Hey everybody! I hope everyone’s been having a wonderful week of writing. I’ve been working on my history book nonstop for the last week, and I’m making some great progress. I’m seeing chapters start to take form, and I’m liking how it sounds so far. Writing nonfiction is such a different process than writing fiction; there is SO much research that is involved. It’s a more focused style of writing. I want to make sure the text is informative and engaging at the same time. Progress is being made!
Today, I want to talk about how to create a good pitch that will get agents to listen to you. Query letters won’t always be your sole means of communication to literary agents. At some point in your writing career, you may have the opportunity to speak to a literary agent face to face and make your case about your book verbally. Now if you’re an introvert like me, that might make you panic. But don’t worry, this article’s going to give you some pointers about how to write a good pitch and execute it well.
Writing A Good Pitch
Luckily, the first step creating a good pitch involves writing! We’re writers! That’s what we’re supposed to be good at, right? Let’s use that to get us started on the right foot.
Your pitch has got to be concise, but informative. When you’ve got the attention of an agent for such a short period of time such as during a writing conference or in an elevator. Hence the name ‘elevator pitches’. As an author, you have to be able to sell your book in the first sentence. What is the heart of your story? Find the most compelling piece that makes your book unique and sum it up in about twenty words or less. For me, it’s a young mortal woman taking on the Fae world and its dangers to find answers about her brother’s death. 19 words, and I’ve shared my main character, her motivations, and the reason that readers should keep turning the page. Agents are in the business of selling books. Convince them you can motivate readers.
Once you’ve hooked them, then you can get into some of the details. Give a few sentences about your book. Elaborate on the motivations, the events, the intrigue. Don’t forget to mention the world a little bit. But keep it snappy. Let the agent decide if they want to hear more from you. Don’t forget to mention your target audience.
I would suggest writing your pitch down so that you can refer back to it whenever you need to.
Practicing Your Pitch
Pitching to agents requires a certain amount of preparedness. I’m not the most confident person in the world, but with enough practice, I was able to pitch to a literary agent and wow her enough for her to request a submission from me. Here are my best tips to prepare:
Practice, practice, practice: If you do not know this pitch backwards and forwards before you step into that room, you are not going to get anywhere no matter how well you think you know your story. Agents can tell when you’re putting something together on the fly. That’s not to say that you have to be a rigid script reader. Instead, you want to know your pitch well enough to start with it and then add a little more finesse as the meeting goes on. You’ll know if you get nervous, you can always revert back to the structure you already have in place. Remember, keep it concise.
Act the part: If you’re having face to face time with an agent, nine times out of ten, it’s going to be a pre-planned affair. So act like it. Business casual will show that you are serious about what you are putting forward without coming across as too formal. Walk with confidence. Stand tall, but don’t let it feel forced. Speak with authority, but not with forcefulness. Make sure your volume is at the right level. One of the things I learned in high school as an actress is that if you act confident, you will feel confident. Again, this will all come with practice. Watch yourself practice your pitch in a mirror. Take note of how you look and sound. It might feel silly at first, but trust me, it helps.
Be prepared to answer questions… and be prepared to ask them: Knowing your own book well enough to answer questions an agent throws your way should be expected. But something that I did not expect during my first conference was the agent to ask me if I had any questions. I had only one question in mind prepared, and we still had nearly five minutes to go in our session after that. Now, I think my age may have garnered me some sympathy in that department, but young people, don’t make the same mistake that I did. Have several questions prepared, more than you think you will need. Better to have more than you have time for than to sit in awkward silence.
Now I know this is a lot of information to take in, and it can feel a little daunting. Especially if you’re an introverted writer. But I promise you, you have the ability to make it happen. I believe in you!
I’d love to hear your pitches! Comment your pitches below, and I would love to help you out and maybe even offer some pointers. Happy writing, everybody!