A year or so back my fabulous agent posted a tweet on April fools saying something to the extent that she was only looking for books about pigeons (or something equally zany and april’s fool-ish). I replied with an appropriately silly book idea and mentioned that I had sock-puppets for the in person pitch. Obviously a joke, right? Anyone, no matter how green about publishing, knows that pulling out sock-puppets during a pitch is a crazy idea. And yet, new writers often do things that send up the red flag/crazy-sign that makes agents and editors want to back away slowly.
This past weekend I attended the SC Book Festival and had a marvelous time. I hung out with other writers, chatted with fellow readers, heard some great stories, and met a ton of amazing people. I also spent a chunk of the weekend hanging out with an editor who was trying very hard to remain incognito because they didn’t want to get swarmed. A few eager writers did discover my friend’s connection to publishing, and some of the conversations I overheard were almost as damning as pulling out a sock-puppet. Unfortunately, these mistakes are so prevalent in new writer’s pitches that my editor friend’s smile never slipped. So I cringed for both my friend and for the oblivious writers shooting themselves in the foot. By end of the weekend, I had my topic for this week’s post: In person pitching– a do and don’t list. (And if you like, you can imagine this list being delivered by a sock-puppet)
- Tell the agent/editor they will have to sign a confidentiality statement before you can tell them your idea/show them pages.
- Hand the agent/editor your card and tell them to go to your website to see what you write.
- Brag about how your self-pubbed book has already sold 100 copies so you know it will be a bestseller if the editor publishes the book.
- Walk up to every publishing professional at the event and pitch your book without finding out if the agent reps/ editor acquires your genre. (You spent all that time writing the book–spend the time to find it the right home.)
- Start talking money/covers/what countries you want to see the book in before the agent/editor so much as requests pages.
- Push printed copies of the manuscript at agents/editors. If they are interested, they will ask you to mail or email them pages. Most publishing professionals travel to attend events and they can’t lug manuscripts back with them, so leave the printout at home.
- Prepare a pitch before you approach the agent or editor. You should be able to deliver an enticing description of your book in just a line or two. You should also have a slightly longer pitch prepared for if they are interested, but don’t ramble on for twenty minutes describing everything that happens in your book. Think of this more like a blurb on the back of a book.
- Practice your pitch ahead of time and have it memorized. You’re going to be nervous when you talk to the agent/editor and you don’t want to just stand there and blink dumbly if they say “Okay, tell me about the book” or “Let’s hear your pitch.” A good back up plan is to have your pitch written on a note card in nice bold print so that if you blank-out you can glance down at what you’ve prepared.
- If you are unpublished and pitching fiction, make sure you have a completed and polished manuscript ready for when you receive a request.
- Use basic manners. Editors and Agents are people first and publishing professionals second. If run across them them in the bar or happen to sit down at the same table with them at dinner, ask if you can join them, offer to buy them drinks, engage them in conversation, but don’t just wedge into their private time and start pitching your book unsolicited.
- Remember to breathe–Again, Editors and Agents are people, just people. They won’t eat you and they are probably really nice. ^_^
Okay, those are my tips based on what I saw (and didn’t see) this weekend. If you have do’s and don’ts of your own, I’d love to hear them! Until next week, this writer (and her imaginary sock-puppet) signing out.