Dear Miss Snark:
I'm registered for a five-minute pitch session at an upcoming writers conference and I'm trying to prepare rather than simply panic.
What are the types of things that an editor might be interested in hearing from me?
I've memorized the fifty-word pitch for my PI mystery, the highlights/conflicts of the story, and my publishing credentials/honors. I know why I was drawn to my main character and how the events of the book are significant to me.
So what do I say for the next four minutes? ;)
Thanks in advance for sharing any thoughts.
First, don't recite your fifty word pitch when you sit down.
Second, don't recite it at all.
Third, use this time to CONNECT with the agent or editor. If you just sit down, spew lines and then sit there, I'm not sure who is more uncomfortable: you, me, or Killer Yapp confined to Miss Snark's Prada handbag.
Here's how to use five minutes:
You: Good morning. Thanks for seeing me.
MS: Good morning, it's my pleasure.
You: I have a fifty word pitch memorized but I'd rather ask your advice
MS: (puffing up with delight at being asked to share her pearls of wisdom) Sure, go ahead.
Then you ask three of the questions you want to ask this agent or editor:
(here are some of Miss Snark's)
What do you like to read best/what's the book you've enjoyed most recently (savvy authors write this stuff down)
What did you like best about (insert name of book editor worked on or agent sold)?
Do you like to be hands on with your author?
Do you have room on your list right now for (insert kind book you write)
What do you think of trade paperback originals for debut authors?
What books did you love as a kid?
THEN you ask if you can pitch. (Even if you don't pitch, you can then write a query letter referencing your really nice conversation at the conference plus you’ll have a much better idea of what the agent/editor looks for and likes in books).
You can pitch any agent or editor in the world in a query letter. What you have at this conference is an opportunity to make a person to person connection. Do not SQUANDER that chance by being nervous, or treating the agent like the judge at an audition.
TALK to the agent. Get him/her to talk back. We're human beings (ok, most of us are sometimes). We like to be asked our opinions, we like to be told we're fabulous.
Miss Snark attended a cocktail party recently wherein several desperate souls accosted her at the bar and began pitching their work. They actually asked Miss Snark to take pages then and there. Miss Snark gave them her mailing address for nitwits (101 Staten Island Landfill Road). Miss Snark subsequently enjoyed a hilarious conversation with two delightful women who never ONCE mentioned they were writers. They didn't have to. Miss Snark was at an event for writers and agents: she knew everyone who wasn't an agent was a writer.
The conversation was charming. Miss Snark was glad to give these two savvy women her card with address, phone and email on it. Why? They'd demonstrated they would be fun to work with and knowledgeable about how to behave well. They were FUN to talk to. Their work will get read. Those others won't.
At the conference, just relax. Think of it as a way to meet interesting new people who like to read as much as you do.