Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pitching A Story

When I think about pitching, I always think about a baseball pitcher on the mound licking his hand, spitting on his mitt, in preparation for a good pitch. Then when he’s ready, he pitches the ball as hard as he can with a purpose of hitting the strike zone. What about in writing?

Of course there are preparations that must be done—a good story and (correct me if I’m wrong) spiel. What else?

But how exactly does an author pitch her story. If you’re in a conference, is there a pitching booth or do you wait until you see an agent then approach him. Or can you call a 1-800 number to make an appointment to pitch?

Maybe a lot of you are shaking your heads, or rolling your eyes because my questions sound amateurish. But, hey. I’ve learned that to know things, simple or complicated, you have to ask.:)

Having said that, is pitching another form of proposing a story?

Someday soon, I will pitch my own story. With your comments, I might be able to sell my story in one sitting. :D

Tierney O'Malley
brings you passion, love, romance...

10 deadly screams:

Sapphire Phelan said...

Have a blurb of your book that you tell for no more than five minutes. Kinda like highlights of the story that will make the editor or agent want to have you submit the first three chapters or whole book to them after the conference. Know your book well, so you can do this. Be polite and business-like, after all you're selling your book and yourself.

Tamara Hughes said...

Hi Tierney,
I've only pitched at RWA Nationals. To pitch there you can sign up before hand, but first chance at appointments goes to Golden Heart finalists past and present, and PAN members, then to Pro members, and finally to the rest of the RWA members. Of course, if you're determined, you can go to the sign-in desk where the pitching is being held and ask if there are any canceled appointments.

Once you have an appointment, be prepared and professional. It doesn't hurt to provide a business card if you have one. I like to start my pitch with a one line hook, then give the details of the book (genre, word count, mention that it's complete, etc.). After that give a short blurb, like you'd find on the back cover of a book or a query letter. If possible try to make this pitch as casually as you can - meaning not as if you're reading it - more like you're just talking to the agent/editor.

A one-on-one pitch at an RWA conference lasts 8 minutes, so try to keep your pitch short - maybe 3-5 minutes to allow for questions.

Hope this helps.
Good luck!

Tierney O'Malley said...

[[have a blurb]]
Glad I asked this question. I thought, when you pitch, you have to have the whole ms to show to the editor or agent.
Wow. 5-8 minutes to sell a story?
[[be prepared and professional]]Awesome advice,Tamara and Sapphire! Thank you so much.
I wonder, would you rather pitch to a woman agent or a man?


Isis™ said...

Hi Tierney,

I've only pitched twice at a conference. They were both supposed to last 8 minutes. One lasted 10mins but the second one the agent asks for more time 15mins. And both requested the full ms.

That said I think you have to do whatever is comfortable for you. I had initially memorized note cards, which is fine but then didn't use it. I decided on the spot to give them a hook and summed up the plot in a sentence or two like a blurb. I was nervous but I knew my story was good and had faith in it. So the advice I give you is have faith in your story and those listening to you tell it will too.


Sandy said...

Hi Tierney,

If you take the whole manuscript you'll have the editor/agents running the other direction. Grin.

If you think you'll be nervous by all means take some note cards, so you can glance at them if you get off track. Keep it short, start with a tag line, a blurb or something equally short. Don't attack an editor/agent in the bathroom or anywhere else unless they ask if you write and what you write? Be sure to stop if you notice their eyes glazing over. lol

I prefer small conferences where you might get to party with that editor or agent you want to talk to. Just don't drink too much because you don't want her to see you tipsy.

I could tell you more, but this is enough for now.


Brenna Lyons said...

Brenna Lyons wrote:

Yes, I've pitched. Okay... a few tips I can share...

1. Agents and editors are people, not gods. Pull up a chair, offer
your hand, and treat them like PEOPLE and not gods.
2. Dress to the occasion. Business dress or California business dress
is preferred. Do not walk into a pitch in tennis shoes and a t-shirt.
3. Have a business card on hand, but be aware that they usually trash
them later. Don't push it on the agent/editor, but have it available,
if the discussion turns to your site or something similar that would
tie to the card.
4. Have your pitch (BLURB and market research as well as a little
about you...think a living query letter) memorized or on a single
sheet of paper sitting on your presentation folder. Figure out how
much time they will give you for the pitch. My last few pitches were
slotted into between 6 and 12 minute slots with the agent/editor. Plan
your pitch to fall into 75% of that time, which allows for questions
and discussion. The agent/editor will likely have questions for you.
5.Do not offer said presentation folder, unless the agent or editor
asks for it. Just hold it on your lap. Most do NOT take anything home
with them. If they ask for it, hand it over. The presentation folder
should include what they ask for in their guidelines.. .or a 2-3
chapter partial, a short synopsis, and a query letter. I've never been
asked to actually hand this over, though I have taken such a folder,
when I was on the other side of the table.
6. Know who you're talking to. Mentioning that you know the agent has
represented X and sold to Z or that you enjoyed series Y from the
editor shows you know something about the person you're dealing with.
DO NOT go off cocky and tell the person, "I know you'll like my book,
because you took on..." BAD move.
7. Make a note, when you leave the room, of whatever the agent has
asked for. On the back of his/her business card is a good move. Some
authors have UPS or FedEx shipping envelopes at the convention to send
it from there. I've never done that. When you DO send it, from there
or home, remember to mention that it was requested at X event on Y
8. Thank the editor/agent for his/her time! Both at the end of the
pitch and in the cover letter for requested materials sent later. It
shows good form.
9. If you are already published, carry one of your published books
with you into the pitch. I've had an agent tell me she always looks
for that. It shows passive marketing, and that's a good thing for them
to see.
10. Be prepared (if you're already published) to answer a few simple
questions like how many copies of your book have sold over how long a
period of time. I've been asked it, and telling her I had to check the
royalty statements didn't go over well, even though I had 40 books
selling at the time, and she was asking about a particular one. My
first pitch...forgive my ignorance. I didn't know they might ask it.
11. Whether or not the agent/editor drinks, do not have a few drinks
before the pitch. (No, I haven't done this, but I've seen people who
have.) It won't really relax you as much as it will make you sloppy!
Always conduct business with a clear head.
12. Don't pitch things that aren't finished, unless it's non-fiction.
For fiction books, they don't want to hear the pitch until it's
finished...unless you are already not only published but also a "name"

Fairy Dreams is the best bar none fantasy romance that I have ever
read! The action is non-stop; the deep abiding love so well portrayed
that you feel as though you are experiencing it yourself. Regina for
Coffee Time Romance

Carrie from Wisconsin said...

Thanks a lot for this information. This blog is turning out to be a great resource!

Tierney O'Malley said...

Yes! I agree with you, Carrie. I'm already jotting down notes.

:D Thanks,

Tierney O'Malley

Tierney said...


Thanks for posting your comment.
[[give them a hook and summed up the plot in a sentence or two like a blurb.]]
This is great!
BTW, congrats on your new books!


Tierney O'Malley said...

LOL! I can imagine an editor wincing looking at a 200 page manuscript.She'll probably make an excuse just to get away. No harrassing the editor--check!
Wow! Thank you for posting. You guys are so generous in sharing your tips!