pitching your story
by Vivian Beck

Pitching your story to an Editor/Agent is selling.  This may seem less comfortable than writing, but remember that we all sell everyday.  We’re not necessarily trying to sell a dozen eggs or a designer outfit, but we do try to influence or persuade someone to do what we want them to do. 

The important thing to remember is that you need to decide what it is that you want out of your pitching session.  Preparation is the key; it will make you feel comfortable during your pitch so that you can focus on the editor or agent.  Pay attention to their responses or lack thereof, note their body language, and watch for signs of attention and understanding or confusion and boredom.  That way you can adjust your pitch accordingly to get and keep their attention. That’s what all the top salespeople do!

1. Form your desired outcome for your pitch opportunity.

Do you want to submit a proposal or complete manuscript?  Be realistic in your desire.  Form the picture of what you want from your session.

2. Answer six questions to craft your Agent/Editor Pitch.

From your synopsis, or the whole story, develop answers to the following six questions. Be brief; use two or three sentences to answer each question.  Remember you usually only have 10 minutes to make your pitch. 

Who?     Main characters—stick to the essential characters

What?    Plot or story summation

When?   Story time frame

Where?  Setting

Why?     Main characters’ goals and motivation -- what do they want and why do they want it.

How?     How do the main characters plan to reach their goals and how does their Conflict keep them from achieving their goals.

3. Using your answers from above, write a blurb like you would find on the back cover of a book.  Be sure to write it in a tone that reflects your story.  Keep it short and rewrite it until you can deliver it in about two or three minutes. 

4. Prepare to answer Editor/Agent questions such as:

Tell me something about you is not an invitation for you to recite that your granny taught you to write when you were three years old.  Write down a few sentences about your qualifications/ability to write and create them to memory.  Make your pitch as interesting as possible.  If you don’t find it interesting, then neither will the agent or editor.

Who will want to read this and why -- who is your targeted audience. 

What is your theme?  What will the reader learn after reading your story?

Is the book done?—Don’t lie, can you really write 275 pages and finish your story and get it into the agent or editors hands by next Friday? If you have a completed manuscript, this is a great opportunity to say a couple of words about your amazing productivity.

What kind of inventory do you have?  In other words, what else do you have?  Be ready to pitch your other ideas and be honest if a project isn’t ready to shop. 

Practice your Pitch

Write your pitch on a note card, and practice delivering your pitch until its as near perfect as you can make it.  Practice in front of a mirror or your best friend until you are comfortable with the tone is just right for your story.  If you’re pitching romantic suspense – slow down and keep your gestures to a minimum.  Don’t smile and be animated, save that for your romantic comedy.   

Knowing your pitch content and having practiced your delivery will allow you to relax and focus on the editor or agent, keeping eye contact and listening to them. This creates RAPPORT—the perceived affinity between two or more people. When you are in rapport with an editor or agent they are listening to you and will remember you and your Flawless Pitch positively. And this is a desirable outcome of your pitch session that you absolutely can create.

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