Lexi asked me to say more about the “Pitch.” For those of you who don’t know, a “pitch” is a soccer (or for Lexi, a football) field. It is 90-120 meters by…. It is also what an ale brewer does with the wort….
A “pitch” is the selling of a writer and his (or her) work to an agent or publisher. The pitch is akin to speed dating for writers.
The speed dating analogy seems apt. Each of you are considering having a relationship. If there’s a good fit you will become a team. You will write and do some promotion and allow her (or him) to do her (or his) job which is trying to make the most for your writing. She (or he) will take 15% of everything you make forever.
I am not an expert. I have been only to conferences hosted by the Las Vegas Writers and the Willamette Writers. Their formats varied slightly. Willamette has non-fiction, novel, and screenplay pitching. I don’t recall what LV had beside fiction. All I can do is give my impressions and I’ll use the WWC since it’s my most recent experience. I did a bit of prep before the pitch:
- Know the agent’s preferences and specialties. You need to know your audience for a pitch—don’t pitch a horror book to an agent specializing in children’s books.
- What is the book about?
- Why are you the person to write this? What makes you qualified?
- Why now?
I took a résumé folder with my business card attached, the first five pages of my novel enclosed, the working title on the front, and no illusions about going all the way. While I had no illusions, I had hope. There are authors who have gotten book deals from these events. An agent’s want is simple: “The truth, brilliantly told.”
Before the pitch session I waited outside the meeting room along with thirty or so others. Inside, the agents sit, one to a table, waiting for the next writer. When the doors open, I was carried along through as if the dam were breached and I was a cork on the pond. Pitchers have ten minutes, from the moment the doors open, to tell the agent they’ve signed up to pitch to, why you’re the one his (or her) agency simply must sign.
After I sat down, I introduced myself, handed the folder to the agent, and gave him/her a quick synopsis of the story and why I was qualified to write the story: “The God of Trees is an eco mystery-thriller about a forester who wants to continue logging but an eco-terrorist group stands in his way. I’m a forester with thirty years of experience with the California Department of Forestry.” We chatted a bit after that about the current climate about environmental topics. One agent asked to see one hundred pages, the other requested the first three chapters.
I don’t think anyone should read too much into this. By the agents using a writing conference to screen potential writers they know that the writer is serious enough to plunk down cash for the opportunity to be listened to.
By asking to see a sample they don’t have to say no directly to the writer’s face. The chance of landing a contract with an agent and then with a publisher is slim.
After ten minutes, the doors opened and border collies nipping at my heels herded me out.
For more about pitching your work see: