Next week I'll be taking pitches at one of the biggest conventions for romance writers, readers, and publishers. That's right, I'll be at the Romantic Times Book Lover's Convention!
Almost all writers are nervous about pitching in person, but hopefully I can help alleviate some of that. First, agents and editors expect you to be nervous so don't worry if you giggle too much, ramble off topic, or get starry eyed. Here are some tips to make a great first impression:
Be passionate about your book, but be able to get to the heart of the story in under three minutes. Which is to say, have a great hook sentence that lays out the problem, stakes, and solution. Or, to put it another way, hook them with an interesting sentence (not a run-on one, think Twitter pitch length) that introduces the protagonist, the problem, and hits the main point of what the story is about.
Then give a short paragraph or two that highlights the really interesting parts of your story (much like a query letter, short and to the point). You want to leave plenty of time for the editor to ask questions. An elevator pitch is between 1 and 3 minutes long and gives you time to introduce yourself, talk about your experience, awards, that kind of thing (Pitch-A-Palooza). Longer pitch sessions (appointments) give you ten minutes. To keep from rambling carry a notebook or note cards with your pitch written down. Try not to read off it unless you have to, but have it just in case.
After you've prepared the pitch based off your query letter then it's time to try it out on people. Pitch it to your significant other, your friends, family, even your cat or dog. Get it down to where you know it and can rattle it off at any given time.
Tips To Get You Ahead: If you're pitching me and are reading this before hand you are already several strides ahead of the game. Read through my wish list, read my expected manuscript lengths, know the submission requirements of City Owl. In other words, do your homework on those you plan to pitch to. And relax, especially if you're pitching me. I'm laid back and easy to talk to. I'll help walk you through it if you get stuck.
Personal Tips: I do not like passive voice (overuse of was, were, that kind of thing). If you use this too much in your manuscript, it is not for me. A little is unavoidable, but too much is not good. I do not like info dump, telling, and back story that isn't worked in well and sparingly (and preferably after the first five pages or later. Later is better). I'm an editor, not an agent. I am not there to 'represent' your book, I'm there to consider publishing it. Not the same thing. Not by far. I like good pacing with a healthy dose of action. I'm partial to third person past tense. First person past tense is alright too. Present tense makes me twitchy. It isn't an instant no, but it had better be amazingly well done so that I hardly even notice it. Have cards on hand to give to me!
What NOT to do: Don't pitch to someone randomly outside of pitch sessions unless they ask about your book. If they ask about your book, that's an invitation to pitch so rattle off that elevator pitch. No means no. Don't push or argue the point. It will not help matters. Don't bring gimmicks, drawings, or reviews from friends or family who have read your manuscript. Your work will speak for itself and if it can't, well, then it can't and that says enough.
More tips to come before the convention!