Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Oral Pitchin is Bitchin

Or the bane of a writer's existence.

Yes, the second one.

If you've never been to a writer's conference and engaged in the horror that is the oral pitch session, then you have lucked out. Don't get me wrong, you give me three alone minutes with an agent or editor, I am happy as can be. I just hate what pitching does to authors.

I recently attended the Midwest Writer's Workshop for the second year in a row. If you live in the Midwest and haven't been, you are missing out. It is one of the highlights of my year. And not just my writing year. You get to meet tons of writers in your field or out of your field or you just like to drink beer with them. And, of course, there are the agents.

Why are you so obsessed with me?

Agents. It is easy to imagine them as a lion to stalk and pounce on as soon as you might get a free moment with them. Yet you look around the conference, and everyone is freaking out about their pitches. If you haven't been in the world of querying hell, then it's hard to understand just how exciting it is to get a real, live agent in front of you. They will say yes or no. No waiting for three months and never getting an answer. A three minute decision. And you'll know.

The problem is, you don't know. It's one agent, who is the best fit for you out of seven agents. Querying is about identifying agents who fit your category and genre, making sure they like what kind of book you're writing them, then sending them your carefully crafted query that encapsulates the essence of your book and has been revised as meticulously as your manuscript. Or at least it should. You're a writer, written words are your craft.

Oral pitching is like word vomiting on someone and praying that they like you.

But pitching doesn't have to be evil. I pitched the past two years, and the experience was amazing. You just have to treat it right to make it not so stressful you think about losing your continental breakfast beforehand.

At MWW there were a lot of people around to help with pitches, which essentially is boiling your book to a paragraph. Kind of like a QUERY. But I say, take the pitch prep a step further. Taper your pitch down to one sentence or two. Your hook. The magical, elusive hook.

It's Magical

So BAM! Hit them with your hook. Both times, with my initial hook, the agent sat back. They appeared refreshed by not having words chucked at them in rapid succession. Then, the best thing happened. The agent/editor asked me a question.


The question they wanted to know, not what I guessed they wanted to know. So I would answer, then they would ask another question and another. Last year, I got a small bit of interest, but what was more valuable, I could see where I lost her. And I could tell what the important parts of my story were from the agent perspective. Not my warped writer's perspective.

So yes, some of my fellow writers got requests for 100 pages, and I am super duper excited for them. But I wouldn't want to put myself through the stress some people did, only to be told by the editor that she's not into medieval settings. That's cool, I got to talk to her for three minutes about what she did like.

This method might not work for everyone. Some people want to be completely prepared. It might be your dream agent and you want the pitch to work perfectly. But if not, consider the alternative.

Have pitchin day!
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