Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pitch it to home plate


I've got a little over a week to prepare for my first pitch session at a writer's conference.

This past week, I solicited several writer friends for help since I wasn't even sure where to begin. Yeah, I can write a query now but take my whole book and narrow it down into one meaningful conflict-filled sentence and have it make sense?

Not so easy.

What I finally did learn about writing a pitch is this: Keep it specific.

Avoid the general words like thriller, romantic, challenges etc. If you use those words your pitch will sound like every other book in the universe and the agent won't have a clue what you wrote.

I'm going to have about three minutes to wow someone about what I've written. What is worse that that, is about five other writers will be sitting with me in the same room awaiting their turn.

How am I going to stick out?

That's where my mirror and chair come in handy.

Don't knock on my front door right now cause you might see me sitting in front of my living room mirror talking to myself. Practicing. Making sure I look normal and friendly when I speak that one line.

So here's the question.

Who out there has pitched at a conference and what great piece of advice can you offer?

34 comments:

Julie Jarnagin said...

I pitched at the ACFW conference a few years ago. I was so nervous. What I learned is that it's better to go in and talk to them like a normal person and not a robot with a rehearsed speech. If you need to read your pitch, that's fine. Do what makes you comfortable. I think my nerves showed with the first agent, and that made her uncomfortable. I was a lot more natural and relaxed with the second, and it was better for both of us. You'll do great! Good luck!

Kara said...

I have always been terrified at the thought of the pitch and haven't gotten to that point yet. But I think if you speak from the heart you will stand out. I'll be saying some prayers for you to have an awesome time!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

Unfortunately, my experiences won't help you. Last time, I pitched my book, I used a one-sheet.

I'm learning more about pitching, but I have a long way to go.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Carmen said...

Wow! They sure don't make it easy on a person. I think you just have to say what you've got to say and not worry about it too much. You go in there blind, not knowing what they're looking for necessarily anyway. Just try to enjoy the process and hope for the best.

Lin Floyd said...

trying to get others to buy your book is like pitching it to a publisher or agent...enthusiasm is a key element.

mamabear said...

I don't know the business. So no advice, but plenty of prayer! I'll pour it on!

So glad you're doing what you love!

Cindy said...

I'm going to keep praying for you, Terri! Your pitches sound great--I know you're going to do wonderful :)

T. Anne said...

I'm lousy at pitches! BUT, I'm going to pray for you. HARD. I expect good results. =) How exciting about the conference! Please blog about it. I doubt I'll get to go to one for a while.

Nehha said...

Please do tell us about how it went. May be we could learn some important things about the business.

All the best!!!

Kristen Painter said...

In the days before I had an agent, I pitched more times than I could count. It's not fun, but practice makes it easier. It's okay to have note cards, but try to make eye contact with the agent or editor you're pitching to.

Research whoever you're pitching to as well - try to get a feeling for what they like, what they don't. If they've repped or published a book/author you've read and enjoyed, mention that. It shows them you've done your homework and you know who they are. Stuff like that goes a long way towards them remembering you.

Jessica Nelson said...

Well, I made a pitch I feel comfortable with...to read. LOL Saying it aloud is a problem for me. I'm def. not a seller and have trouble sounding confident (I think) when it comes to my stories.
Good for you for getting ready! You never know who will ask what your story is about. :-)

Karen Lange said...

I have not, but I will pray for you! :)

Lynn said...

I don't have any pitching advise but, if it's okay, I do also want to send a prayer of encouragement your way!

Warren Baldwin said...

I've never pitched in person (just written ones). So, I'm learning here, too. Good luck!

Kathryn Magendie said...

You already read my wise advice (laughing - okay, maybe not wise, but anyway) on FB, but again, be yourself and most of all LOVE WHAT YOU DO - LOVE YOUR BOOK AND YOUR WORDS! be excited about it and that will shine though *smiling* you'll do great!

Helen Ginger said...

By now you probably know who you'll be pitching to, so do some research on that agent. Of course, you can't do that with everyone you'll be talking to, since you'll be talking about your book at cocktail parties, in the lobby, etc.

Practice. Not just in front of a mirror. Between now and then, pitch to friends, strangers, anyone you meet. Speak up and tell them about your book. You'll get a feel for what it's like to do it live. People will ask questions and you'll learn how to answer them without stumbling. That'll give you more confidence going into the scheduled pitch.

And relax. Agents are used to fumbling pitches. But it's best if they remember you as an author who could be a hit going out to talk and promote the book.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Jody Hedlund said...

