As I prepare to head out to the RWA conference in Dallas, I thought I would touch on the dreaded "fast pitch". At many writer conferences, editors and agents will block out slots of time to meet with aspiring writers. In general, the writer is given about 10 minutes to pitch his/her book to the agent or editor.
I've done this and I will admit that, for me, it was one of the scariest things I had ever done. I was sitting across a tiny table from an editor, trying to seem relaxed while convincing her that she just had to have my book. At the end of the interview, she asked me to send the whole manuscript to her. (But she didn't sign me -- the book deal came much later for another publisher)
Below I have listed a few items to keep in mind:
1. Practice your pitch
There are at least a couple different kinds of pitches. There's the 30-second elevator pitch. It's just what it sounds like. You happen to run across an agent or editor in the hall, on the elevator, at the bar (QUICK TIP: Don't try to pitch them while in the restroom. It's rude. Give the person a little time the handle the basics of life) and you give a brief synopsis of your book. It's just a basic couple of sentences the summarizes the plot of your book. A tagline is also helpful in giving them a way of grounding your idea in something he/she already knows. I've seen Kim Harrison's books sometimes described as "Buffy meets Columbo."
Another kind of pitch runs closer to 10 minutes and walks the editor through the book. The goal is to be informative, energetic, and engaging. If you can get the person asking question about the book, it is a good sign of interest. The agent/editor not only needs to know how the book fits among those that are already out there, but also how your book is different. What is your edge?
Once your work out your pitch, practice it. Pitch your friends, family, talk to yourself in the mirror. Have it down. When at a conference, you never know when an opportunity will present itself. Be ready!
A few other things to keep in mind:
2. Believe it or not, agents and editors are people, too.
They understand that you're nervous. All the agents and editors that I have met so far are nice people, who generally enjoy their jobs. They are patient and understanding. At one workshop, one editor said that it was their job to say "no." That's fine. It's your job to convince them to say "yes" and you do that by being great.
3. Be considerate.
Try not to stalk and as I mentioned before, don't try to pitch someone while in the bathroom. If you happen to run across someone in the hotel bar or in the hall, you can approach them then. Just remember #2, give them a little space.
4. Be aware of odors.
Try not to each onions with lunch just before your meeting and I have also been warned to not wear strong perfume ahead of the meeting. Little things like that can distract the agent/editor from why you are both there: your book.
5. Business cards
Finally, don't expect to hand over your manuscript or even a synopsis while at the conference. Most editors don't bring an extra suitcase to lug home 50 pounds of manuscripts after a conference. However, have your business card with all your contact information ready. If he/she wants to see your book, you will usually exchange business cards and the agent/editor will give you instructions for sending your book.
I hope you find this information helpful. If you've got any questions, feel free to post them in the comments section. I will try to answer them during the next couple of days.