Hi Miss Snark,
What are the specific goals of an agent who offers pitch sessions at a writing conference?
Survival till the bar opens.
What can a writer expect from the 10-minute experience?
Is your hook formula from the last COM a good place to start creating a pitch?
Do you think it's possible to pitch more than one project in the 10 minutes, or should one fill the time with greater detail about a single project?
Should the author expect to do all the talking or is there some give-and-take?
dear dog in heaven, this is NOT a lecture or an info-mercial.
Agents hate these.
We do them, we hate them. Almost everyone hates them a lot but I hate them the most of anyone in New York.
I hate them because 99.9% of the people I talk to have high hopes and unrealistic expectations. Those qualities will help them survive the writing apprenticeship BUT it's absolute agony to listen to them talk knowing full well the project they are pitching is unsaleable.
Conferences are sending out invites for the coming year, so it's a topic we are discussing at the watering hole lately. When a conference asks me to attend, I look up their past list of agents, find one I know and get on the blower to them pronto. My question is always "was this a well managed conference" and "did you find any clients there". The answer to the second question is hardly ever yes.
I think that's because writers tend to go to conferences while they are still learning craft. They're pitching projects before they are ready. What they learn there will help them hone their pitch and hone their work and come back months or years later to query me. I'm still getting queries from conferences I attended in 2002.
All that wailing aside, a writer would do well at ANY pitch session to remember that an agent is a human being and being asked a question is a whole lot more condusive to conversation than being told about anything.
So, you say "good morning, how are you" rather than "let me tell you about my novel".
You say "what books did you love this year" rather than "you'll love my book"
You ask "what do you like to know about a project at sessions like this".
And here's why you, and you alone will be the radiant exception in the sea of horror at that conference. When the agent answers the questions about "what would you like to know" you can tell her those things. You can tell her because you have prepared EXTENSIVELY and perhaps even have notecards with answers to the following:
who would read this?
is it like any books I've sold?
what is interesting to you about the characters or the story?
The key to good pitching is to remember that it's SELLING. The key to good selling is to solve your buyer's problem. One question I ask every editor is "what are you looking for that you can't find". Sometimes I have it, sometimes I can pass the info to colleagues. I'd MUCH rather pitch them a book they've told me they're looking for than persuade them they want what I have.
Mostly what these conference sessions do is let you meet agents and get past the chill of a cold call. I give more attention to queries that come from people who attended conferences where I spoke. I do this cause I assume they listened to me, or talked to me, and don't think I'm a drooling idiot (all evidence to the contrary).
Whatever you do, don't expect an agent to critique your work, or sign you on the spot. And if an agent asks for pages, remember it's exquisitely hard to say no in person. I never do unless the person is just absolutely so clearly not ready that it's a waste of postage and time to send anything.
What writing conferences are good for I've learned from you all here at the blog is making contact with other writers.