This Pitch is a Bitch!
The whole episode got me thinking (and wondering if therapy was needed). I have serious plans to attend future writer’s conferences where agent pitch sessions are offered and I’ve never even really sat down and thought about what I would say. In case you’re unfamiliar with pitch sessions, they are 5-10 minute segments of time spent in front of an agent or editor trying to convince them to take a look at your book. Universally recognized as a nerve-wracking experience for both parties, none-the-less it has proven to be a valuable weapon in the arsenal utilized to land a book deal.
Now that I realized just how unprepared I was, I sat down to correct the problem. I wrote my five minute pitch, highlighting all of the key plot points and character motivations, with the intention of committing it to memory once I was satisfied with it. And I thought the query letter was hard! But when I read it aloud it sounded stiff, not like a real conversation would sound. I could imagine myself sitting in front of an agent sounding like the robot from LOST IN SPACE. DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!
But it turns out that was all WRONG! After doing some research I discovered a pitch session usually revolves around explaining your story in one to three sentences, whether it is at the pitch session or at the evening mixer. No one wants to hear a 20-minute monologue detailing every twist and turn in your plot. You need to succinctly tell the person on the other side of the table what your book is about. What makes it stand out from every other book that's on the market? Who are the characters? What's the conflict? What are the major themes? What other writers/books would you compare yourselves to as far as style? Why is it a topic that I should read about now? The agent needs to walk away remembering your book.
How do you go about doing that? After you introduce yourself, there is no need to jump in with your pitch the second you sit down. You can make a little small talk before you begin, to help calm your nerves. Then start pitching. The intent is to entice the agent to ask you questions about different elements of your book and begin a conversation. This is totally opposite of the understanding I had of the process before I started examining it, and now my apprehension has doubled. Small talk and conversations, things I’m not so good at.
My resolve is still intact, however! Together with my wife and a few writer friends, we’ll conquer this. It’ll probably be the toughest challenge I’ve faced so far, but this pitch is going down!