Pitching to Agents and Editors at a Writing Conference

Sunday, May 02, 2010

In my last post, I talked about some things I learned at the Missouri Writers' Guild conference when attending a workshop with best-selling romance author Bobbi Smith. Today's post is going to be more about my conference experience, and I'm going to focus on what I learned when I had pitch sessions with literary agents Kristin Nelson and Joanna Stampfel-Volpe (pictured on the left). So, here we go:

  1. Introduce yourself and your work: The first thing you want to do when you go into a pitch session is introduce yourself and your work. You don't need to give the agent/editor a bio or have a chat. Just give your name and information about your project. For example: "My name is Margo Dill. I have a 68,000-word young adult contemporary novel titled Caught Between Two Curses, and it's finished." You probably have a time limit for this pitch session, so don't tell any extra information about yourself until you get your pitch out. You can always go back and fill in the gaps later if you have time.
  2. Practice a clear, concise synopsis of your work: Some professionals say you should be able to get the main plot of your story down to one sentence. Others say three or five. The point is you should be able to tell the agent/editor your short synopsis easily and quickly. And practice! Practice! Practice! I practiced exactly what I wanted to say in the shower and in the car. Here's what I think I said (I was nervous, you know) at my pitch session about my novel: "Julie Nigelson is 17 years old and caught between two curses--one on her family by a woman her grandmother knew and the other--the famous curse on the Chicago Cubs. The curse on her family affects the men by killing them before their 35th birthday. Julie must race to find the answer to breaking both curses before it's too late for her uncle like it was for her dad. In the meantime, she deals with her own love life issues with a boyfriend who is pressuring her to have sex and her own worries that the curse will get the guy she loves, too."
  3. Try NOT to use notes: Some agents/editors won't care if you have notes that you refer to--they know you're nervous. But you should know your own work well enough when you are pitching that you don't actually need notes. Don't type up a pitch and read it. Talk about your work from your heart. Remember, agents and editors are just people. Sure, they can make your dreams come true. But you know your work and you can talk about it--really. If you're nervous, you might just sound really excited about your book. And that's not a bad thing.
At every pitch session I've been to, the agent or editor was extremely nice. Once I finished with my pitch, they asked me questions about the book, my career, and so on. If you already have a book published even in a different genre, mention it to the agent or editor at the end of your pitch session if it didn't come up in the conversation. I have a book under contract that hasn't been published yet, and I let the agent know after she said she would like to see some of my YA novel.

In WOW!'s May issue (which will be up soon), you can find out more about going to conferences and what to expect with my photo essay.

Happy pitching!
Margo L. Dill,


Cher'ley said...

Cons are fun and pitching to an agent is nerve-racking, especially the first time. It's a great experience and gives you a whole new perspective about your work.

Margo Dill said...

I totally agree with you. I would recommend it to anyone--even the most shy writer. It is great experience and will help you get a focus on your work!

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