Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pitching Pointers by Shannon Lawrence

“Are you pitching?”

It’s one of the first questions you’ll hear at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, close behind “What do you write?”  If the answer is yes, chances are the response comes with a mix of trepidation and hopeful excitement.  That, or pure terror.

There’s no reason to feel terror, though.  Easily said, I know, but if you go to your pitch session prepared and keep things in perspective you’ll do just fine.  Here are five pointers to get you through your next pitch:

#1.  Know your story.  This should really be a given.  Have a short, quick pitch prepared (and well practiced), but also be prepared to go beyond that short pitch.  Be able to tell the editor or agent your story with passion, and to answer any questions they may ask you.  If they want to know why your character has made a certain decision, you need to be able to tell them.  This also includes knowing the market or niche you expect your story to fit into.  What shelf do you envision your book sitting on in the future?    

#2.  Research the pitchee.  Don’t just pick someone at random and throw yourself at them.  You need to carefully review the agents and editors taking pitches at the conference before you choose which one to pitch to.  Know what they’re looking for, as well as what they’re not looking for.  It also doesn’t hurt to peruse their websites and blogs to learn a little about them, including any special projects or interests they may have posted about, and other books they’ve published or authors they’ve represented.

#3.  Dress professionally.  Consider this a job interview.  Dress in business casual.  Don’t wear overwhelming perfume/cologne; don’t forget to wear deodorant; tidy up your hair and makeup; consider brushing your teeth or swishing around a little mouthwash right before you head up for the pitch.  Don’t go to your pitch chewing gum.

#4.  Be on time.  In fact, be early if you can.  If someone doesn’t show up, the pitch staff may very well move you up to an earlier appointment time.  Even if this doesn’t happen, being early gives you more time to pull yourself together and practice your pitch. 

#5.  Ground yourself.  Remind yourself that they want a good story as much as you want to sell a good story.  They are just people doing a job.  Talk to them as you would anyone else.  You know those thirty people who have asked you what your book’s about?  Pretend the agent/editor is one of them. 

While it’s too late to pitch at this year’s conference, it’s not too late to start considering your pitch for next year.  Don’t wait until the last minute to figure it out.  You never know when a pitch opportunity may find you, whether at a conference or elsewhere.        

About the Writer:  Shannon Lawrence is a mom of two, a freelance writer and aspiring novelist.  She lives in Colorado Springs and is inspired by the beauty of Pikes Peak and the Rockies.  After years of letting her writing fall by the wayside, she has recently thrown herself back into it.  Her main focus is fantasy and horror and she has just finished a Young Adult Fantasy novel.  She has also recently discovered a love of photography and enjoys photographing the breathtaking Colorado scenery and wildlife, as well as her children.  She blogs about writing at www.thewarriormuse.com.


  1. Good post, Shannon, with helpful, practical advice. Sometimes creatives get wrapped up in the process and forget that writing is a business and a pitch is a sales call. Good reminder.

  2. Thanks, Brenda! You put it well: it's a sales call. You've done the hard part, poured blood and sweat and tears into your work, so now it's just a matter of telling someone a good enough story that they want to take your hard work and publish it.

  3. Excellent suggestions. I would almost think these would be common sense tips that we all should know, but I guess I'm being very presumptuous in thinking this. I know how it used to be when I would interview people for jobs. I'd look at and listen to some of them and think, "you're kidding!".

    Wrote By Rote

  4. Lee, I felt the same when conducting interviews for jobs. I had people come in wearing holey jeans, chewing gum, etc., etc. If they weren't prepared for the interview, it didn't happen. I'm mean, I guess.


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