Pitching Your Book? First You Better Batter Up!
So you’re heading to a conference and you’ve scheduled your pitch appointments. Now what? Well, in a perfect world, I’d tell you that I’m an expert and know all there is to know about pitching. But nope, I’m just a schlub who survived my own knee-knocking pitch experience and attended a few pitching workshops. I am, however, a stellar note taker. So here’s what I learned to help you batter up:
Be remembered for what you did, not what you didn’t. You may hear that you should always sign up to pitch just for practice (this was my understanding, too). This is bad advice. The editors/agents are accepting pitches because they’re seeking sellable manuscripts from professional authors. Scheduling an appointment to pitch when you don’t have a book to send is a waste of their time, and don’t think they won’t remember your lack of follow through. 70% of authors who are asked to send manuscripts never do! Only 30% deliver. Be memorable. Deliver.
Scheduled pitching = a warm lead. Hate selling? That’s okay, buttercup. This isn’t cold calling. The editors/agents signed on for the pitch sessions because they hope to find authors with a great product who are professional and will be easy to work with. Be sure that describes you!
The Pitch may not garner you an agent or an editorial review of your manuscript, but it will give you the opportunity to make an important business connection.
Create memorable author business cards. My card layout represented the best ideas I gleaned from my internet search of the subject (and I received positive comments).
There is no right or wrong; do what feels comfortable for you. Here is the set up I employed:
Side 1: Author photo and contact info. (People are more likely to remember meeting you if they see see your face—thank you Cathy C. Hall.)
a). Author tagline describing exactly what your manuscript delivers. (My personal tagline is “Sweet Romance with a Slice of Spice”
which tells the editor/agent to expect some steam but no open door sex scenes–they know I’m not channeling E.L. James. b).
Working title of the book. c).
One sentence “blurb” summarizing the manuscript. You have scant space to include your hook; make every word count.
50 words or less. Keep your pitch to 50 words. Think about it, work on it, ask your writer pals to critique it (I’m an idiot and didn’t, but I should have). You’re selling your plot idea, so hit the highlights, include your hook, and make it sing. Your pitch should include these things:
a. Word count.
e. Tone. (Humorous, serious, etc.)
f. Hero and heroine – who are they?
g. Conflict. (In romance that would be what put them together and what keeps them together.)
During a scheduled pitch you’ll have plenty of time to answer questions about your manuscript (see below), so you don’t have to summarize every chapter.
Know your plot and characters. After giving your pitch you may be asked random follow-up questions because by its very nature a blurb doesn’t tell the whole story. You may be asked, as I was: How old is your hero/heroine? What makes their conflict universal to readers and what sets it apart? What is the timeframe—three days, a week, a year? How is the conflict resolved? How does the story end (literally, what happens in the last paragraph)?
You don’t have to memorize your pitch. You aren’t auditioning for Broadway. It’s okay to read it aloud. They don’t mind. Really. (And thank goodness, or I’d still be at the Marriott stumbling all over my tongue.) If you memorized your pitch for an “elevator” opportunity—which is a good idea, by the way—great. If not, no worries.
Fine tune your pitch. Be prepared to modify your pitch if it isn’t working. No interest at all? Is your target audience yawning? It may be your word choice. As in your general writing, keep your writing tight and your voice active. If you’ve ever written micro-fiction, now is the time to employ that skill.
The big picture.
In addition to hearing about your manuscript, the person you’re pitching to may ask general questions to get a feel for who you are professionally (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, you just want to write, but this is a business, buttercup, whether we creative types like it or not). You may be asked: What are your career goals and expectations? How do you feel about the editing process? Will you balk at omitting entire sections of your book and writing new content? Why did you write this book in the first place and who will want to read it and why?
To sum this up in two words: “be professional.” Treat your pitch appointment like a job interview keeping in mind that you don’t want every job you interview for and you may not want to work with the people you pitch to, either. Remember the horror story I talked about last week, the one highlighting the rude agent? I wouldn’t want to work with her, would you? So even though you’re nervous going in, remember, you’re interviewing them, too.
I’ll close with the great advice provided by the always entertaining NY Times best-selling author Cherry Adair
: Finish the Damn Book!
Talking about writing your book, graphing plots, and doing six months of character analyses may be fun but it isn’t getting ‘er done. Quit procrastinating and Finish the Damn Book. If you don’t accomplish that, the rest is moot.
This was a long one, y’all. Sorry ’bout that. Thanks for sticking around.
See you next week for the naked truth about . . . Deadlines (and the neglected family).
Have a great week!