Pitching at a Writer's Conference: A First-Timer's Preparation

August 31, 2017

Photo credit to authorchronicles.wordpress.com.

 

I'll be at the Colorado Gold Conference in Denver a week from tomorrow. (Please don't stalk me.) Though this is my second time attending, I'm taking advantage of the free pitch session for my first time. I get ten whole minutes with an agent of my choice. Woohoo!

 

Like everyone pitching for the first time, I've been nervously reading up on the process and trying to figure out how to prepare for months now. So I thought I'd share the tips I've found most useful, as well as some of the resources that I've used.

 

What to Bring

 

This lady, Beth Vogt, had great advice for walking into your pitch appointment with confidence. She talks about how a lot of people walk into a pitch appointment with their bag, their laptop, their water bottle, a stack of brochures and papers from the conference. Instead of doing that, she says, try and bring just one thing: a folder with a one-sheet (more on that later), your business card, and a few sample pages of your manuscript.

 

I hadn't even thought about it, but I'm definitely one of those people that lugs all her stuff around, and I could see it stressing me out when I get to my pitch appointment.

 

As for the one-sheet: several people advised bringing some sort of one-sided sheet of paper with bullet points that an agent can browse while you give them your pitch. Others said that you may or may not want it, depending on the type of pitch session it is. My particular session doesn't have an specifications, but I figure it can't hurt to have it in front of me in case the agent asks. (Over-preparation, yo. I'm all about it.)

 

What to Wear

 

It may seem like a no-brainer, but I hadn't actually thought about making sure to dress professionally for my pitch appointment. I wasn't going to look like a schlub (theoretically), but that kind of thing tends to slip my mind.

 

A lot of people (myself included) dress comfortably and casually at conferences. But it seems like most think it's a good idea to amp up your style just a bit for your pitch session.

 

Think of it like a job interview...because it basically is. Just don't overdo it and show up in a tux or a ball gown. That could get weird.

 

The Pitch Itself

 

Okay, okay, time to get to the important part. If I sound reluctant, it's because I've had the hardest time finding concrete advice about the actual pitching part of a pitch session. "Be prepared," people say. "Don't talk too fast." Thanks, people! I could figure that out on my own.

 

What I'm mostly concerned about is how much I should tell the agent. Is my pitch supposed to read like back-cover copy on a novel? But I could read one of those in thirty seconds. What about the rest of the nine-and-a-half minutes?

 

Though I wish I could be more solid on this for my fellow pitch-preparers, this is what I've garnered could be a good plan for my ten minutes:

 

- Introduce myself and point out any connections we have (if there are).

 

- Dive straight into my pitch, trying not too waste time right off the bat with small talk. That's for if we have extra time at the end.

 

- Start with a hook. Something that stands out about my book, that will make the agent lean forward and say, "Sounds interesting. Tell me more."

 

- Expand on that hook, proving that you book delivers on that initial premise to make an exciting, marketable story. For my pitch, I plan to stop at a pivotal moment in the book, about 1/3 of the way through my book. Hopefully this will leave the agent intrigued and wanting more.

 

- After my pitch, be prepared for questions about my book, as well as about your career plans. An agent may ask what else I'm working on, to make sure that I have more than just this one book in my future.

 

- Finally, I'll have a few questions of my own for the agent (if we have time, of course). Even if he/she doesn't request pages, this is a great chance to learn more about what's good or bad about my pitch, what other agents may be interested in the manuscript, etc. But apparently I should also make sure not to inundate the agent with too many questions. As you can probably tell from this blog post, I'm the kind of person that would be in danger of that.

 

So how far off am I? I plan to write an update post after I've been through the refiner's fire, as it were, so hopefully I'll have some more experienced advice to give later in September.

 

But I'm interested to hear from both those who have and haven't pitched at a writer's conference. Do I have the right idea?

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© 2016 by Natasha Watts

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