You’ve spent the past six months (or twelve months, or three years) pouring your heart into the pages of a novel. You’ve written, revised, sent to critique partners and beta-readers, crossed every t and dotted every i… and now you’re finally ready to send your creation out into the world.
But if you’re seeking traditional publication, first you’ve got to get the attention of a literary agent or editor. Often, this means months (or years) of sending out query letters, hoping to be plucked from the depths of the slush pile. And while the slush pile is not to be discounted (my agent found me in her slush pile!), there’s something to be said for the ability to talk one-on-one with a publishing professional about your work, to have their undivided attention and be able to sell your story in person.
At this week’s RWASD meeting, you’ll have the chance to do just that. Experienced literary agent and San Diego local, Kevan Lyon, will be talking all about audio, foreign, and film rights in the morning, and taking pitches in the afternoon. If you’re one of the lucky ones who scored a spot on her pitch list, here are some tips to help you make the most of your minutes with her:
- Get to the point. Your pitch should get to the heart of your story. Don’t waste any of your precious minutes describing extraneous details or secondary characters. Instead, focus on your main characters, what’s keeping them apart, and why they need to be together. Concentrate on conflict and emotion. And make sure you come up with a strong hook. (For tips on how to devise a hook for your story, see this article written by Angie Fox, our June guest speaker!)
- Be natural. Think of this less as an interview and more like a conversation. The first time I ever pitched to an agent, I sat down with a stack of index cards trembling in my hands, and started reading from them, tripping over my words. When the agent saw how nervous I was, she told me to put the cards away and just tell her about my story. She started asking questions, and so did I; after that our discussion just flowed, and I walked away from the pitch with her business card and a partial request. Agents and editors don’t want to sit through a presentation; they want to engage with an author. Don’t just sit down and launch into your spiel – ask them how they’re doing, and what they’d like to know about your book.
- Practice, practice, practice. Even though you’re not aiming to repeat a memorized speech verbatim, you still need to know the gist of what you’re going to say, inside and out. This is particularly helpful if you’re a bit of a nervous public speaker – like me! Rehearsing what you’re going to say dozens of times can help it become second nature, resulting in a more natural delivery, and alleviating any performance anxiety you might have. If you’re looking to perfect your pitches, you’re welcome to come to our PRO breakfast this Saturday morning to practice with some of your fellow RWA members. (I’ll be there to help provide feedback!)
If you have any tips on pitching, please share them in the comments!
Even if you haven’t signed up for pitches with Kevan this weekend, don’t forget that you’ll have another chance in July, when RWA Nationals is hosted right here in our hometown. So come on by this weekend to practice your pitches in the morning, and stay to hear all about what Kevan has to say.
See you on Saturday!