Sunday, July 11, 2010

How to Make the Most of Your Pitch Opportunity

Businesswomen talking
The RWA National Annual Conference takes place in two weeks, and the internet is abuzz with tips on how to sharpen your pitch.

Entire workshops are devoted to squishing characters, plot, goals, motivation, and conflict into the time allowed. With proper preparation, most writers will get a request from the editor or agent they pitch.

You might consider that a success, but the ultimate goal is to sell your book. There’s more to sales than simply advertising. And there’s more to pitching than simply getting a request for a partial. If you want to sell your book, you have to leave your editor/agent feeling like you were worth the time she spent on you. That’s customer satisfaction in the world of publishing.

Speaking of customer satisfaction, think about the last time you felt like you’d been cheated by a salesman. Chances are the problem fell into one of the following categories:

  • The product or service was not as advertised.
  • The work was not performed on time.
  • There was no customer service after the sale.

    Woman executive talking to male worker
    Let’s see what these problems tell us about how we should make the most of our pitching opportunity.

    The Product Needs to Match the Pitch
    When you pitch at a conference, you are presenting yourself as a serious writer. Inherent in that is a promise that you have taken the time to learn the craft, to finish your manuscript, and polish it to industry standards. If you haven’t done these things, then you’re misrepresenting your product. Don’t pitch before you’re ready.

    No matter how well you write, the tone of your pitch needs to match the tone of your novel. If your pitch is plot-based and the novel is character-driven, the editor/agent is going to feel like you misled him. Don’t promise
    Star Wars and send in Little Women.

    Desk calendar
    The Product Needs to be Delivered on Time
    If you’re an unpublished author, your book needs to be polished and ready to send before you pitch it. Ideally, you would send it as soon as you got done pitching. But sometimes, something you see at the conference might give you an idea on how to tweak it and make it better. If that’s the case, it’s best to be upfront with the editor/agent and agree on a time frame for submission. You don’t want to leave them with the impression that you can’t be counted on to make your deadlines.

    Customer Service after the Pitch
    So you’ve pitched your novel, and sent in the partial. If you’re lucky, this will result in a request for a full. But you might be advised to “revise and resubmit.” This is where you get to show off your customer service skills. Listen carefully and make sure you understand what they’re asking you to do. If you agree to the changes, then make them as quickly as you can while maintaining the quality of writing. The editor/agent will be taking note of how easy (or difficult) you are to work with.

    I hope these tips have given you something to think about as you prepare you pitch.
    For those of you who have pitched before, please share your expertise. What’s the best pitching advice you ever received?


J.P. Edwards said...

I teach a pitching class, and you are right on the money. If your pitch doesn't match the tone of your book, you lose out the minute you send the requested material, if they don't like the voice you write in.

Creating a pitch - and I usually focus on the one-sentence, eight-second pitch - can be a difficult process, but so important. I work with authors, especially in June and July, before National, to make sure they have the best pitch, whether it's for an appointment, a chance meeting in an elevator or at a seminar, where you might be sitting next to the next "big" editor or agent.


Clarissa Southwick said...

Do you mind giving us a link to your workshop? I'm sure our readers will be interested in learning about it.

Gillian Layne said...

Great advice! Thanks for sharing.

Jill James said...

Remember agents and editors are people too. They want to love your story. Let your love of your story come through in your pitch. Smile. Be upbeat. Be enthusiastic about your plot and your characters.

Donna Cummings said...

Clarissa, this is great info -- I wish I'd had it back when I was doing pitches! LOL Of course, I think it also works well for telling potential readers about your story too. Thanks for sharing!

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Thanks for your good advice. I do have a pitch session with an editor and am a bit nervous. Not that I don't know my story and love my characters, but because it is something new to me. I have my pitch ready, but am counting on my ingenuity to fill in where my memory doesn't!

Lynda Bailey said...

I agree! Great advice, Clarissa. However, do you think you're pitching yourself as much as your manuscript? Take me, for example. I finaled in the historical category, but write mostly contemporary. Can I tell the editor/agent that I write erotic romance, never mind the time period, or have I put myself in a box?

Abigail Sharpe said...

Great advice, Clarissa. I've only pitched once and got the request for a partial, and I hightailed it out of there so fast so she wouldn't change her mind! *laugh* I hope I'm a lot more cool at Nationals.

Victoria Gray said...

Excellent advice. Thanks for sharing, Clarissa.


Mona Risk said...

Thank you Clarissa. I remember I was always so nervous in front of the editor. Even after rehearsing my few lines for a month, I would black out and had to read them. But the editors often try to put you at ease. So after giving my two-minute pitch, I am usually relaxed.

Clarissa Southwick said...

Thank you all for the kind comments. In answer to Lynda's question, I have always been told to pitch one book, and then, if they ask you what else you have, you can talk about the others. So I would just mention the genre of the book you are pitching and not worry about anything else.

morgan said...

At my local RWA meeting, our president reminded us that whoever we are pitching to would like to be treated as a person. Chit chat such as how was their flight or if they seen Disneyworld, etc.shows you care. It also helps disfuse the nerves.

Josie said...

This is a very timely blog. Although I am not attending Nationals this year, I have pitched at other conferences. I have the pitch down, but it's the nerves that's the real problem. I do think that the shorter the pitch, the better.