Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Advice from the Pitch Master

Hi, all! Sorry for the silence (again), but I've been busy. Dealing with personal stuff (which you can probably guess), applying for a new job (why, yes, I AM nervous that my potential employers will stop by here and conclude that I'm not sufficiently dignified for the position--thanks for asking), and getting over 70 pitch sessions ready for LTUE.




The good news? Two of those time-eaters are now mostly history, so I should be able to resume my regular blogging schedule. And writing. And reading, please the heavens. (How I've missed it! I had to return BITTERBLUE to the library today and I'm not done yet!)

Anyway, since I didn't get to attend many panels at LTUE--Pitch Master is a time-consuming job, turns out--I thought I'd share my thoughts on pitching agents and editors. I had lots of fun dispensing this advice to the captive, nervous pitchers as they waited for their turn with Michelle Witte and Judith Engracia (my awesome friend Wendy Knight--whose debut FEUDLINGS comes out next month!!--was monitoring the editors' room, so I got to spend ten seconds every ten minutes with two awesome agents. So fun!).

So here's the short list of what I told them:

  • You bought the time: use it! Don't [do what I did when I pitched last year and] get all excited when you get a request and leave early. Especially if you haven't asked any of your carefully prepared questions. These folks are experts in their field, so ask your questions!
  • Don't ask questions designed to figure out if the two of you are compatible enough to work well together. That's the sort of thing you ask when they offer representation. Which, let's face it, probably won't happen. (See below.)
  • The odds of THIS agent being the agent who will love YOUR book are only slightly higher than they would be if you were cold-querying through the slush pile. Your whole career isn't riding on the next ten minutes. Your personality--though fantastic--can't make an agent like your lyrical-sci-fi-romance-adventure when she prefers comedic-sci-fi-romance-thrillers. So chill out.
  • Since this agent COULD be the agent who loves your book, make sure you pitch it well! Follow the advice Howard Tayler gave about teasers this year (in one of the few presentations I made it to): You need an inciting incident, character action, conflict, and a hook. A hook is that moment when the reader starts to imagine your book themselves--to wonder what might happen and get excited to find out. (Howard usually blows my mind at cons. He's THAT amazing--and he actually remembered me this time! :) )
And that's about it for advice from me.

Two more things, but this is just general con-advice: 1) always have an updated business card to hand out. If you're wondering if you even need such a thing, ask yourself if there's a chance you'll meet someone nice, who you'll want to talk to again. If the answer is yes, you need a card. It just takes too long to write down your email on a napkin--and then they'll just lose the thing or forget who the heck gave it to them. Photo, email, blog, twitter, etc. Trust me. Get it before you think you need it. You can design them yourself with free templates on Word and print them cheap at your local copy shop.

2) Save the elastic necklace things off your con-name-tags in case the next one wants you to wear a pin instead. Necklaces are sooo much better, IMO. Also, your business cards are stored INSIDE the plastic name tag holder, right behind your name tag. That's where they live. Then, when you meet the aforementioned really nice person, you don't have to go hunting. You don't have to wonder where you left your bag. You just dig into your name tag and voila! Easy.

So who has pitched before? Any advice you want to add? Any general con advice? Who was at LTUE?