Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Making the Pitch

A couple of people commented after my RWA post on pitches and it got me to thinking about the pitching process and what it takes to be successful.

It's very obvious that some are better at public speaking, interviews, and pitches than others, and it's very true that I have read the greatest books, requested from the worst pitches, and vice versa—heard the best pitches only to read the worst books. A good or bad pitch really doesn't tell me a whole lot about your book, although it can tell me a great deal about your story and your passion for it.

Rather than ramble on, I'm going to answer questions on pitches directly.

Have you ever been so turned off by a pitch that you didn't request the manuscript, only to have another agent pick up that writer and sell the book?

I'm sure I have, but I don't have any record of this. But not having requested the material is based on a number of things. One could certainly be that the author was not able to clearly get across what her story was about. Another could simply be that no matter how good the pitch, I just didn't think it was for me.

Is hearing a great pitch really more effective in terms of piquing your interest than reading a great query?

I actually think that a good pitch can almost be written verbatim in a query letter, so no, one doesn't excite me more than the other.

How often are you disappointed when the writing doesn't fulfill the promise of a great pitch?

How often does this happen, or how often am I disappointed? I would say that the writing doesn't fulfill the promise of a great pitch almost once in every conference I attend—so that's about one in ten pitches where I'm enthusiastic enough to come back to the office and talk about the possibility of the project, but disappointed when the work comes in. That should answer both questions.

When it comes to pitches, plan and research. In my mind you should be able to tell me the plot in five sentences or less. In that one paragraph (the same one used in your query), you should be able to ably describe what makes your book different and more exciting than other similar books. And no matter what you're telling me you should be able to do it with enthusiasm, even if you are nervous. Don't be afraid to let the passion for your work shine through.



Unknown said...

thanks for confirming something I'd sorta sidled up on. After I attended an on-line pitch workshop, the presenter said, "that's the best query letter I've ever read!" *sigh*, but it got me to thinking about the similarities in pitches and queries. So what I'm getting is if you come on a great "pitch" in a query letter, it's just as exciting as a face-to-face pitch?

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

that's exactly right. a pitch and query, in my mind, are really the same thing. I think the best use of a pitch session is to make a short pitch and then use the time to ask industry questions and to see if this is an agent you'd really like to work with

Kate Douglas said...

I started my "writing career" in 1972 writing radio commercials. They had to be exactly thirty of sixty seconds long, depending on the slot in the schedule--that job taught me to put all the pertinent information into very few sentences, which makes writing blurbs a snap. Unforutnately, when I've made pitches, I run out of things to say after my "commercial" ends!

Bernita said...

Pitch = query.
Wondered. Thank you.
Believe my problem would be with additional questions and I would respond with ...duh...well...

Anonymous said...

I, too, always wondered how different a pitch could be from a query, though I assume that a pitch is different in the sense that you can meet the author, grasp more easily his or her excitement and whether or not it fits a certain agent. And I like the idea of using pitch sessions to ask industry questions - I would have many on marketing!

Unknown said...

OMG, seeing people in person is wonderful. Not really for trying to get them to "buy" into you, but--they're right, to see if it's someone you can be comfortable with. Some people just don't click, and some people you'd trail around going, "meep!" in the hopes they like you enough to represent you. I definitely had people I'd love to work with. *crossing my fingers and hoping really hard*

Anonymous said...

Thanks for answering my questions.

So it's not gauche to be passionate about my storytelling when pitching and querying? What a freeing notion! No more grimness! Queries are more than a business letter and pitches are more than a cold call---hey, this is going to be fun!

Thanks, too, for coming to the San Francisco RWA meeting in October. I'm looking forward to what you'll have to say.