Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pitches, Agents and Editors, Oh my!

So this week has been a busy one for me, writing wise. But not nearly as busy as NEXT week is going to be! (Yay DFW Writer's Con!) Wednesday night, Rosemary Clemenet-Moore, author of the Hell series (Prom Dates From Hell, Hell Week, Highway to Hell) and upcoming The Splendor Falls (out this Fall) taught a pitch class and I left with a lot of great info!

I was given an "okay" to share a bit of what I learned for those who are working on pitches or getting ready to pitch, or you know, just for the heck of it. To me, writing a pitch is a huge challenge. I mean, how am I going to get 80+K words condensed into three or four sentences? And, even worse, the elevator pitch? I'm told to start with the bare bones of the story and go from there, but for some writers, like me, we have the Curse of Knowledge. We know too much, therefore SHARE too much, because we can't seem to pull apart the important from the detailed.

Now Rosemary's class was a good 45 minutes (which, honestly, she crammed in a lot in such little time, yay for Rosemary!) so I'm going to hit on the keynotes I think are the most valuable. 

If you're lucky to get a sit down pitch, it "should take 2-3 minutes to outline the essentials, then the rest of the time can be used for questions and further conversation." So basically, if you have a 10 minute time slot, don't use the whole thing up with your pitch! And STOP TALKING. Give your snippet, and wait for them to want more. Sometimes us authors are so passionate we blabber ourselves into a hole. I learned I don't have to tell my whole story in my pitch. Just the basis. It's okay to leave them questioning, this isn't a synopsis. Here is what your general pitch should include:

  • Genre and target audience (oh, and don't forget to mention your title...nerves can make you forget)
  • Character and their most important "hook"
  • Internal goal/conflict
  • External goal/conflict
It may also include, but briefly:

  • Inciting incident
  • One complicating element
  • The Climactic turning point
  • Theme or lesson learned
And then there's the "elevator pitch". You get in the elevator (or bump into agent at bar, in hallway, etc.) and are asked what you write (notice I mentioned you're asked . . . don't stalk the agent down and pitch your book out of the blue, may be too desperate looking, and they may not be in the mood to hear about it). This is basically a one or two, at the max, version . . . the "distilled essence of book".

The class included a bunch more info, some in which you would think is common sense: 

  • Be on time and don't jump right into your pitch . . . be friendly and have a polite exchange.
  • Be prepared, practiced, and bring cue cards if you want (they usually don't mind).
  • Be passionate, but not egotistical or desperate. (You may think your book is the bestest in the whole wide world, but don't say it. It may be, but don't say it).

And the Dont's:

  • Don't pitch at the urinal!
  • Don't pitch while agent is eating or walking to their hotel room.
  • Don't badmouth anyone else in the industry, agents, editors, publishers, authors, you name it. Bad Karma, people.
  • Don't bring your manuscript with you. If they want it they'll request it to be (e)mailed.
  • Don't worry about business cards (but have them ready in case specifically asked for one). They lose them.  Imagine if every writer at the conference handed Agent Jane a business card. Where on Earth would she fit them all?

And lastly, remember to thank them for their time!

Today I got to hear Jennifer Rofe from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and Molly O'neill from HarperCollins, speak at the SCBWI meeting. They were both very professional, and very nice! Jenn was very bubbly, and outgoing and Molly had some great insight into writing itself, and the industry (and how not to obsess over trends). Anyone is lucky to have either of them as an agent or editor! I'm pushing to invite them to the next DFW Writer's Conference! Molly is a native, and Jenn says she loves Texas so much she's booking herself to all 5 regional SCBWI meetings. 

And, in a very large nutshell, that is my week. Be looking out for "Snippet Tuesday", previously "Teaser Tuesday" on . . . you guessed it, Tuesday! It will be my first chapter written in Kaden's POV


  1. Wow, great advice! I wonder if there is in any writer who can painlessly condense his/her novel? Everyone seems to hate it. A necessary evil, I suppose.

  2. Thanks for the share. Lots of what you said reinforced what I learned at Pen-to-Press, and from pitching there.

    A Thank-You card is always nice too, if you got a chance to pitch. :)


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