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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

RWA, Honing Your Pitch

This was a lively panel with Winnie Griggs, Michelle Grajkowski and Cori Deyoe. I have to admit, delivering a pitch is still running hand in hand with root canal for me.

For me, and possibly for a lot of other people, we know our stories so well that we say too much. To counteract this, I memorize my pitch as opposed to delivering it off the cuff. I hate that! Several of my friends can tell you their stories as naturally as someone telling you a juicy secret. It's wonderful to hear them talk. But so much is swirling in my head that I am much safer playing the actor reciting his lines.

Here are the things every good pitch should contain.

• know your genre or sub-genre
• list the word count. (the novel should be complete before pitching)
• tell the agent the setting of the novel
• what is the high concept. I think we could have gone into an entire panel on what high concept is, but the way it was explained to me, high concept is the over arching idea of the story. For example: The story is about a marriage of convenience. Or: The story is Indiana Jones meets Bridgette Jones Diary. Basically, you are presenting a visual of the concept.
• concisely describe the heroine and hero
• concisely describe the conflict

Practice your pitch until it is ingrained into your memory banks. As I mentioned earlier, some people can roll it off their tongues like sugar. The rest of us have to memorize until it sounds natural.

Be prepared to answer questions from the agent after the pitch is over. They may ask you more about this particular novel or about other projects you have. They may ask you what your writing credentials are and whether you've submitted this to others. Don't lie if asked about who's asked for fulls and partials. People talk.

The other thing the panel brought up is to be careful in what you blog about. I preach this all the time. Be polite. Be professional. Or don't be surprised when it comes back and bites you in the keester.

Aside from looking professional, you have to emote a positive attitude. It's important to show your enthusiasm for your work. If you don't think it's a great project, why should the agent? Let your voice show through.

The panel also brought up a few cautions, such as:
• don't ramble
• don't overstay your welcome
• don't offer the agent ANY manuscript, synopsis or outline at the meeting
• know exactly what's being requested and only send those things

The average pitch shouldn't last more than a couple of minutes. After it's over, don't be afraid the ask the agent something about himself or agency. Sample questions might be:
• does he have a client list you can contact for references
• how many years does he have in the business
• are there any fees
• what is the agent's philosophy on guiding an author's career

I think the biggest thing we came away with is that you have to believe in your story and it has to reflect in your appearance, voice and attitude.

Go get 'em, Tiger!


Josi said...

This is such a great tutorial, and a pitch is so important. You will use it for the life of your book. Thanks for the outline, I have a new one I'm putting together and this will keep me on track. Thanks Maria.

Maria Zannini said...

Thanks for stopping by, Josi!
Glad it was helpful.