to us Nervous Nelly writer types.

Some of the agents did attend the cocktail reception. I didn't speak to any, but they seemed pretty approachable.

Good luck -- it's quite an intense experience!

JudasFm
09-23-2013, 09:27 PM
Thanks; that helps a lot :D Yeah, I've already noted the "Pitch Perfect" talk and plan to go to it, along with another talk the same day given by one of the agents I'm going to pitch to (apart from being very useful, hopefully it'll give me a feel for what kind of person she's like so I won't end up pitching completely cold :))

Siri Kirpal
09-23-2013, 11:44 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Helpful hint: Create a sheet with book details (title, word count, genre) and mini-synopsis and a mini-bio with contact information. Take several copies with you to hand to any agents who show interest. You'll need to pitch vocally as well, of course, but this does help.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

rac
09-26-2013, 05:52 AM
First of all, I apologize if this is in the wrong place; it seemed the best forum to post in :)

I'll be flying to LA to attend the Writers' Digest conference at the end of this week and I've booked a space on the pitch (basically going around from appropriate agent to appropriate agent). This is the first time I've done anything like this

Please post when you get back to tell us about your pitching experience.

jillybeans
09-27-2013, 06:11 PM
Just dropping in to say two things: 1. I've heard Chuck's session on pitching, and it is beyond wonderful. Not only is it helpful, but he presents it with humor to put everyone at ease - he could probably do standup. His session was the best part of my last conference.

Also, with your pitch. Make sure you go somewhere and say it out loud a few times until you feel comfortable. Believe me, saying it out loud versus saying it in your head - well, it's not even close to the same thing. If you've said it a few times, you'll be comfortable with the words and won't trip. Keep it high level and simple. That way you can focus on eye contact and reading the agent's reaction.

Don't be too stressed - most agents I've pitched in person are very lovely. And for the one who wasn't - well, I scratched them off my list.

Good luck!

wampuscat
09-27-2013, 08:36 PM
I've only pitched in person once, but I basically read my query letter to her. Not sure if that was the "right" way to go or not, but she asked me to send her pages, so at least it worked.

I had one-sentence, one-paragraph, and query-length pitches ready to go for the conference, just in case it came up in conversation. I found that even describing your book to other writers was great help for developing and molding pitches. (I knew if their eyes crossed or their heads cocked to the side in that confused-puppy-dog way that my pitch wasn't working. :))

blacbird
09-28-2013, 09:28 AM
" . . . but if you call right now, because we haven't got all day . . ."

-- Vince Offer, for Shamwows

caw

>compass<
09-28-2013, 10:01 AM
I also went to the Writer's Digest Conference East last spring and I have a few quick suggestions I learned all during the fact. When I went I didn't go to Pitch Perfect because I wasn't registered for that day, so I can't say anything for that. However! I learned that every agent has a different feeling about how you pitch them, like some really really hate being told something memorized and would much prefer to be pitched conversationally.

So! What I did was I asked each person I saw (I had time to meet 6 agents) if they preferred being read a pitch (yes, I did memorize it but I was so nervous I couldn't remember it without a bunch of "um"s and "ah"s) or if they preferred a conversational pitch. 5 of the 6 said being read my pitch was perfectly fine and one even took my (very manhandled by then) paper and read it herself. The one who preferred a conversational pitch I relied more on my elevator pitch for. Of the 6 I pitched 5 gave me their cards and the one who didn't was one of the ones I'd read to.

You're going to be nervous, but like everyone says: agents are people too. You might even be very comfortable with pitching by the end of the session -- I was :)

Tromboli
09-29-2013, 02:09 AM
I did this kind of pitch session too, a few years back. Got to 6 agents all of who requested. All I did was give them a one sentence pitch.

There are a few huge pluses to short pitches in these situations:
1. confidence in your story (also it's a lot easier to memorize so YOU often come across as more confident) 2. it's a huge plus to be able to summarize a novel into a sentence when it comes to selling it to a publisher, this shows that's your one step ahead and know your story well. 3. you know for sure the agent will hear the best parts of your story. If you talk for a full minute about the story, there's a chance they'll zone out and miss the best hook. With a query they can reread, they probably won't ask you to say your pitch again. A one or two sentence pitch gets the basics of the story and the hook out there right away 4. leaves plenty of time for author/agent chit chat. A lot of the time, my pitch session was just short (they didn't seem to stick to the 3 minute time periods very much which was fine with me) but a few times I was asked more specific questions (Is there a romance? What POV is it written in? How long have you been writing?)

If I were to go back, I'd use the same tactic. It's just a matter of if your book CAN be pitched in one sentence, you know, without missing a ton. Some books are easier than others (high concept and all).

Good luck! (also, I wonder if this is too late. Did you pitch already?)

Tromboli
09-29-2013, 02:13 AM
You're going to be nervous, but like everyone says: agents are people too. You might even be very comfortable with pitching by the end of the session -- I was :)

My very first one, I think I was about ready to cry (this was also my first time approaching agents ever, I'd never queried anything before). That agent requested a full. The next 5 it was much better, I was even complimented that I seemed very at ease. Still nerve wracking, but fun!

