Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pitching to an Agent or Editor

Today, a good friend and I visited a different writers' group than ours. They specialize in pitching (summarizing your book in person to an editor or agent). And they are amazing!

Here are some helpful tips that I learned as you go into the interview:

Tame those nerves.

1. Sit down, take a deep breath and settle down. Relax your shoulders. Smile.
2. Don't hold your breath.
3. Talk conversationally.
4. Think about what an agent or editor will want to know.

Okay, you're ready to begin your pitch. Here is an easy formula. (Thanks, Clancy!)

1. Introduce yourself and shake their hand. Tell them your genre, word count, target audience and whether the project is complete. (Such as: I have a completed 40,000 word YA fantasy.)

2. Tell them your hook/tag line. (This should sound natural and not contrived. A hook/tag line is one sentence about your story, containing 25 words or less. It should be exciting. It should incite curiousity or shock and/or emotion. Think Jaws: "Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water."

3. Quickly tell about the opening scene - if it's a great scene.

4. Give the basics of the hero and/or heroine, what's in it for them, their main conflicts and goals, and their character arc (how they change). Make your characters very relatable. Your goal is to make your interviewer want to know more. (A good way to come up with this - in a condensed version - is to write your book jacket cover blurb, which is usually 7 - 9 sentences. You can get ideas on how to do this by reading other jacket covers in your genre.)

Now the hardest part is not reading your pitch from a paper. And you don't want to conform to a memorized script so tightly that you come across stilted. Be natural - conversational. And watch your interviewer for signs that they want to ask a question, so you can stop, answer, then move on.

Next: practice, practice, practice! The more people you practice your pitch on, the smoother and more natural it will become. Have them ask questions. You'll find out which parts are important and exciting.

Another great tip is to do research on your interviewer beforehand. Check out their company, website, blog/s and twitter accounts. Have some questions for them. It will make you stand out and adds a personal touch.

If you have any more tips, I'd love to hear them! I'm pitching in four weeks.

I wish you the best of luck and happy pitching!


  1. Sounds great! Good luck & let us know how it turns out!! :)

  2. Great post. Crossing my fingers for you. (And me.) :)

  3. Great advice, Jonene!

    I like practicing my pitch on people I meet. When I went to my new hire orientation at BYU-Hawaii I found out one of the other adjuncts was hired to teach English. It wasn't long until I was pitching my book to him.

    Good luck, Jolene!


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