Wednesday, February 6, 2013

IWSG: Pitches

I totally forgot until I went to Robin's blog, that it's the first Wednesday of the month *facepalm*. Luckily, I had something in mind to write for the insecure writer's support group hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh.




As you may have guessed from the title, I'm going to talk pitches. The other day I signed up for the Pikes Peak writing conference in April. (If you're going, let me know so we can hang out!) I signed up for a pitch session and after emailing someone from the conference I was told that there was a strong possibility that I'll get the chance to pitch.

I've never done an oral pitch before, and I'm super nervous. I've heard people tell me that it's a conversation, so I should treat it like such, but I have a few questions.

1. Do I memorize my pitch, and how long should it be?
2. What kind of questions should I expect?
3. What's the one thing you wish you had known before you gave your first oral pitch?

Any and all advice would be extremly helpful. Thank you!

Also, here's a little video I found from Brandon Sanderson yesterday on pitches. Enjoy!


32 comments:

Annalisa Crawford said...

I've never done one, but I hope you get lots of useful advice and the pitch goes well :-)

James Duckett said...

I'm stressing over giving one next week. (Next week? AAAAHHHH!!!!) What I've read is that you want to have three pitches ready. An elevator pitch, a 2 minute pitch (I think this is the one you'll present at the oral pitch sessions), and a 5 minute pitch (I'm not sure why). Read "Save the Cat" for ideas on forming the elevator pitch, and then expand it into the 2 minute pitch.

The structure of a pitch setting is:

1) Introductions and small talk (how are you enjoying the conference?). 1-2 minutes
2) The two-minute pitch. 2 minutes
3) Answer questions from the person you are talking to. 5 minutes
4) Thank you's and more small talk. 1 minute

Hope that helps! Good luck, I'm super-duper-nervous myself!

Donna K. Weaver said...

You'll have to keep your eye out for Becky Taylor. She lives in Colorado and has talked about attending this conference in the past. If you see here, tell her I said "hi".

http://rebeccataylorbooks.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Sending you positive thoughts for great success! How exciting.

ilima said...

It's all going to depend on who you pitch too. I've done 3 oral pitches and they were ALL different. Some will want to chat small talk first, others will say immediately, "Give me your pitch." I would suggest practicing practicing practicing on people, so that you pretty much have it memorized, BUT you present it in a conversational way so it's not obviously stiff and more like talking to a friend. They'll probably ask you to tell them more about this or that (what caught their attention), how you came up with it, word count, pretty much anything. And they are used to people being nervous, so just try to relax and enjoy it. Good luck!

Linda King said...

I can't tell you how much I hate the thought of having to do this! Wishing you all the best :-)

Samantha May said...

I've never done one before so don't take my word as gold (or silver or bronze...), but I would imagine that you'll want to sound as natural as possible. You know, make it sound like a conversation and not some memorized lines (even if you are memorizing lines). A little bit of emotion can go a long way.

Jessie Humphries said...

I've done about ten pitches before. About 5 in paid pitch sessions and about 5 during conversations with agents at dinner or in the hallways or whatnot. I think you should definitely have it memorized, but presented in an organic way. Natural. Not robotic. Agents vary in personality just as much as writers do. Some are all business and some are more casual. I would prepare for both. :)

Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author said...

Take your lucky rabbit's foot. It pays to be a little superstitious. After all, I think there's a component of luck involved in getting an agent.

Al Diaz said...

What is a pitch? Anyway, best of lucks with yours and enjoy! :D

Mrs. Seegmiller said...

One, remember that the person you are talking to is a person. And if they like what you have been writing, you will be working as a team, so remember that too.

Two, practice. I pitched at Storymakers last year and had a 3 hour car ride by myself to say it over and over and over. Remember the key ideas you want to emphasize, but don't learn it so well that it's memorized to the point of lacking personality.

Three, have questions to ask if there isn't a request for a full. You have an allotted time with a professional in the industry, ask them something instead of just walking out early. You paid for your time, take full advantage of it.

I can email you what I said at my pitch last year. Michelle Wolfson complimented me on the pitch :)

Nicole said...

Love Brandon Sanderson's lectures! Good luck with the verbal pitch. I've never done one, but I'm crossing my fingers for you.

Rena said...

There's a lot of good advice I'm seeing here. The only thing to add to it is that you should shake the agent or editor's hand (normal firmness, no limp fish or crushing grip), and be sure to look them in the eye and engage in the introduction.

There are a lot of really easy ways to do this, but be sure to show up for the whole session (if it's a public pitch session) so you don't accidentally copy someone's icebreaker from before.