DennisB
10-11-2013, 12:58 AM
Having never attended such a conference, do agents go there to look for material and authors to rep? And do they typically strike pay dirt at said gatherings? (Okay, I don't mean at each and every confab, but are these really a good source of talent for the agent biz?)

I know I'm cynical, but I would think agents would have to wade through an awful lot of people with nothing more to offer than the $300 price of admission.

Medievalist
10-11-2013, 01:17 AM
Have basic business cards printed (Name, email, Web site).

No phone number. If you want someone to have your phone #you can write it down at the time. Have a light colored, non-glossy back so people can jot a quick note on the back of the card.

Get a free email account to use for you-as-writer based on the name you'll use on covers.

If you have to have a job title, just use writer (not author, not the title of a book).

See the FAQ on pitching. (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=244848)

JudasFm
10-11-2013, 01:37 AM
Please post when you get back to tell us about your pitching experience.

Well, I attended Chuck's session on How To Pitch. The good news is that it really helped me refine my pitch.

The bad news is that it also showed me that the pitch I'd come up with first was completely off, so I had to stay up until 3am writing, rewriting and learning the new one. Needless to say, I wasn't as well-prepared on the day as I should have been ;)

I got chatting to some great people while I was there; one woman advised me not to recite the pitch, but just to talk about the book. I also met a couple more in the queue to pitch to Paula Munier from Talcott Notch (my first choice) and we spent the time giving each other pep talks ;)

So, my turn to pitch finally arrived. I approached the desk with a smile, introduced myself and sat down. I'd managed to memorize the first few lines (namely genre, target audience and word count and the concept) so I spouted those...and then completely and utterly dried up.

Luckily, Paula spotted my panicked, deer-in-the-agent's-headlights stare and jumped in with a few questions to get the ball rolling again. At the end of it, she said the concept was fantastic and I came away with a request for 50 pages :D

The second agent I approached, I screwed up completely. Unlike Paula, she didn't seem able or interested enough to get things going again and her exact words were that she wasn't connecting with the project. Fair enough, considering I'd only managed to squeak out about two sentences about it (and I was a little wrong-footed by her question: "What is the arc of your character's journey throughout this novel?" Seriously; ask me about the conflicts and resolutions, twists, problems, antagonists...yep, got all those. Character journey arcs, however, weren't something I'd studied up on. My bad).

Anyway, she refused, but she was very courteous and professional about it. I found out later that although she takes sci-fi, she really doesn't want any more fantasy, so it wouldn't have worked anyway ;)

I then approached my third agent, Faye Atchinson from Margret McBride, and that's when it seemed to come together. I revised my opening sentence while standing in line, then sat down and talked it up. Faye seemed genuinely interested, not just in the novel but in the world it was set in and we spent most of the three minutes discussing that. At the end, she asked me to send her the full MS :D

Five minutes after coming away, it suddenly clicked in my head how I could improve on my novel and fix the parts I wasn't sure about. Long story short, I'm rewriting a huge chunk of it before I send it out (luckily I also went to the Ask the Agent panel and discovered that the requests for full/partials etc don't expire, so I have time to rework and make it as good as possible before letting them see!) Hopefully something will come out of it.

CarlHackman
10-11-2013, 01:52 AM
Congrats on your full and partial. It sounds like you had a great day :)

JudasFm
10-11-2013, 01:58 AM
Thanks :D The conference was great and I learned a lot about writing, so even if I'm not successful with either agency, it was well worth going :)

Siri Kirpal
10-11-2013, 07:07 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Fantastic! Thanks for sharing.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

rac
10-14-2013, 11:07 PM
Well, I attended Chuck's session on How To Pitch. The good news is that it really helped me refine my pitch.

I then approached my third agent, Faye Atchinson from Margret McBride, and that's when it seemed to come together. I revised my opening sentence while standing in line, then sat down and talked it up. Faye seemed genuinely interested, not just in the novel but in the world it was set in and we spent most of the three minutes discussing that. At the end, she asked me to send her the full MS :D

Five minutes after coming away, it suddenly clicked in my head how I could improve on my novel and fix the parts I wasn't sure about. Long story short, I'm rewriting a huge chunk of it before I send it out (luckily I also went to the Ask the Agent panel and discovered that the requests for full/partials etc don't expire, so I have time to rework and make it as good as possible before letting them see!) Hopefully something will come out of it.

It sounds as if you had a really positive experience at the conference. Congratulations and thank you for sharing!

Debbie V
10-15-2013, 07:57 PM
Congratz and thanks for keeping us updated. Let us know how those submissions go.

JudasFm
10-15-2013, 08:12 PM
Thank you so much, everybody :D The rewrite's going well; I'm hoping to have it finished and out by the end of October. I've also signed up for WD Agent 10 pages boot camp with Paula Munier. I don't know if she'll be the agent looking at my work, but it'll be interesting to see what whoever it is makes of it.


It sounds as if you had a really positive experience at the conference. Congratulations and thank you for sharing!

I could probably have done without the sitting and freezing part of the pitches ;) But otherwise, yes, it went brilliantly; the sessions weren't only informative, they were fun too :D