Here we are again with Part 2 of pitching to an agent and what to expect. Plus, a few tips on how to prepare. If you haven’t gotten a chance to check out Part 1, here’s the link, http://wp.me/p5cSvb-8I. Let’s get right to it then, shall we?
Let’s talk about things you should do prior to the Pitch Slam.
1. First, stop saying 90-seconds. It sounds better when you say 3-minutes, like it’s more time or something. Yes, I know it’s a mental thing, but whatever. Saying 90-seconds is bad. You’ve been telling your friends and family that you have the opportunity to pitch your manuscript, (the one they’ve heard about nonstop for eternity now) to actual agents, face-to-face. They’re super excited for you, until you mention that it’s only for 90-seconds. That’s when they cock their head slightly to the side, and give you a look, “come again? How the crap are you going to do that?” Don’t let that go to your head and don’t freak out about those 3-minutes.
You’re not freaking out anymore, are you? Good. Cause you actually need to make that 3-minute pitch into a 2-minute pitch. “That’s impossible,” you scream. I can actually here you right now. Stop holding your breath! Just breathe and hear me out. You can do it, I promise. How do I know, well, cause I’ve done it. This is not a race where you say an entire paragraph without breathing, and then get up and leave. The agent needs to have enough time to ask questions or hand you that golden ticket, their business card. You need to have enough time to write down what they want. There’s all kinds of scenarios, so as best you can, get that pitch down to 2 minutes.
2. Research the agents. I can not stress this enough!!!! The worst thing you can do is sit down with an agent who only represents nonfiction, and start spouting off your sci-fi novel. That’s not really gonna work out.
Another important reason for research, is that you don’t want them to feel like a number, just like you wouldn’t want them to treat you. Take time to research the agents and find out different things about them. Most, if not all agents, have some type of website or social media that will help you delve into them more, what their interests, likes and dislikes are, or what they represent and what they don’t. Take time to know them, as you would hope one day they would you, if your partnership continues. Prior to me meeting Marisa Corvisiero, I learned from her website, that she has her own law practice as well as her own literary agency. That lady is amazing, if I haven’t already said it. She is fluent in Spanish and Italian, and can even speak some Japanese and Portuguese. I wouldn’t have known that except I did my research. Or the fact, that Kaylee Davis, who is super super sweet by the way, had a family pet rabbit named Dash. (Funny side story, at the cocktail party I asked Kaylee how Dash was, to which she graciously and so kindly told me he had died. I was mortified, of course, that I had asked at all after that. But she was a good sport about it, and found me asking humorous…whew. Shout out Kaylee! And thanks for understanding!)
3. Practice your pitch a lot prior to the conference. A lot. Time yourself, and repeat it to friends, family, and anyone who will listen. I, actually, was so blessed to meet a few fantastic girls the first day at the conference. They were awesome help with listening and giving suggestions for my pitch. It totally helped with my nerves and coming out of my shell when talking about my manuscript. Sure, you love talking with your friends and family about your writing, but it was an entirely new excitement that I can’t quite put into words when I finally talked to other writers that understood the whole journey of ups and downs in writing a manuscript.
When saying your pitch, as best you can, try to make it a natural transfer. Try to look at it like a normal conversation between two friends. It’s super hard when you’re so nervous, but as best you can try not to sound like a robot. Again, agents understand completely how stressful this is. I had one or two give me a nod and a smile, silently speaking to that it was okay and to just take my time. Take a deep breath. You’ll do great!
What exactly do I need to say during my pitch?
Chuck Sambuchino does a fantastic job in explaining this prior to your Pitch Slam. Here are the basics, though. Think of your pitch as the back of a DVD movie description. Just imagine what it would say. Which duh, everyone hopes that their books will become movies or some super fantastic HBO show. So, that’s what you need to picture when describing your manuscript for your pitch. I actually, got some of my fantasy/paranormal movies out and looked at the back of them to get some wording ideas. That’s totally okay! Also, you will need to say at the very beginning of your pitch what the title of your book is (if you have one), genre, word count, and if it’s considered an adult, middle grade, young adult, etc.
So what are you exactly seeking from a Pitch Slam?…(other than the obvious finding an agent to represent you.)
