Monday, June 22, 2015

My Pitch Don’ts for the Fledgling Conference Goer

When I see authors pitch at conferences, I’m already impressed. It takes a certain level of confidence and commitment to put yourself out there, and that already sets you apart from other querying authors. But just showing up isn’t enough: this is your chance to make a positive, lasting impression on agents and editors, and you should come prepared. You can pitch your project in many ways -- and frankly, I’m not too particular about how pitches should be formatted -- but there are a few things you should absolutely avoid doing. Here are my Pitch Don’ts for the Fledgling Conference Goer:

1. Don't Ramble. One of the worse things you can do it to spend your allotted time simply walking an agent through a laundry list detailing the entire plot of your novel. You risk losing the agent’s interest, and by the end of your monologue, you’ve lost valuable time to actually pitch your book. A successful pitching session is an engaging conversation between you and the agent -- open with your project’s genre, introduce your characters and conflict, provide some context to what your book could be compared to, and allow the agent to ask you questions. It's usually helpful to memorize a couple of sentences that contain the core details of your project -- just make sure you time yourself beforehand.

2. Don't Be Vague. Agents usually take 25-50 pitches at every conference they attend, so by the time they get to you, they've heard all kinds of stories. Make yours stand out! Sprinkle interesting details into your pitch to make it more memorable. Instead of saying that your book’s a romance about a guy and girl who defy the odds to fall in love, say that it’s about a handsome, recently heartbroken Wall Street workaholic who falls in love with a beautiful, free-spirited scuba diving instructor while on vacation in Spain. Everything you mention should be in an effort to set your book apart from what’s already out there, so that the agent’s interest is piqued.

3. Don't Be Clueless. It’s okay to be nervous, and most agents are friendly and understand how intimidating this can be for authors. But there's a difference between saying "This is the first time I'm pitching my book to an agent" and "Forgive me, I have no idea how I'm supposed to do this." If you say the latter, you might as well be saying that you haven't done your research. It’s just not professional. After all, this is a business meeting, and you're presenting a product for someone to evaluate -- would you ever tell your team at work that you're winging it before you start a big presentation?


And besides, there are tons of resources out there, both in print and online, on how to prepare for a writing conference. Here are a few links to help you get started out:

The Perfect Pitch: Pitching to Agents at a Writing Conference

How to Pitch Your Book at a Writing Conference

7 Tips for Pitching to an Agent or Editor at a Conference 

Meeting face to face with someone who has the ability to take your career to the next level can be a terrifying prospect. But remember: agents pitch projects to editors, and editors pitch projects to their teams, so we know what it’s like. Just be positive, try to relax, focus on your project’s merits, and you’ll be fine. Good luck!

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