It’s September and the beginning of a new season. Some of you will be attending a slew of writer’s conferences this Fall. I’ve compiled some useful tips so that you can get the most out of your pitch sessions with agents. I’m looking forward to taking pitches twice this Fall and as an agent, I always look forward to meeting individuals in person and hearing them pitch their book ideas to me.
- Don’t be Nervous, look us in the eye! OK, so maybe if you’re sitting opposite a big wig agent who has sold several six-figure deals you can be a little nervous, but don’t forget, agents are people too and we’ve been hearing pitches for several hours, or all day, depending on the conference. A little small talk to break the ice is more than welcome. If it’s easier to pitch the agent by reading off a pitch prompt, by all means do so, and no need to apologize if you feel more confident presenting that way. Agents are always looking for gems at these conferences and while a smooth delivery will get you bonus points, we are more focused on the content of your pitch. So relax, we promise not to judge too harshly!
- Do your Homework. Research the agent you are pitching. Know what books they’ve sold and what genres they represent (although we at Fuse do take pitches on behalf of other Fuse agents, even if it’s not quite the right fit for me I am always happy to recommend to another agent at Fuse). But I’m impressed when a pitchee can tell me that what s/he is pitching is in line with other projects I’ve sold or am representing. Preparation is always a good thing.
- Chocolate is acceptable, but you can’t bribe us. I’ve had the pleasure of receiving chocolate and cards (this was when I was being pitched on Valentine’s Day so it was actually appropriate). I’m not a curmudgeon. I won’t say ‘no’ to your lovely thoughtful gift of a chocolate bar. What you shouldn’t expect is special treatment based on any chocolate you may give me however, or a speedier response time (my policy is only to reply to queries I’m interested in, unfortunately).
- Please don’t stalk us before, during, or after the conference. It’s OK to chat with us if you happen to run into us at a conference but you don’t want to seem over-eager. It’s OK to follow our Twitter accounts, like our agency’s Facebook page, and generally send good thoughts into the universe. Where things might get a little weird is if you start friending our clients on Facebook when you are not yet a client of ours, or you follow an agent’s clients and comment on their pages constantly. Hey, we appreciate the support, but there is a fine line. Know what it is. In other words, let’s not allow things to get awkward before we even have a professional relationship! A little space is a good thing.
- Practice your Pitching! The more you practice pitching, the more it will come easily and naturally to you. Use your beta writing group, your friends, your spouse (whomever will listen) and practice pitching to them. Then, come pitch day, you won’t be as nervous!
- Be confident. Imposter syndrome: it’s real and sometimes writers may not feel the most confident in their work, but instead of pointing out the flaws or feeling less than, focus on what your strengths are and what makes your story unique or different. If you aren’t confident about your work, why would the agent be confident in taking you on as a client? Believe in yourself, that’s half the battle.
- Have fun! I really enjoy writing conferences because that’s when I’m able to circulate and be part of the great publishing ecosystem. Although I’m introverted, I love going into extrovert mode and meeting as many people as I can, connecting with other writers, artists, editors, and yes, even fellow agents! We’re a pretty cool bunch of people so it’s not hard to have some fun during this whole process.
I look forward to meeting you in person one day! Good luck pitching!