The Pitch: Tales of Terror
You’ve slaved over your book, your baby, the product of countless hours of plotting and writing and reading and editing and re-writing, re-editing, re-reading, revision, repeating the process ad nauseam, and it all whittles down to The Pitch.
The Pitch is the vehicle by which you attempt to pique the interest of an editor/agent using 50 words or less to describe your story. Yes, every word counts.
The opportunity to pitch occurs during a writer’s conference. You are given the opportunity to schedule individual, face-to-face sessions with an editor/agent (choose the right editor/agent for your genre/sub-genre–more on this next week). At the RWA conference appointments were apportioned in 10 minute increments. The appointment schedule was adhered to with the precision of a military operation. The pitch session runs something like this:
10:05 a.m. Check in.
10:15 a.m. Names called, line formed.
10:20 a.m. Led single file into pitch room and delivered to editor/agent.
10:30 a.m. Appointment over.
Think speed dating. Each editor/agent will listen to six pitches an hour. It is not unreasonable to assume that after two days they will hear almost 100 pitches. That’s a lot of pitches, buttercup. No matter how daunting it is for an author to perform The Pitch, remember that the agents and editors aren’t experiencing a cakewalk either. Even for those who rotate the task with associates every couple of hours, there is still an exhausting amount of greeting/meeting/seeking-the-next-bestseller required of them.
I’m throwing that out there because it might—sort of—explain some of The Pitch horror stories that circulate, like the one about the author who pitched her novel only to have the agent ask, “Why would anyone in their right mind want to read that book?” Not words an author wants to hear, and the agent deserves time out for unnecessary rudeness. Tales like this are the reason giving The Pitch is terrifying. None of us wants to be the author who hears those words about a project over which we’ve sweat blood.
But guess what? There are good stories, too, and I have one to share. Both the editor and agent with whom I met treated me with kindness and respect. In fact, the editor was so enthusiastic, just in general, that I left the pitch feeling fantastic because I connected with someone who loves writing and editing, and is passionate about the storytelling process. Her enthusiasm was contagious (plus she introduced me to Deborah Smith which makes her, Brittany Shirley, my Favorite Editor on Planet Earth).
The point is, for every horror story there are probably 100 great ones you don’t hear about.
The goal is to sell your story idea and garner requests for your work, but what happens if you don’t? I hope you’ve stuck with me, because this is the really important part and the reason The Pitch does not have to terrify you. Here it is: It doesn’t matter.
That’s right. Just like the points in Drew Carey’s Whose Line is It Anyway?, it doesn’t matter. Coming away from The Pitch without a request for your work only means your novel is not what the editor/agent is looking for at the current time or your plot premise isn’t their cup of tea. (Or, as my friend Sioux Roslawski pointed out in her comment below, sometimes one’s pitch is ineffective and needs a do-over.) Disappointing? Sure, but not the end of the world. You’ll live to pitch another day.
I’m not silly enough to think that your knees won’t knock and you won’t sweat bullets as you wait for your turn to give The Pitch. But I do hope you remember the real reason you’re there in the first place:
You are a writer. That’s really all you need to know.
See you next week for the naked truth about . . . things to remember for The Pitch.
Have an awesome week!