The Agent or Editor Pitch

So I went to my first conference Saturday and pitched my manuscript to a REAL LIVE AGENT. It was erm, an experience. I didn’t realize I’d forget my own name, let alone the fine details of the book I’ve spent the better part of the last year writing. Fortunately, the agent took pity on me and let me start over. I can’t tell you how nice that was.

Here is a run-down for you of all the things I learned about how to pitch. RWA Nationals is coming up and I graciously went through the pain ahead of time so you don’t have to. Hopefully you’ll find it helpful. 🙂

Crafting the Pitch

See available online resources. There are a bunch if you Google “agent pitch” or “writing a pitch” for example. Make it short. You’ll never remember a long pitch. Trust me.

 Pre-Pitch Preparation

  • Research agent/agency, their clients and recent deals
  • Create note cards:
    • Your bio, including publishing credits, how many manuscripts you’ve written, etc
    • The pitch
    • An elevator pitch in case you run into another agent in the (fill in the blank)
    • Questions she might ask you
      • Tell me something about you. (Write down a few interesting sentences about your qualifications/ability to write. If you don’t find it interesting, neither will the agent)
      • Who will want to read this and why — who is your targeted audience? 
      • Succinctly, what is your manuscript about?
      • What is your theme? What will the reader learn after reading your story?
      • How does your story end?
      • Is the book done? (If you have a completed manuscript, this is a great opportunity to talk about your amazing productivity)
      • Is this a series? And if so, what are the subsequent books about?
      • What are the strengths of your book in its current state?
      • What are the weaknesses of your book in its current state?
      • How long would you need to get your novel ready for submission to an agent/publisher?
      • Your word count is high/low for the genre. Why is that?
      • Where would you find your book in a book store?
      • What published author’s style would you compare your writing to? Why is yours different?
      • Who are your favorite authors in your genre?
      • Have you worked with a critique group or a professional editor?
      • Have you pitched this to publishers in the past? If so, what was the response?
      • What kind of inventory do you have?  In other words, what else do you have? Be ready to pitch your other ideas and have solid pitches in place ahead of time
      • What are your strengths as a writer?
      • What are your weaknesses?
      • Does your family support your decision to write?
      • Are you willing to take suggestion on changes to your work?
    • Questions you might ask her
      • Does this story seem like one you would have an interest in hearing more about?
      • If not, what might your recommend I do differently.
      • If yes, Can I send you the manuscript?
      • How would you like it sent to you?
      • Is there anything you’d like adjusted before I send it to you?
      • How long before I should expect to hear from you?
      • What is your typical process when considering offering representation?
      • What direction/genre do you see sales moving in?
      • What have you sold recently that you really loved?
      • What do you see too much of?
      • Ask her questions about herself, the agency, the business, the market, something that’s been bugging you from an earlier panel.
  • Select your professional outfit and try it on prior to that day in case a seam is ripped or your matching shoes are broken – give yourself plenty of dry-cleaning time if necessary!
  • Practice your pitch in the mirror. And with other people. A lot. Practice some more. You can’t over practice.
  • Order business cards and print your manuscript title and logline/one sentence summary on the back
  • Write and print a five-year plan, a business plan, and a promo plan to have on-hand (optional)
  • Print pitch with your contact info and separate synopsis to have on-hand (optional)

On the Day of the Appointment

  • Make sure you have everything you intend to bring with you (business cards, note cards etc).
  • Put a mirror in your purse or conference bag so you’ll have it handy
  • Get to the conference early
  • Find the room ahead of time and verify your appointment time
  • Eat
  • Ask how they’ll notify you your time is up (so you’re not caught off guard)
  • Arrive to the appointment early
  • Be prepared to write down information (paper and a pen that works)
  • Breathe deeply before going in

 During the Appointment

  • Smile and shake hands
  • Keep your eye on the time
  • Here’s the general order:
    • Introduce yourself and ask the agent a personal question (if she’s just been on vacation, ask her about it!)
    • Say why you wanted to meet with her specifically instead of other agents available
    • Give your bio
    • Give the pitch
    • Ask if she has any questions about the story
    • Request permission to ask her a few questions
    • Ask what the preferred method of sending requested materials is or ask if you can send the manuscript for her review if she hasn’t asked
  • Thank her for her time and ask if you can give her your business card

 After the Appointment

  • Send a handwritten thank you note and reference one memorable thing about the appointment so she can place you

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