How to Pitch a Book to an Agent, Editor or Publisher at a Writers Conference

Soon I am going to pitch a novel to both a publisher and an agent at a writing conference. Since I have done this once before when I was extremely wet behind the ears, I figured it would be good to get some tips.

And naturally, I am sharing the good stuff with you, because you might be preparing to pitch.

First things first...

Author Success Essentials on

What's a pitch?

Pitching a novel or nonfiction book is like a sales pitch. You're in a room with a person live hoping to get the agent, publisher or editor interested enough to read your book and consider representing or publishing it.

Some basic Live Book Pitch Tips:

  •  Be prepared.
  • Practice, practice, practice what you'll say.
  • Know the key points you need to share.
  • Don't memorize the whole pitch. Just the highlights.
  • Start with a strong hook. Sell the sizzle.
  • Dress well.
  • Be prepared to get the book to them within 24 hours.
  • Breathe.
  • Be natural.
  • Remember that the agent or publisher is looking for good books to get into the hands of hungry readers.
  • Agents and publishers are just people, like you.

Now here are some golden nuggets from my research. Note that I am in all cases giving proper credit to the author and source.

Author Peggy Eddleman shared 7 tips for pitching in a Writers Digest article. One of them about asking questions grabbed my attention:

Tip #4: Go with other questions in mind.

I speed-talked my way through my first pitch session, because when I’m nervous I don’t ramble– I leave things out. So my pitch was done in less than 30 seconds. After asking me a few questions, the agent requested my full. Then she said, “Do you have any questions for me?” I hadn’t thought about questions for her! I sat there, feeling awkward, said, “Um…. Nope?” then shook her hand and left, with seven minutes of our meeting unused.

Don’t do what I did! Use that time to ask about their agenting style. Ask about the industry. Ask about the process. Ask about craft. Ask questions about your plot. Ask about anything writing related. Chat. See how your personalities mesh. Just don’t leave seven minutes early. You paid for that time– use it. (See original article source here.

And for anyone who's afraid to pitch if your book isn't done yet, here is an important consideration from Peggy Eddleman in the same article:

Tip #5: Don’t cancel your pitch if your book isn’t ready.

When you signed up for a pitch, it was five months before the conference and you thought your novel would be ready, but it isn’t. Don’t cancel your pitch! (Unless, of course, you’ve signed with an agent since then.) If your book isn’t ready, but you’re working hard to get it there, pitch it anyway. When you send a query to an agent and they request pages, you should get it to them within about 24 hours. When you pitch, you have a YEAR to get it to them. A year! So don’t stress that it isn’t completely ready– there’s plenty of time to make it shine. You are pitching to see if the story idea fits with them, if they think its a marketable enough idea that they want to see pages, and if it’s a story that they have the right contacts to sell. (See original article source here.

Author Tracey Barnes Priestly helps you manage stress to pitch better in her article. Here is one of her tips about taking control of the monkey brain:

3. Take control of your BRAIN.

One of the most productive things you can do to lower your anxiety about pitching is to quiet the seemingly endless parade of negative messages galloping around in your brain. The trouble with this “chatter” is that, though it may feel like the absolute truth, it is the product of distorted thinking, generally stemming from our fears and insecurities.

Changing those thoughts can actually change what you’re feeling. Let’s revisit our biology: Thoughts, which are the words we assign to our perceptions, translate into specific physiological changes in our systems. When you think something like, I’ll never get an agent, your biochemistry actually shifts, your system takes a hit, and you feel discouraged (or worse). This, in turn, can trigger more anxiety and fear. It’s easy to get caught in a vicious cycle. But if you change this thought even slightly, say, to I don’t know if I’ll get an agent, but I’m thoroughly prepared, a different biochemical reaction occurs within your brain and body, one that will make it easier for you to stay calm and clear.

As you prepare for your pitching session ahead of time, make a conscious effort to note the negative thoughts you’re having. These messages can be sneaky little vermin, capable of creeping into your brain without warning. Pay attention! Jot them down whenever they wander into your awareness. Then, using your rational brain, rewrite every one of those negative messages to remove the anxiety. From that point on, whenever a counterproductive thought slithers in, diligently repeat the more rational messages you’ve written. At first, sure, you may feel silly mentally talking back to yourself. But you’ll find that with practice, you will feel more relaxed going into your pitching session. You’ve developed a more realistic perspective. See original article source here.

It's good to know to whom you are pitching, as in what the agent/publisher/editor represents and is seeking. Here's some good advice from Cliff Daigle about that .

Do some research. Find out which agents and publishers that will be attending the conference. You want to make sure they represent or publish the type of work you do. Don't waste your time and theirs by pitching work that doesn't match their specialties. So get online and do some research! See original article source here.

My favorite piece of advice from Daigle is about not getting ahead of yourself. The point of the pitch isn't to sign a contract. It's merely to get the pro to READ your book. Here's how he puts it:

  1. Know what you want. You are not going after a contract quite yet. The sole reason you are pitching is to get agents and editors interested enough in you and your work to actually read it. That's it.

Your pitch itself should be a short, interesting description of your novel that captures its best qualities. Think about the blurb on the back of a paperback novel - that's the level of detail you want. Your pitch should only be about 2-3 minutes long. Remember that your appointments will only be for 10 or 15 minutes each and much of that is made up of questions and small-talk. Keep it short and snappy.  See original article source here

I hope these tips help you prepare  your book pitch.

Do you have some tips or experiences about pitching to share? Please do so in the comments.

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