You want a business card. You could say it’s your Golden Ticket, sort of. If an agent gives you a business card that doesn’t mean they’re ready to sign the dotted line of a contract with you, BUT it does mean you just took another step in finding representation. You’ve captured their attention and they’re interested in knowing more. Good Job! That’s half the battle! I actually got business cards from all five agents I pitched to. The writing gods were with me!! LOL!
Should I go in order of agent I want the most to least, or just go to whichever line is the shortest at the time?
Again, this is your own preference. Some choose lines because they’re shorter. Their main goal is to pitch to as many agents in their genre, as possible. Others go by the agent they’re most interested in and go from there. They’re willing to wait in line for that certain agent, sacrificing possibly having time with two others. Just keep in mind though, that an hour and a half goes by quickly, and it would be terrible to miss out on pitching to the number one agent you wanted, just because you ran out of time. I preferred, the route of going from my top choice agent to my last pick. I also looked at the table map that was given ahead of time, to see exactly where my agents sat. I was in luck that two of them sat at tables next to each other. That saved time in itself. (P.S. you will be given the table map either in you’re welcome packet or during the, Pitch Perfect session, with Chuck Sambuchino.)
How many agents will I be able to pitch to during my pitch session?
Well, that’s really up to you, and how well you prepare. The Writer’s Conference website constantly updates new agents that will be at the Pitch Slam. They give you plenty of time to see which ones are right for you, so that you can map out who you want to see first, second, and so on. If you get there early like I suggested, than you’re closer to the front when they open the doors. You can be one of the first people to enter and head straight to your first pitch with the agent of your choice.
You can pitch to as many agents as you like, and have time for. Plan from anywhere between five and seven agents to pitch to. That way, if one cancels, you still have others to choose from. You don’t want to wander around because you didn’t do your research on enough agents and you still had time to pitch. Let’s get real here too, you paid for this, so make the most of it. It would be terrible to pitch to three agents and then have to twiddle your thumbs for the rest of the time because you weren’t prepared. Just remember, most of your time is used up waiting in line. I’ve heard of some people getting to pitch to up to eight agents. It just depends. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get to all of them. Just make the ones you do see, count. Quality, is better than quantity at times.
I pitched to five out of the six agents I wanted. The only reason I didn’t get to the sixth was because one of them canceled at the last-minute. (The conference workers are very good at letting you know if an agent has had to cancel before you have your pitch session, so don’t worry about that.)
Can I give the agent my business card or my query letter during my pitch session?
NOOOOOO! Do not hand the agent, anything. I can’t stress that, enough. Can you imagine if everyone gave an agent just the first page of their manuscript? That would be a ton for them to carry around! I wouldn’t want to do it and neither do they. I promise you, if you get a business card from them, you’ll definitely be giving them some things soon enough.
Is there anything in particular I need to bring to my Pitch session?
A pen is an absolute necessity (one that works, obviously). Hopefully, the agent is going to give you a card and tell you exactly what they want you to send them after the conference. Keep in mind, no agent is going to want the exact same thing. Believe me, you will have so much adrenaline rushing in, and your brain will be mush once the Pitch Slam is over, so you won’t remember much. It’s kinda like your wedding, if any of you have been married you know what I’m talking about. A lot of preparation prior to, and then BAM! It’s over and you’re so exhausted you can’t remember half of it. Thank goodness for wedding photos.
Anyway, keep that pen handy. Hold it in your hand the entire time if you have to. You don’t want to be digging around in your bag for it. I suggest, when the agent hands you their card, you jot down immediately on the back of it, exactly what that particular agent wanted. Otherwise, you might end up forgetting something, and send the wrong stuff. That would be a travesty. Like…seriously. Other than that, there really isn’t anything you HAVE to bring with you. You can bring a copy of your pitch for yourself in case you forget exactly what you need to say. But ,I would recommend you not read it from the page when pitching. If you can help it at all, memorize that bad boy way before you even get to the conference. During your Pitch Perfect Session with Chuck, he may tell you a few things you might want to tweak on your pitch, but at least for the most part you won’t have to start from scratch re-memorizing it.
