Vicki Hinze © 2003-2011
Preparing a Pitch
Vicki Hinze © 2002
After my first RWAmerica conference years ago, I discovered that I could pitch my novel to editors/agents face to face. So this year I’m off to Denver and do not want to mess up this wonderful opportunity. As I’ve never done this before, could you give the list some tips on preparation, presentation, delivery etc? FYI my ms is a category, aimed at Silhouette Intimate Moments.
Remember that you only have ten to fifteen minutes to make this pitch, so it’s extremely important to be organized and succinct. Otherwise, you’ll fumble through, accomplish nothing, and blow the opportunity.
The most important thing you can do: Plan ahead.
Sit down and prepare a statement of a couple sentences that describes your novel in a capsule. Think of the blurb you’d see in the TV guide to describe the book.
Make sure this blurb focuses on character and conflict, and that it gives a sense of the setting. The sooner you get specific, the sooner the editor starts slotting the book in her mind. That’s her number one priority, as soon as you open your mouth: to figure out where this book would fit on her list.
Since you’re writing category, you have identified the line, and that makes this process painless. Right up front, mention that (insert the book’s title) is targeted for Silhouette Intimate Moments and its status (complete and ready to submit now, or in xyz time). This tells the editor you’ve done your homework in that you know what she buys and what you’re trying to sell. The book is slotted, so the editor then can focus on your story to see if it truly fits that line. In other words, the editor is listening to your pitch in perspective.
When you craft your blurb on the book, be sure it reflects the “intent” of the line. For example, Intimate Moments novels focus on suspense, melodrama, stories that are larger than life. So you want to convey that tone and sense in your blurb.
Once this is stated, the editor will likely ask questions relating to characters and/or conflict. Be prepared to answer succinctly–a sentence, no more–details on your characters’ goals, motivations, and their internal and external conflicts.
If you generate interest, the editor then will likely shift the focus to you, the writer. What you’ve written previously, awards or honors you’ve gained, what particular expertise you have to write this book. (If it’s about a doctor and you are one; if it centers on fishing in Destin, Florida, and you vacationed and fished there, etc.)
From experience, once the book is slotted and the blurb disclosed, both editor and author relax and the rest of the appointment unfolds naturally. Do be mindful of the points you want to make about your work and yourself. Incorporate them, as they pertain to your work, and then thank the editor for his/her time.
That’s about all there is to the pitch. The important thing is to invest in preparing beforehand so that you come across smooth, relaxed, and informed.
Now on the emotional side: many authors are nervous going into these appointments, and that’s unfortunate. I’ve seen some writers actually become debilitated, which ruins the opportunity for them and upsets the editor immensely. (They are human, too, and impacted by things like this!)
Remember that the editor’s job is to buy and publish books. S/he wants to find great books. It’s essential to his/her career. You’re giving that editor an opportunity, just as s/he is giving you one. It’s a mutual benefit meeting. A win/win situation.
Win/win situations shouldn’t inspire someone to be nervous or upset. Excited, yes, but not nervous or upset. So ditch the nerves and leave them at the door. Talk to the editor with the same sense you would talk to anyone else with whom you do business. Be open and honest and straightforward. That ups the odds of making the meeting a treat for both of you.