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PITCHING TO AN AGENT – THE FACE-TO-FACE

April 11, 2012

            Before, I alluded to the pitch session as a job interview. Well, my friends, that’s exactly what it is. The difference is that it’s a two way street. Not only will you be working for the agent and/or publisher, they will be working for you. When you get right down to it, you are also interviewing them. The biggie right now though, is that the person you are about to sit down with is holding all the cards. They have the power, the knowledge, and the abilities to take your hopes and dreams and turn them into a reality. Okay, maybe I’m laying it on a bit thick, but isn’t that why you’re there?

            Okay, to make this less dramatic, you have a product and you’re looking for a manufacturer to produce, distribute and sell that product. That bland enough? You’re the inventor of said product. It’s your job to try to convince a corporation to take your product, refine it and produce it for mass consumption.

            I think all of you have seen the movie somewhere where a guy in a business suit nervously tugs at his tie, briefcase in one hand, as he sits outside a boardroom to pitch his idea to a bunch of stuffed shirts. Is this all ringing a bell? Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, let’s lighten things up a bit and get to the reality of pitching to real people at a writer’s conference.

            If you’re lucky enough to attend a good conference, you might have a scenario similar to what we have at the Las Vegas Writer’s Conference. I am using this conference as an example not only to once again plug it (it takes place 19-21 April), but also because I have intimate knowledge of how this conference works.

            You’ll sign in, and for the price of admission, get to pick at least one agent appointment slot, maybe more, depending on the schedule and the number of people adding in names. From personal experience, I have never had a problem seeing any agent I have wanted to see. These appointments might be the first, second, or third day, first thing in the morning through the end of the day. Because of that, there’s a good chance that during any sessions you pick, during breaks, and during meals you might find yourself talking face-to-face with the very agent you’re going to be pitching your book to. These are good times to get to know them, feel them out, find out what their likes and dislikes are. Get to know them as a person. You’re more than likely going to find them great people. Once in a while, you’ll find a total jerk. That’s happened to me a few times. I pitched to them anyway. Most of the jerks actually had me send them something and I got the expected results. One took two years to respond! I’d totally forgot about him, then out of the blue, I got a letter. “Not for me.”

            Then again, the agent you’re pitching to might be teaching one of the sessions you signed up for. That’s another good way to get to know them and what they stand for, what they like and dislike, and how you might approach them. Meals are a good place to talk shop and hear the latest gossip in the publishing world. You can learn the trends and even find out what’s going on with your genre. That could help you slant your pitch when you sit down with them.

            When it’s finally time to sit down, even though you may have met face-to-face before, sit down, shake their hand and introduce yourself. Then, when they ask you to tell them about your book, start out with your slug line. Those are the one or two sentences that should be the first one or two sentences that introduce your story. From there, if you wrote them well, the agent should ask you to tell them more. That’s when you give them a brief, and I mean brief, synopsis of the story including how the story ends.

            Do not, and I mean do not ramble on and get off on tangents! Watch the agents’ body language. If their eyes start to wander or glaze over, you’ve lost them. You have to give them a one-two punch. You have to make them want more. When you sit down, your pitch letter, with the short synopsis on the back, should be slipped over to them first thing. They may glance at it, they may not. They may actually read it as they listen to your pitch. However, the chances are, they won’t actually take it. They’ll have you mail it to them. If that’s the case, make sure you revise the letter at the first paragraph to include that it was really nice to meet and talk with them at the Las Vegas Writer’s Conference bla bla bla (or whichever one you attend). That paragraph is key, so that it puts a time and place on your meeting. Also at the bottom of the letter, make sure to include “I’ve attached … sample chapters and a … page synopsis per your request.”

            One more thing, never ever pitch your book in casual conversation! Don’t be pushy! That is a great way to turn them off. However, if you’re talking at lunch or dinner and the subject of your writing comes up and the agent says, “Well, tell me about your book,” they’re inviting you in. Otherwise, leave the pitching for your appointment.

            Until next time… the usual.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 11, 2012 4:28 am

    This is such valuable information, Fred (and a lot of it). I’m going to come back when I’m more absorbent. In the meantime, thanks!

    • April 12, 2012 2:35 am

      Moonbeam,

      Glad to be of some help! Thanks for stopping by and glad to have you. I’ll try to continue and provide useful info.

      Fred

  2. Ann Marquez permalink
    April 14, 2012 5:58 pm

    I’ve only pitched three times. I’m horrible at it.

    The last two were during last year’s conference. The first agent grabbed my notes, slammed them to the side and said, “Don’t use those.” I turned into a blubbering, rambling idiot, made worse by the agent’s constant interruptions and by the next person scheduled to pitch who was sitting just to my left, listening! I know my subject front and back, but … I truly turned into an idiot. Thank God I tried a third time. The next agent was wonderful and easy to talk to. She completely understood where I was coming from and I now have a good pitching memory. 😀

    Excellent post Fred!

    • April 14, 2012 8:25 pm

      Annie,

      Wow! What an experience. Glad you survived. Usually, they are a lot nicer but once in a while, you get a real jerk. Live and learn,huh?

      Fred

  3. Ann Marquez permalink
    April 14, 2012 6:02 pm

    PS … I finally found where to sign up to follow you. A little tab popped up on the bottom right of my screen that says “Follow.” I clicked and voila! 😀

    • April 14, 2012 8:27 pm

      I had the same trouble with a few people who responded here. It took me a while to find how to follow them too. It’s not always easy to spot the tiny follow button. I have a spot at the upper right that turns orange when I get responses. I click on that and it shows a list of who responded. Sometimes that list shows if I’m following them of if I can follow them. There will be a + sign that is clickable. That is usually how I do it.

      • Ann Marquez permalink
        April 15, 2012 12:07 am

        Oh wow … did not know that. I told you I’m a little slow 😉 Thanks!

  4. Janice Gilbertson permalink
    April 16, 2012 6:24 pm

    This helps!! I will be attending the Las Vegas Conference, my first, and pitching, my first. I am very anxious and excited!!

    • April 17, 2012 2:56 am

      Janice,

      Congrats! I look forward to seeing you there. Be sure to say hi and we can talk some more. I’ll probably be hanging around the front desk in a green sweater. It’s my traditional place unless I’m attending a class.

      Thanks for writing!

      Fred

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