Monday, March 7, 2011

Guest Post: Pitching a Novel to an Agent from BookEnds LLC

Photo by artolog at Flickr


How do you pitch in person to a literary agent?  BookEnds LLC can coach you through it.

Pitching Effectively

I'll be attending a writers' conference and have a 10-minute appointment with a literary agent. Do you have any suggestions on what the pitch should - and shouldn't - include? Is there something people do that really annoys you? Anything that's particularly effective? 

The most important thing your pitch should include is your blurb. Really, it doesn’t need to be that different from your query letter, a short, compelling description of your book. Everyone is different, very different, when it comes to what makes a successful pitch. I think it’s Janet Reid who has posted on the subject, and what she’s looking for is different from what I want to see. All that being said, if you give a short, compelling pitch you’ll win an agent over every time.
Here are my tips for pitching successfully.

  1. Bring along your query, a short 1-2 page synopsis, and the first chapter of your book. Have it out when you sit down in case the agent finds it easier to read off that.
  2. When you sit down, introduce yourself and take a moment to ask the agent how she’s doing or how she’s enjoying the conference. In other words, a few seconds or a minute of small talk tends to break the ice and make everyone a little more comfortable.
  3. Start your pitch with your title and genre, then give your blurb. Your blurb should not go on and on. It only needs to be a written paragraph, and if it’s easier for you to read it go ahead and read it.
  4. Have questions. In other words, use your time wisely. When authors pitch to me I’ll often ask questions about the book, but I always ask the author if she has any questions for me. Have some. This is your one-on-one time with an agent, so use it. Ask questions about her, the agency, the business of publishing. Think of it as a pre-interview. If she calls to offer representation, you already have a sense of how well you talk and how comfortable you are with her.
  5. Relax and enjoy yourself. 10 minutes can go quickly.

BookEnds also has great related posts: Pitch Lines That Don't Work, and I Stop Reading When (on ways to keep from figuratively shooting yourself in the foot when querying.)

Keep in mind, writing queries, blurbs, synoposes, and marketing yourself is part of your work as a writer.

I would also suggest, if you are currently a techno-dinosaur, don't be too frank about saying so.  "I could never use Twitter!" or "I would never write a blog or use FaceBook to connect with fans."  An agent wants to hear, not that you are necessarily a techno-geek, but that you are prepared to use (or learn to use) whatever the current tools happen to be, to promote your work.

Agents make money when you make money.  They don't make money by babysitting a "shy" writer or teaching a client how to use their computer.  Given a choice between representing two authors of roughly equal talent, they're going to choose the writer who's committed to being active in promoting the work, not somebody who will need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 20th Century. 

Yes, I know we're in the 21st.  Do you?