By Abby Saul, associate agent at Browne & Miller Literary Associates
You’ve signed up for Pitchfest at this year’s Chicago Writers Conference and are getting ready to pitch your (finished and beloved) book to an agent or editor (who hopefully will love it too). I’ve signed up to be the agent at the receiving end of your (and many others’) pitch and I’m looking for you to wow me (so I can fall in love with your book). Here are my 5 tips* on how to ensure pitching perfection for you and me:
1. The Impeccable Pitch… starts with pitching the right person. If you come to me with a children’s book or a high fantasy, you’ll have wasted your time and mine—I don’t represent those projects. Choose the agent(s) and editor(s) who work on the genre that your book falls into. You can see what we all are looking for here.
2. Find Your Shelf… so your pitch can quickly and easily tell me where your book fits in the marketplace. Imagine you’re walking into your local bookstore: what aisle would you go to to find your project? What other books would yours sit next to? Beyond the quick synopsis, what your book is (genre) and what it’s like (comparable titles) are what I’m eager to hear.
3. Check for Sense… to be sure your pitch says what you think it says. As soon as you have your one-liner and short synopsis, pitch your friends, pitch your mom, pitch a coworker—and then ask them to tell you what your book is about (in their own words). If they can do it, and sound excited, your pitch is working! If they can’t—if they struggle to put it into words or say the wrong thing entirely—you need to refine your pitch. If your mom is having trouble figuring your book out, how do you think I’m going to do?
4. Practice Practice Practice… but then stop practicing and just start talking. You have to know your pitch inside and out, and practice makes perfect. But over-practice makes you sound like a robot. Once you’ve got your spiel down, get out of your head and relax.
5. We’re People… just like you! Smile, take a deep breath, and talk to us like the fellow booklovers that we are. All of the editors and agents taking pitches are just people (including me, hi!), and we’re there because we want to find our next great read. You’ve done the hard work of prepping for this pitch, so now trust that you know what you’re doing and try to have some fun.
*These tips assume that you already have a general sense of what a pitch should be. If you’re starting from scratch (“Wait, what is a pitch?”), I encourage you to turn to Google to read up on pitching before coming back here for this honing advice.