Let's shift the conversation away from my bad fashion choices. Filling in for me today is a writer from our community, Leah Good, who... Okay, I'll just let her tell it:
Hello! My name is Leah Good, and I’m a seventeen year old author. I recently attended the 2012 Writing for the Soul conference where I had the opportunity to pitch my story to an editor and an agent. Stephanie has graciously agreed to let me share a bit of what I learned about getting ready for a conference and pitching.
Conferences are a great place to learn, network, and make contact with editors you would never be able to reach with a query letter. For the learning side of things, all you need to do is pack a notebook, pens, and a teachable spirit. Getting ready to pitch your book to an editor or agent takes a little more work.
Know Your Editors and AgentsThere should be a list of attending editors and agents on the conference website. Start researching them by looking up each editor or agent’s submission guidelines. You will be limited in how many appointments you can have (my max was three), so this should help you weed out the editors and agents who don’t fit your book. When you finish this step, start learning as much as you can about the remaining professionals. If they have a blog, read as much of it as you can and take notes. Surf the web for interviews, and professional profiles. Try to make contact with authors the editor or agent has worked with.
When I decided on the agent I wanted to pitch to, I started reading through the last three years of her blog posts. It was a gold mine. In her posts she outlined what she wanted to hear in a pitch, what questions she was likely to ask, what her favorite books were, who her favorite characters were, and even when she got married! When I sat down to talk with her, it was exciting and satisfying when she asked one of the questions she had mentioned on the blog.
There wasn’t as much information available for the editor I pitched to. So instead of sifting through old blog posts, I started reading books she had edited. When I arrived at the conference I still didn’t know much about her personally, but I knew what writing style and themes she and her publisher were interested in.
Know What to Bring and What to Have ReadyBefore you leave for a conference, know what the editors and agents you plan on pitching to want in a proposal. They probably won’t be ready to take a partial, synopsis, etc. at the conference, but if they ask you to send one you’ll want to do so as soon as you get home. Create your proposal and have it ready to go before you leave. (And bring a copy with you too. Just in case.) If they ask you to send them a proposal, you’ll probably have to tweak it based on what they tell you, but having it put together will save you a lot of time and stress.
|A picture of the room where I pitched. This shows about half of it.|
And the PitchAt the conference, I was lucky enough to have a session with a pitching coach before my editor/agent appointments.
(Stephanie cannot resist interjecting. Pitching coaches exist?!?! I had no idea! Okay, back to Leah.)
McNair Wilson taught me several important things. When you pitch, sit on the edge of your chair and make eye contact. You want to appear alert and professional, not bored. Don’t speak too quickly. You’re going to be nervous and nerves make you speed up. Concentrate on slowing down and speaking clearly.
Give your elevator pitch first and try to get the editor interested enough to ask questions about your story. In that elevator pitch, don’t give your characters names. At this point, names won’t mean anything to the editor. Instead, focus on the character’s relationship.
My pitch (post-coaching version) is, “What would happen if a childhood friendship between a slave and his master’s son continued into their teen years despite being forbidden? My story, Forever Freed, explores this question and shows what happens when friends are separated by an auction block.” Instead of using my main characters names, I called them “the master’s son” and “the friends”. Finally, pause before and after saying your title for the first time. Give the editor time to absorb it.
Getting ready to pitch is a lot of work, but it pays off. When you are waiting for your appointment, knowing that you have prepared to the best of your ability will help give you the confidence you need.
If you have questions, leave them below or feel free to pop over to my blog!