Ask Me Anything: Pitch Sessions

Here's a great question:
What are the "do's" and "don't's" of a great pitch session?
Here are some of my thoughts:

DO come prepared. You should do a bit of internet research on the agent you're pitching. Know what books they represent. Also know what you're going to want to say. Practice it in the mirror or for your friends so that you can say it without reading and without sounding like a robot.

DON'T just pitch for the sake of pitching. If a writer pitches me a business book, I'm not going to have anything constructive to say. I don't do business books. We are not a good match.

DO have a concise pitch. Be concise, but don't be afraid to include details that will tug at agent's emotions. If I were MarcyKate Connolly, I'd pitch Monstrous like this: I have a middle grade fantasy novel titled MONSTROUS. When her father recreates Kymera from the parts of her broken body, the wings of a raven, the tail of a serpent, and a cat's razor-sharp vision, he gives her life with memories or pain. But she has a mission. A wizard is stealing girls in her village, and it's her mission to stop him. It's Frankenstein meets Brother's Grimm told from the point of view of the monster as a teenage girl. It will appeal to readers of Anne Ursu and Natalie Lloyd. It's complete at 85,000 words.

DON'T try to cram a lot of backstory and subplots and supporting characters into your pitch. Main character, main conflict. That's it. That your protagonist has a mother who's half blind and a sister who lives in his basement might be relevant to the character's growth, but if they're backstory or subplots, don't tell me about them. Also, no play by plays.

DO have a conversation. Say hello and introduce yourself when you sit down. Ask the agent a question. Then launch into your pitch. Don't talk at them--say your quick pitch, then wait for them to ask you a question. (Prepare for things like "what inspired you?"  "what happens next?" or "what are your comp titles?" And have a few questions prepared that you might want to ask the agent if you have some time at the end.

DON'T try to pitch more than one idea at a time. Focus on the one project you are most passionate about.

DO actually send your manuscript if it's requested. A lot of people who pitch me don't send their material and sometimes I'm really disappointed!

DON'T be nervous. I know this is hard, but here's the truth. A pitch is great experience and maybe you'll meet an agent this way, but most of my clients just query me. So even if your pitch is a disaster, you could still just query the agent--and many others. If you are so crazy-nervous that you're going to get hives or shake or cry, don't sign up for pitches. Be a human at the conference. Talk to agents like they're people. They might ask what your query is about or ask you to query them. Or just send them a query.

DO be a good human. This means following social cues and acceptable business etiquette.

Along those lines DON'T stalk agents and pitch them in the bathroom, at the gym, in an elevator, while they have food in their mouth, standing in a small room and blocking the only door, when they're trying to go back to their hotel room (these have all happened to me). Also remember that no means no. If an agent says the book isn't for them, you don't want them as an agent. Yelling or trying to coerce an agent to change their mind, only makes them want to work with you even less.

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F Duncan said...


Thank you very much for this helpful and thoughtful guide. A question: Is it ever appropriate to use the "pitch session" time just to explore getting to know the agent?

Unknown said...

Sure. If you want to sign up and you don't have anything to pitch, I don't see why not. You should say as soon as you sit down that you don't have a manuscript to pitch yet. Come prepared with a few industry related questions.

Larsen said...

Thank you for taking the time to share this information. Can't wait to put it to good use. It's encouraging for those of us who in the process of preparing pitches and meeting with agents.

Have a great day!

Tiare and James said...

Thank you for the great advice. I'm pitching my novel to you in just a few days, and I can't wait!