Do’s and Don’ts for Pitchers


In the past few weeks I’ve done several pitch sessions (pretty much the only sort of pitch I’m likely to entertain, since I’m not much of a baseball fan) and although my advice may well be familiar, my experiences would indicate that it bears repeating.

Do: Relax. Pitches are good practice, but your ability to pitch your project does not necessarily determine its fate.  What matters most is always on the page, so don’t treat the meeting as a summary judgment of your future in publishing.

Do: Identify a few contemporary writers to whom you feel your style/work compares. I am always surprised when an aspiring writer can’t come up with a few “like” books or authors.  This is a basic and almost inescapable question.  Having an answer at the ready shows that you know the market and are reading in the category into which you hope to be published.   Once you’ve pitched your book and made a couple comparisons, feel free to turn the question back on the agent/editor.  “Having heard my description, is there a project that you think sounds like an apt comp title?”

Do: Follow up via e-mail.  If an agent has invited you to send along your query or additional materials, you can feel free to issue a gentle nudge several weeks after your meeting.  Mention the conference in your subject line or in the first few lines of your letter.

Don’t:  Bog down in a play by play synopsis of the plot. Think about your summary as back cover copy and try to craft a description that is as more persuasive than exhaustive.

Don’t:  Arrive at your pitch session in search of an idea. It’s fine to field a concept in hopes of soliciting feedback, but know that agents and editors can seldom suggest a book idea upon meeting someone.

Don’t: Try and present more than one (or at most, two) ideas at a time. Fine to mention that you have other projects in the works, but concentrate on the single pitch that is strongest and most suited to your appointment.

Do you have any pitch related questions? I would be happy to field them. (It seems baseball metaphors are impossible to escape in the spring).

3 Responses to Do’s and Don’ts for Pitchers

  1. jeffo says:

    I hate hate hate the comparables. It makes me feel pretentious.

  2. I teach at lots of writers conferences and inevitably people tell me about their books. I’m not approaching it necessarily the way an agent or editor might, but comparing your books to other books gives me a way to quickly understand the genre, target audience, etc. I know it’s scary to compare your WIP to a big name book, but isn’t that what you’re aiming for? And the comparison is only helpful if we both know the book.

    The only time it ever seems pretentious is if it’s such a wide comparison that it doesn’t really help–Harry Potter meets Star Wars–or they say something along the lines of, “It’s like Lord of the Flies,” only better.

    When it’s the most helpful to me is when the author really understands what makes a book work and can pick out the parts that are similar to their work. So maybe something like, “It’s a legal thriller with a Grisham type small town setting, but with a Harlen Coben twist that takes the reader somewhere they didn’t expect.”

  3. Lee Westmore says:

    Zounds. That means…that means…I actually would have to read contemporary fiction!?!?!
    All this time I’ve been hoping I could just present my work as “This Century’s Answer to Jane Austen” and that would be that.

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