What if the agent doesn’t give me a business card?
Well, move along then. Thank them regardless for the opportunity and their time. Because their time is important. They don’t have to be at these conferences. They choose to be. They want to have the opportunity to hear your pitch but not every single one is the right fit. Don’t get discouraged. Every agent just like you, have their own tastes. Don’t take it to heart. Remember, in this business there is A LOT of rejection. I repeat, a lot of rejection. The right agent might be the very next table. Keep your chin up!
Whatever you do…DO NOT argue with an agent about your pitch or manuscript. Be gracious, even when the agent tells you that they’re sorry and it’s not something they see would be a good fit for them. You want your agent to love your manuscript and the ideas behind it as much as you do. (There was a story going around last year that someone from a previous conference actually lunged towards an agent because she told him it wasn’t for her. Seriously guy, you just murdered your career before it even started. Can you say, psycho?) If you snap something back to them, or worse, no one would ever touch you after that, even if your manuscript was made of gold and shot out stars from the pages. Don’t do it. Be professional, and even if you believe the agent is wrong, don’t show it. Have some respect for their experience and knowledge. If anything, keep your own dignity and have some self-respect. There are plenty of agents out there.
Can an agent stop me in the middle of my pitch?
Absolutely. Don’t be surprised if they do. Sometimes, it’s to ask questions. Which is actually, a good thing. Answer them as best you can, and continue on with your pitch if they still want you to. I wasn’t as prepared for this, as I thought. All you focus goes into your pitch prior to the conference, and basically all the way up until you finish your pitch session. Gina Panettieri, started asking me questions in the middle of mine, and I was so thrown off. But duh, that was a super good thing she asked questions. She was intrigued! Other times, it’s because they’ve heard enough to love it, and want to give you a business card. Some unfortunately, after a sentence or two realize it’s really not something they’re interested in. That’s okay. They’re actually doing you a favor. You can go ahead and move on to the next agent you wanted to pitch to. You don’t have to stay there for the full 3-minutes (I’ll talk about this in just a second). The agent, is actually being respectful to you, by saving time that you could spend with another agent who might be interested.
Do I have to use my entire 3-minutes with an agent?
Well, there’s two parts to that question.
Let’s say you pitch so fast and get all your feedback from the agent before that 3-minutes is up. I know it sounds crazy, but it happens. If you’ve practiced your pitch enough times, it can flow pretty quickly. You can choose to stay until your 3-minutes are up, or you can choose to give it to the next person in line. In my opinion, I believe that the admirable thing to do is giving the next person extra time if your finished. Obviously, you would love for someone to give extra time if the roles were reversed. Remember, this isn’t a competition. Writers are a tribe. We stick together and encourage. If we truly want to be a good writer, then it goes past the words we put on the page. We respect and help each other.
The second part to that question is this, and boy, did I not know it. You can actually sit past your 3-minutes if the agent is still talking to you about your manuscript. Now, I won’t tell you that the people behind you won’t be a little upset, and obviously the ONLY reason you should stay seated after the bell is because of this situation. Again, it’s all about respect, and you don’t want to eat into someone else’s time. The agents notice that stuff. But, in my case again, I was pitching to Gina. She was still asking questions when the bell rang. I got up thinking that I absolutely had to, which meant I rushed the last of my answers. (She still asked for my full manuscript, which was SUPER exciting. I basically floated around the rest of the Pitch Slam). So, just heads up if this happens. Again, try to be respectful to the other people in line, though.
Well, that’s it. Or at least, the main things I believe are important. Feel free to comment with your own suggestions if you’ve pitched before, or if you have any questions I’ll be happy to answer them if I can. I really, really hope this helps everyone! To the people who are going to the conference, good luck! You’ll do fantastic! It is going to be one of the most exciting times in your life! Enjoy!
I wasn’t able to download any of my own pictures of the conference last year, but here’s a link to the Writer’s Digest website, https://www.eiseverywhere.com/ehome/83905/219684/, that shows a bunch of pictures from the 2014 conference. There are even some pictures before and during the Pitch Slam, so you can get an idea of what it’s like.
Happy Pitching Ya’ll!!