Friday, August 24, 2012

Surviving the Pitch to Editors & Agents by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

With so many writing conferences coming up, and the ACFW National Conference around the corner, I thought it would be worthwhile to repost this from my blog. 

When are you ready?
1. When writing fiction, you don’t want to pitch until you’ve completed at least one book. Nonfiction proposals or articles can be pitched as long as you have a solid concept of your idea.
2. When you know you want to be published.
3. Do your research on the conference and know which editors and agents are going to be there. Visit their websites, try to find out what they like and dislike. What kind of works have they recently purchased? What are they acquiring?
4. You may not want to set up an appointment if there are only two editors and both are acquiring contemporaries and all you’ve written is a historical.

Pitch: Is a one-two sentence description of your story.

A pitch should contain four elements:
1. Two Main Characters
2. Goal
3. Conflict
4. Goal + Conflict = Hook

When meeting with an editor or agent in a one-on-one interview, be prepared to discuss the main plot points in your story, as well as goals and motivations of your characters. After hearing your pitch, they will ask you questions about your story and about your writing.

What to bring
1. Business cards
2. Sell-sheets or One-sheets
3. First five pages of manuscript (do not show unless they request it)

What to Expect
At conferences they schedule editors and agents all day long with back-to-back 10-15 minute appointments. You will want to arrive 5-10 minutes early to get in line. If a prayer room is available, you might want to visit it ahead of time.
1. Dress like you’re going into an interview, but be comfortable.
2. Be professional
3. Introduce yourself and ask them how they are doing. Treat them like an individual.
4. You can take note cards with you, but you shouldn’t read from them. This gives them the impression that you’re not as familiar with your work as you should be.
5. Make eye contact. Talk to them like you’re chatting with them. You don’t want to sound so rehearsed that you remind them of a used car salesman.
6. There will be a monitor who will be keeping time. The monitor will tell everyone in the room that they have 1-2 minutes left. When this happens, wrap up the conversation and move on so you don’t take time away from the next person and put the editor behind schedule.

Possible Scenarios

If you only have one proposal, and they aren’t interested, what should you do?
1. Ask them what other genres they are looking for.
2. If you have time, chat with them and spend a few minutes getting to know them. After a while their eyes begin to glaze over from hearing one rehearsed pitch after another.
3. If an editor gives you ideas on how to improve your plot, please be courteous and listen. Ask if they would be willing to look at a proposal if you make their suggested revisions.

What if you have more than one project and you don’t know which one to pitch in your allotted time?
1. Tell them the categories you’ve written such as (contemporary, a Scottish Medieval, Regency, young adult, children’s book, etc.) Then ask them which one they would prefer to discuss.
2. Or choose the one that you feel is written the best or closer to being finished.
3. The editor or agent will guide you in their interests.

Editors and agents will ask questions. Examples include:
1. Why did you write this story?
2. Do you have any other stories or ideas?
3. Can you expand this into a series?
4. If we publish it, how do you plan to market it?

1. Leave your business card, even if they do not ask to see your proposal.
2. Make note if they ask for a query letter, proposal, or the complete. Send them exactly what they ask for and nothing more and nothing less.
3. If they refuse your sell-sheets, don’t force it on them.
4. Thank them for their time. Be sure to walk away with a smile.


Deborah H. Bateman said...

Thanks for sharing this post. Though all my books so far have been self-published it is great to learn about the traditional publishing process in case the opportunity ever arises. Blessings, Deborah H. Bateman-Author

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Call me weird, but I would LOVE to go to the ACFW to pitch my book to some specific editors the proposal is out to now. What is the etiquette on pitching to those who already have your proposal in-hand? I just think it would be nice for them to have a visual on the author and realize the authors passion for his/her project. That said, I cant go this year. Sigh...

Dana McNeely said...

Thanks, Jennifer. I've read several blog posts and articles about pitching, but reading this one made me a little less nervous. Maybe it was the orderly, numbered approach. (My day job is managing large cost models at a Financial Institution.) I'm going to the ACFW conference in September to pitch my Biblical Fiction. I've requested agent appointments. Shiver.

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

You're welcome, Deborah. I hope a "peek" into the other side will help you make future decisions.

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Heather, I couldn't go last year or this year, due to family circumstances. However, I have been in the past, and it is a great experience. Hope you can go next year.

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Dana, You will do fine. Just pray before you go and remember that they are people, too. Hope you have safe travels and a wonderful time!

V.V. Denman said...

Thanks for such good advice. I'll be attending my first ACFW conference in September, and this post has put many of my fears to rest. Nervous. Nervous. Nervous.

Amy Sullivan said...

I'm like Heather. I LOVE to pitch! There's something exciting about having the opportunity to share what you are passionate about.

Heather Marsten said...

This is an awesome post, with lots of information. I'm filing it for future reference when I finally finish my MS. I read somewhere that if you have a few minutes left over from an agent pitch, ask questions to help you do better in the future. I presume agents appreciate those who pitch them in a well-prepared manner. Have a blessed day. Heather