A blog about writing and all things story…
|Empress – all expence paid travel writing trip
– great coffee!
Usually on Saturday mornings I get up, make a perfect cup of coffee from the Keurig coffee maker my husband bought me after we had one in our room at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC. I tell you this because the perfect cup of coffee has been a lifelong pursuit and now that I have one, I can sit down in my purple chaise sofa next to the fireplace where I write this blog, and write this blog.
This morning, a friend, Karen Heines from my writer’s group, asked me to look over her pitch for an agent at an upcoming writer’s conference. Pitching is excruciating. If you let it be. Everyone and their mother has a concept, idea, class, article, mind-maze, notion, theory or scheme to make your pitch the perfect pitch. I’ve watched people wring their hands and sweat bullets over this 10-minutes in their life.
I’ve attended the nerve-rattling pitch sessions, pitch classes, read the articles, blah, blah, blah. I’ve pitched several agents with three projects, and always been told my pitch was great. I’ve always been asked to send my manuscript. I even had one that was going to be published, but then 3 days later I was diagnosed with cancer and had to back out. That’s another story. Obviously I lived, and that book will now be published this spring!
I say all this not because I’ve had too much coffee, but because I think I know a little about pitching. This is just my opinion and you will find people who disagree and think I’m a yahoo…that’s fine, I think I still have free speech – but I’ll check.
Anyway, everything I do know about pitching I learned from my brother Clark Kohanek who has pitched and taught pitching to screenwriters and writers, and also from being in business for over 30 years. God I’m old.
Anyway, Clark is brilliant at pitching his stories and helping other’s to convey what their story is about in a few succinct carefully charted words. I’m good at business. Part of business is selling – knowing your product (in this case, story) and your target audience (agents) and responding to their expressions, questions, and even their mood, which at writer’s conferences is often influenced by their hangover. I have a one sentence pitch that covers the basics; genre, characters, time and place and conflict, then I rely on my years in sales and as a Toastmaster to carry me through.
I think the problem and the big stressor is that we writers approach agents like they’re gods who walk the literary plains looking for gold and we’re e not worthy to be in their presence, yet. It’s just silly. Though I agree there are agents who believe this of themselves, most are very nice people who want you to succeed. But bottom line: agents are sales people. They want and need to find good products to sell in order to pay their bills and justify their jobs. You are a potential supplier. They want you to be good, to engage them, to sell them, so they, in turn, can sell you. This is a business. You must think of it that way or you’re doomed.
The other MAIN piece of advice I’d offer from my comfy chaise lounge is to research the agent who you will be pitching. What projects have they worked on, what kinds of books do they like, what are they looking for, etc. Because if you don’t know who your target audience is before you approach them, then you’re wasting both yours and their time.
Read this Willamette Writer’s article from Danny Manus, I know he’s a script guy, but script people have the very best pitch advice. Then check out Danny’s site or find an agent you like and peruse their site for advice, information and education. Most good agents offer it up freely knowing it will make you better at what you do, and in turn make them money. Or buy the 2011 Guide To Literary Agents Or check out The Writer’s Market
However you do it, DO your research. Then when you go to your pitch study your notes while waiting to go in for your pitch, then put the card away and just talk about your story like you would if you were explaining it to a friend who just happens to be in the business. If they’re interested they’ll ask you questions that will interrupt a perfectly practiced pitch, that’s why you need to know the heart of your story so you can talk about it off the top of your head, even when interrupted.
If you’re not comfy talking about it like that then chances are you’re not ready to pitch your story.
When I go to pitch, which I don’t plan on again until my novel is finished, I’ll know my story inside and out, I’ll know what the agent likes, what they’re looking for and so on, enough to chat like I’m at a short, friendly business meeting and I want them to invest in my company. Now, I know I’ve done a lot of that kind of relating in my career and that may not be comfy for you, but trust me, if you can engage them in your story in two or three sentences then they will ask questions and that will guide you IF you know your story. So, know your product and know your audience. Now, having said all that, there is no telling what will or will not work for your pitch. Just be comfortable with what your’e talking about and know your story.
I need another cup of perfect coffee. Good luck!
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By Miri Elm
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