Saturday, May 4, 2013

Saturday So What: How to make your writing conference Pitch perfect

How many of us are going to LDStorymakers this year? If you just wiggled in your chair and raised your hand eagerly, welcome my pretties.

Next weekend is, in my opinion, the premier Writing Conference in Utah. So many extremely busy and talented authors, agents, and editors abound for you to rub shoulders with and, wait for it, pitch your story to.

Did your heart just sink to your stomach along with yesterday's meatloaf? Well, you are not alone. Whether you have paid for a pitch session or you are just attending the workshops, you will have to talk to people about your project. No, you can not just hand out query letters and run away. No conference doorbell ditching allowed. You must actually be able to convey via the spoken word what your awesomeness is all about. It's not fair, you say? After all, we became writers in the first place to avoid talking to people. Well, them's the breaks kid. You've got one week to get over it, so let's start now.

First things usually go at the beginning. Like you name. And what kind of books you write. Try to come up with the answer now as opposed to bumbling on the spot trying to explain your unique blend of sci-fi historical fantasy set in Nephi's time. If you write every genre under the sun, pick the one you want to talk about. Or try this approach:
Hi, my name is Betsy Schow. I've published narrative non-fiction, but currently I'm working on a new speculative YA.

Next, have your fast ball pitch practiced and prepared AHEAD of time. "It's Dawn of the Dead meets Carebears" (not really, but that got you interested didn't it?) Pick two things that combined sum up your project and make it unique.

Now, if the person is still standing there, give them a brief peep. This is not a 2-3 page synopsis. This is a 2-3 sentence hook to peak someone's interest. They do not need to know that it was really Aunt Sally in the hall with the wrench.

Whether you are in an official pitch session or not, this is probably the point the agent, editor or other author will have questions for you. They may also just request the full or first 50 pages right there. Some things to be prepared to answer ahead of time:
*  Who is you target audience
*   What other books are you competing against
*   How can you help market this book. What is your CURRENT (not what you will do) reach to the masses
*   Why is your book different and better than everybody else's (and the answer is NOT, my mom said so or it would make a great movie)

In talking to my agent, Michelle Witte (who is going to be there at the conference by the way), I have picked up a few no-no's

DON'T go on about how nervous you are, how you've never done this before. If you aren't confident in your ability, it is hard to get someone to take a chance on you.

DON'T tell the entire plot of the book including character backstory. This is a tease. You want to leave the agent wanting more, dying to know what you are talking about so they will request those pages.

DON'T try to make a new best friend. It's great to be nice and amicable, but more importantly, it's better to be professional. Take criticism or rejection well, no swearing please. On the other hand, if they request the pages, don't jump on down or look flabbergasted and say "Really?"

DON'T accost an editor or agent while they are eating, in the elevator (even for elevator pitches) or in mid conversation. Remember to start at the beginning with the hellos before you try to introduce them to your brilliance.

My advice, take this week and practice talking about your book to random strangers at Costco. Just kidding, but really, get comfortable talking about it. Then, when a perfect opportunity to pitch comes up, you won't freeze. You can deliver the goods like a pro.

Good luck, have fun, take notes, and make an impression. Hopefully a great one. See y'all there. Insert shameless plug to buy my book, Finished being Fat, at the conference bookstore for cheap and have it signed by me at the mass author signing.


  1. Great advice! Oh, how I wish I could go!

  2. Great tips. I used them to hone my pitch.

  3. Terrific. Thanks! Just what I needed for this next week.



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