For months, I dreaded my first pitch session, a live event in which a roomful of potential agents awaited me with only three minutes to impress each one I’d targeted. I’ve always felt that I don’t make a good first impression; I come off too serious, too earnest, too Hermione-ish. (There’s a reason Harry and Ron didn’t like her until the night of the troll fight). How, I wondered, was I going to sell my book and myself to the right agent in such a short space of time? And even if I pitched succsesfully, how would I also have time to gauge whether that agent was the right literary partner for me? I was certain that pitching my book would be not only un-enjoyable, but downright torturous.
I got through the live pitch session successfully, leaving with five manuscript requests. Though none of the submissions panned out, the critique I received from those excellent agents put me on the road to revising my entire novel. Just when I’d begun to query the revised version, I read about Twitter pitching on this very website (Robin Lovett’s article on #PitMad). When I read the article, I decided to go for it. It was only two days away, so I spent every spare minute drafting and scheduling 24 tweets to fill the maximum requirement. And it paid off, big-time. I got eight requests from agents and one from an editor. I didn’t expect such a bounty of “favorites,” but that wasn’t even what excited me most about the day. I realized, as I watched my tweets appear on the screen and helped re-tweet other writers’ pitches, that I was completely wrong to dread pitching. Pitching is exhilarating. Pitching is fulfilling.
Pitching is AWESOME.
1) Preparing for the pitch gives you perspective on your project.
If you’ve never pitched before, or if you haven’t pitched in that format (talking and tweeting require very different strategies) you’ll be forced to dive deep into the soul of your story and answer the question: What is this really about? This exercise can be a lot harder than it seems at first. It’s easy to come up with something existential that doesn’t really tell an agent what they’ll be looking at. On this one, I suggest looking for advice on creating a pitch before you attempt it on your own. For my first live pitch, the workshop held before the pitch session at that conference was invaluable; I left with a completely revised pitch and much clearer message. (It was the Writer’s Digest Conference Pitch Slam; the pre-slam workshop was taught by Chuck Sambuccino. I highly recommended both.)
A note on creating your pitch: If you’re finding it impossible to distill your story down to a 90-second verbal pitch, or those 140 characters? That’s a good indication that your book might not be cohesive enough to pitch just yet.
2) Agents Are Showing Up to Talk to You
Most of the time, when you send a query, you have no idea whether you’ll get a response. You don’t even know for sure if the agent is accepting new authors, or if the information on the web is accurate. But when you pitch, you can feel confident that every agent out there is looking for something new, or they wouldn’t be there at all.
3) You Finally Get to Share Your Great Idea!
You’ve had this great idea burning a hole in your heart for– well, years, probably. This idea has belonged only to you, and you’ve worked for hundreds of hours trying to reproduce it in a way that can be communicated with the world. Pitching an agent is the first step to sharing that idea and all the dreams that go with it. It’s like releasing a balloon: heady, buoyant and free, with just a tinge of fear about where it will end up.
4) You Can Get Multiple Invitations to Submit in a Single Hour Or Day
That would be impossible by traditional means; you’d have to send out dozens of queries that all came home to roost at the same time. The worst thing about querying is the waiting. Often, you don’t even know whether it’s been read unless you ask again. But with live or Twitter pitching, you get an immediate response. Even if your pitch isn’t accepted, it feels good to know that you’ve crossed someone off the list and can move on.
5) You Can Network With Other Writers
This was a benefit I didn’t consider at all, and by far the most “awesome” of this list. At my first in-person pitch session, we were all so nervous that it felt natural to try our pitches on each other. I made some great friends just standing in line waiting to go in. And in some ways, Twitter pitching was even better. I got to read and re-tweet some brilliant ideas, and connect with the writers behind them. I gained at least 50 followers in the aftermath of the Twitter pitch alone, and made connections I’d never have been able to seek on the same scale otherwise.
Whether live or via social media, pitching sessions are events that all writers should seek out and try for themselves. You’ll receive the awesome benefits of connecting with writers and agents, sharing your ideas and refining your work. And who knows? Maybe it’ll even lead to the most awesome thing of all: getting your book out into the world.
Leanne Sowul writes historical/literary fiction and teaches music from her home in the Hudson Valley, NY. Although she generally hates talking to strangers and using social media, she’s grateful that being a writer has forced her to get better at both. Her blog Words From The Sowul is a haven for writers, readers and lovers of words. Connect with Leanne at her website, via email at leannesowul(at)gmail(dot)com, or on Twitter @sowulwords.