Practice Before You Pitch
Updated: Dec 30, 2019
Imagine for a moment that you’re a highly sought-after literary agent or publishing company representative. Put yourself in that kind of professional’s shoes for a moment.
Once you do, you’ll find that your days are very, very busy.
Super busy, in fact.
As such, you can completely relate to Maria at cooksplusbooks.com, who describes herself as “a literary agent, reader and wife.” Inspired by an editor’s decision to describe her typical day, she wrote this:
It’s funny because, before I did this, I thought my days would be a little too diverse to fully encapsulate. There are a million tiny things that pop up throughout the day that have to be dealt with. And sometimes I feel like I’m just fluttering around from task to task, making only glacial-pace progress on bigger projects. But, when I sat down to think about the usual rhythm of my days, I realized that they’re not nearly as unpredictable as I’d thought. It turns out every one of those little to-dos fit into one of two categories.
It’s either helping out new literary clients or helping out existing literary clients. And that leaves very little room to sort through emails from potential literary clients.
Now take that level of business and put it into a non-typical day: a writer’s conference. You’re even more of a hot commodity there – meaning you’re being pulled in multiple directions to hear about multiple “must-read” stories at any given moment.
Keep that in mind if you plan to take Thursday’s advice and pitch to a literary agent – or any other industry insider – at the next writers’ conference you attend.
If you’re going to go all in, practice your pitch first.
As stated earlier in the week, writers’ conferences often give you the opportunity to talk to industry insiders, particularly literary agents or publishers. While the odds of impressing them enough aren’t in your favor, it could be your big break.
You can boost your appeal by preparing first. Study who’s going to be there, then write out an appropriate pitch that fits those people’s profiles. Next, practice it. Repeatedly. The more engaging and confident you can come across despite the butterflies in your stomach, the better.
Nice though these guys might very well be, they’re in the mindset that they’ve already heard and seen it all. So you need to come across as memorably as possible – in a positive way – in order to make them pay any real attention to you.
Admittedly, finding a literary agent in person is almost as tricky as finding a literary agent via email. You still have to catch them at the right time of day… after they’ve had the right amount of coffee… to put them in the right kind of mood.
But you do still have a one-up since you’re pitching face to face. You get to pick the right outfit and use the right tone to highlight your manuscript’s worthiness.
That’s why you really do want to plan ahead. As with our original discussion about literary agents, you’re going to want to research them. Who are they and what are they looking for?
What are their likes and dislikes?
What other books have they helped push along into the publishing stratosphere?
Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to design your whole entire presentation around what you found… keeping in mind that you’re going to have a very brief amount of time to actually talk to them.
We're talking five minutes. Fifteen max.
So keep it short, sweet, and to the engaging, intriguing, you’ve-got-to-publish-this point.
Then give it the best you’ve got and hope that it’s enough.