The pitch session

Every once in a while, when they let me out of my cage and into the general population, I get to attend conferences and meet some wonderful aspiring authors. One of my favorite things to do is attend agent pitch sessions—most recently at this year’s Thriller Fest—where authors have the opportunity to discuss their material, gain advice, and ask agents if they are willing to accept submissions. It’s always exciting and fast-paced, and even though the brain can feel somewhat mushy after two non-stop hours of pitches, I find it to be very rewarding in various ways.

With all this in mind, today I thought I’d give some recommendations on how to make the most of those precious few minutes a writer has with an agent:

  • Practice reciting a concise synopsis of your work. You shouldn’t (and shouldn’t need) to cover every single plot point or every detail about every character in your novel.
  • Do your research. It’s often a good idea to know a little bit about the agents you’ll be meeting with before the pitch session. It should go without saying that this is the easiest way to avoid pitching your young adult novel to the agent who only represents non-fiction.
  • Relax and enjoy! I have had to stop more than one author mid-sentence, hands and voices shaking, and ask them to take a deep breath and start over. Pitching to an agent is understandably petrifying, but at the end of the day, we’re people too. We aren’t going to criticize your work, or laugh in your face, or make you cry. I promise.

Have any of you out there attended pitch sessions? What have been your general opinions and experiences?

10 Responses to The pitch session

  1. Stephanie says:

    I went to a bookstore event about how to get published, and I didn’t realize the majority of the event was a pitch session where 25 people got a minute to pitch – in front of everyone and a panel hosting the event. I just observed, but that was a learning experience in itself. I knew nothing about book pitches, but it sounded like half the pitchers didn’t either. The panel was very gracious and their feeback was useful. I ended up leaving after about 18 pitches. I know I will definitely need practice before I ever do that in public!

  2. Mary Lou K. Rivera says:

    Yes, I attended a pitching session. I was more nervous attending this session than I was waiting for my first child to be born. It was like speed-dating, only instead of hooking up for romance, our goal was to hook an agent. You have to squash thousands of words and plots and subplots into a ONE-MINUTE PITCH and pray that you don’t waste a second by stumbling over a word or thought. (Just remembering that stress is making me break out in a sweat!) Being the last person at my table to make a pitch, I watched the varying degrees of panic come over the faces of my fellow aspiring writers. Some froze for a few precious moments before spewing forth a bunch of words, like a horse stumbling at the gate and racing forward to make up for lost time. Some looked wild eyed, and you knew that their pitch was running through their minds like the tickertape at the bottom of TV stock report. And then it was my turn. I could feel my face flaming like my electric grill because I’m not a fan of public speaking (“I’m a writer, not a speaker” is my motto). I managed to get my pitch out without too many “umms” and flapping hands (my hands speak better than I do…it’s a cultural thing). When the agent nodded and said, “This is not my area of expertise, but it does sound interesting…” I nearly slid from my chair like ice cream melting from a cone…not because of the favorable response, but because my pitch session was over! :). But it was a great learning experience, and I would recommend it too all who want to make it in the publishing world…just pack along a roll of TUMS.

  3. Kim says:

    I’ve attended several, gotten very good advice and met some very nice people. My only request of agents would be, “Don’t be afraid to say the project isn’t right for you.” Once or twice I’ve thought that an agent or two was just being nice in requesting. Only a suggestion.

  4. Tamara says:

    I’ve always taken a very laid-back approach, even though there isn’t much time. I always read about the agent and ask them questions about themselves and just talk for a minute. If you take the speed-dating metaphor seriously, then you don’t want to come on too strong and talk just about yourself. Also, every agent I’ve pitched wanted to do it differently. Some wanted the traditional “give me your pitch” where you try not to be too incoherent. Some wanted to read the pitch I had written out. Some told me to throw away the text and just tell me about the book. Some, we were so busy chatting that the pitch was almost an afterthought.

    I think it would be fascinating to attend one of these pitch-o-ramas where you watch others pitch. Or where you read the first page of your manuscript and the agents stop you where they would have stopped reading and tell you what’s wrong. I’m always game for these things. That’s how we learn. (If I didn’t already have a great agent – ahem!)

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