Pitch Appointment Know-How

It’s conference time again for writers, which means… PITCH APPOINTMENTS. Some of you have already started attending these fun events, but for those who haven’t, here’s advice on pitch appointments. Don’t know what those are? Let me fill you in.

This is when you book an appointment with an editor of a publishing house or an agent so you can pitch your book to her in person. Crazy, right? Well, it can be a tiny bit intimidating, but if you arrive prepared, you’ll feel a lot better about the experience. Prepared? Gulp. How do I prepare for a pitch appointment?

You need to have a pitch ready. This would be similar to your query blurb or what you’d have as a back cover for your book. It’s a tease. It’s not a summary of the plot. The agent/editor wants to know who the hero and heroine are, what are their goals, possibly their motivations (although, that can come later, during your conversation), and the conflict. They also want to know what’s at stake and if there’s a ticking time bomb. In other words, what will happen if they don’t achieve this goal, and how much time do they have to accomplish it?

Don’t make your pitch too long. Whatever isn’t included can be brought up later, during your discussion. What discussion? Don’t worry. This is informal. Well, informal in a professional way, of course. You want to keep your pitch short so you have time to chat with the agent or editor. She might have questions for you about your story or characters, or she might want to learn more about you and where you want to go with your career. Do you have other books planned or do you only want to publish one book? Are you self-published? How many polished books can you write a year? What are you hoping to gain from agent representation or traditional publication?

But some agents/editors won’t have questions. That doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in you or your career. They might be tired or fried from a day’s worth of pitches and all the meetings they’ve had during the conference. They might not need to know anything at this point, because they’d liked to read the manuscript and see if your writing would be a good fit first. Or they might be stepping back, allowing you a chance to ask them questions.

What? I need to ask them questions? Double gulp.

Relax. This is why you’re going to prepare ahead of time, right? Do your research and come up with questions that you couldn’t find answers to by doing a quick Google search. What do you want to know about this publisher, this particular editor, this literary agency, or this agent? DON’T ask her if she wants to see your manuscript or what she thinks of your idea. Ask about HER. Is she an editorial agent? Which publishers would she target with this type of story? Does she have best-selling authors in this genre as clients? Does the publisher offer publicity for new authors? If so, what kind of publicity? What are her expectations when working with an author?

Take this time to get to know the agent or editor. Make sure you’re a good fit and that you click. This could be someone you’ll work with for years, so you want to ensure you agree on key points, things in your career that matter to you.

No matter what, the pitch appointment probably won’t go as you expected. Some agents will request a partial or full before you’ve finished your pitch. Others might wait until the end of the session, and some won’t ask at all. We’ll talk about that next week.

Lynnette Labelle
2015 and 2016 Daphne du Maurier Finalist
2015 Molly Winner

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