Love it, Terri! I wish I could be a fly on your wall watching you! Another thing to think about is, the "sell." You're trying to sell your book idea. How can you hook that agent into wanting to "buy" your book. What will captivate them, what makes it unique, and what will draw them into thinking they need to read it?

arlee bird said...

Haven't had that experience yet, but good luck with it and then tell us about it here so we can learn from you when our times come.

Lee
A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post

Georgiana said...

How exciting! I haven't pitched in a group session before, only one on one, so I have no specific advice to offer. Best wishes as you jump in there and wow them!

Catherine West said...

Hi Terri,
I hate pitching. It's nervewracking and I stumble over my words and....ugh. I just don't enjoy the process. One thing I try to do is make sure I really know my story, and love it. Then talking about it should be easy, but it's still not. Most times the editor will ask some helpful questions and that gets me going and I'm somehow able to shake the nerves, but other times they'll just sit there and wait...blech. I actually think pitching is more harmful to my career than not pitching, but I haven't been able to convince my agent of that yet. :0)
Advice, don't go in thinking this is your one and only chance to sell your book. It's not. And remembering that the person you're talking to is not the god of publishing helps too. All the editors and agents I have ever met have been really nice. Good Luck!

Patti said...

It's not like pitching to an agent is hard, but add other writers in there as well. You're brave. I have had similar experiences as Jessica, what I write sounds good in my mind, but not so much when I say it. I think you need to be loose and relaxed. Try practicing with family.

Jeanette Levellie said...

I always laugh when I think about the times I pitched at conferences. My first one, I struck out so badly the editor finally asked, "Now, what can I do for you?"

The second time around I was a little more confident, but still bumbled around a lot. It didn't help that the first agent I pitched to had a "just try to impress me!" attitude.

But the next two were great, easy to talk to, and kind. One now represents me.

Take your time, take a deep breath, and take a bag of chocolates to give them as a thank you. Those three plus prayer will get you through.

You can do this, dear. We and Jesus believe in you!

Love,
Jen

Sassy Granny ... said...

I love the new header & picture. Fabulous!

I've never done a "pitch" like the one you're facing; but I've sure done my fair share of business presentations over the years. I always remind myself that not ONLY am I not alone, I'm in the company of a vast army ... just like Elisha, who said to his frightened servant:

"Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." 2 Kings 6:16

You go girl!

Jill Kemerer said...

Love, love, love the new header of your blog!!!

Practice pitching to another person. The pitch I practiced to myself fell apart when I tried it on my friends. It helped me hone the problems and gave me confidence.

paulgreci said...

Just be yourself and don't speak too quickly. Three minutes is actually a long time and you want to make sure that what you say isn't lost b/c you've run through it. Good luck!!

patti said...

Oh, I LOVE your new layout!!! Amazing!

So proud of you for pitching, dear one!!!! My advice? I had a one sheet where I captured my hook and a short description. If I went wordless, I just handed the agent/publisher the paper. Many of them prefer to read, anyway!! LOL

Greg C said...

Ok by no means am I an expert on this subject. In fact I have little experience but everyone says I could sell rocks to a coal miner and this is all about sales. Just keep thinking about how much you love what you are doing and how much you love the product. You need to project that love and excitement. You can do it.

Gina Conroy said...

I've never given a memorized pitch (unless in an elevator or at dinner). But what I do do is take a one sheet, let them look it over (and resist the urge to talk while the're reading!) and then get excited as I talk about my story. If you just think about why you're passionate about this story, and that editors are real people just like you, you'll do great!!

KelliGirl said...

Terri,
It looks like you've received some excellent advice. I know that you're a tremendous writer and are going into this well-prepared. You've done what you can. Now, offer the pitch to God and go into it with full confidence.
Can't wait to hear how it goes!

Blessings and prayers,
Kelli

Elana Johnson said...

Dude, email me. (elanajohnson@gmail.com). I listened to Laura Rennert (senior agent at Andrea Brown Lit) talk about building a pitch. It was brilliant. I'm planning on putting it up on the QT blog next week, but you need it before then.

So email me. She has a five-step process for building your pitch. Awesome!

Nancy said...

Never done that, but I'm hoping and believing that you will have the perfect sentence and look just right giving it. Blessings.

Lily Robinson said...

OK, I just pictured myself there, and now I'm nauseous! It's a long way off, but I've already had anxiety over how to 'sell' by book in a query.

Good luck with your pitch!

Lily Robinson said...

Forgot to say... nice picture!

sarah said...

Hey Terri, I love the picture and although I have no advice...except that you're not going in alone....He'll be in there with you. I'm routing for you and I think you're gonna stand tall among those other five.... Nikki