Icebreakers: compliment something about them, or the venue, or the city (but be careful with city or venue, they might not like it...). When you say shake hands and say "Oh, I love your scarf, it matches your hair perfectly" you put yourself in a different place. You're no longer in the "OMG LOVE ME LOVE MY STORY" place. You're having a conversation with them. We meet people all the time, and those skills can help you through a pitch session because they are familiar.

Good luck. Oh, and be prepared for the pitch session to be either one on one, or in front of an audience.

Carrie-Anne said...

I'd recommend going to PitchUniversity.com for lots of great advice and real-life examples on how to pitch. The site has been inactive for a long time now (sadly), but it's still got all that great advice from the past.

Memorizing a pitch isn't really a great idea. I've heard stories about/from people who did just that and then were thrown for a loop when it came time to give the pitch in real time. If you've only got the pitch memorized one certain way, you might not be as prepared for an agent (or other person) interrupting with questions or comments that you weren't counting on when you just memorized a pitch.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hope you get to do the pitch! Never done one, but I imagine shorter is better.

Sarah said...

That sounds like a great opportunity! I'm nervous for you too. I bet you'll do great, though, and I want to hear all about it.

Kathryn Purdie said...

I pitched at Storymakers last year. I just basically memorized the meat of my query and tweaked it to be more conversational. When I walked in there, I shook her hand and talked to her about a mutual acquaintance that wanted me to say "hi" for her. So there was small talk for a minute that helped me (and the agent) feel at ease. Then when she cued me, I pitched. I spoke slowly so she could wrap her head around it all, and then when I finished I launched off into all the cool subplots and intricacies of the book (only because she was interested and encouraged me for more). I got very animated to say the least. :-) When I finished she said it was the best pitch she heard all weekend and she offered me representation 11 days later. The organic part where we just talked about my book (not necessarily "the pitch") was the best part of the conversation.

Livia Peterson said...

Good luck on your pitch! You can do it! :)

Rachel said...

We had pitching online classes before my first conference last October. During the conference, the night before pitching, seasoned authors helped us perfect our oral pitches. That was a life-saver. I learned a ton from the process.

The next day I pitched to two agents and an editor. With one agent I had time to pitch two of my novels. Every one of them requested materials.

At this conference, we took a unique approach to pitching. Basically, we can tell you the simple premise, bc we've done it a thousand times before in queries. But, when you share why you wrote it, or how the idea came to you, your passion for the novel shows. So, our pitches were 3 min. long. We started by introducing ourselves, shaking hands, saying title & genre & sometimes word count. (Sometimes you can leave the word count for the end)Then we say how we came up with the book, which leads into the conflict and stakes. If you want to see mine, I'd be happy to email it to you as an example. :)

After the conference, the agents told the ladies who put on the conference, that they requested more materials at this conference than any other they've attended. So obviously something worked.

L.G. Smith said...

I've pitched at the Pikes Peak conference before, and it's very well organized. One thing that will help is to look on your program to see if Linda Rorbaugh (sp?) is doing her presentation on loglines on the first day of the conference. She does a really good presentation on how to distill your pitch down to the essentials. She makes it sound easy, even though we all know it's not.

But, yeah, after you give your initial pitch it should be somewhat conversational with the agent/editor. Hopefully they will ask you questions about your story, and you can go off script some and talk about your plot and characters. It's very nerve-wracking, but you'll do great!

L.G. Smith said...

Here's the post I wrote after going to the conference and pitching. It might help, especially if Linda isn't going to be there this year for some reason.

http://bardsandprophets.blogspot.com/2011/05/windup-before-pitch.html

Trisha F said...

Wow, I'd be super freaked having to do a verbal pitch! My advice (though I've never done one of these before & never attended a writing conference either, so what do I know?) would be to memorise one of those loglines, a one-sentence pitch, that really summarises your book nicely. Then they can ask for more detail.

But I dunno if they'd expect more that that. ;)

Krista McLaughlin said...

I've never done one, but it sounds exciting! I'm sure you will do great! :)

Shannon Lawrence said...

Hey! Yes, I'll be there, and I'll be working in the pitch room!

Yes, know your story, and have an elevator pitch ready (quick pitch). Remember that you're talking to someone who wants to discover a great story. Be prepared to just chat and to field questions on your story. You wrote it, you should know it, right? Someone new has taken over pitch this year, but she was trained by the old person and should do things similarly. In the past, we've had workshops on the Friday that go over pitches and let you try them; I can't guarantee there will be something like that this year, but there might be. If there isn't, grab one of us staff members and ask us to listen to your pitch. Chris Mandeville is always willing to help in that way, for instance (she'll be the gal with the giant service dog). Or ask your neighbor at the table if they'll listen and tell you what they think. But basically, have prepared a bit about your story that you can share, including the logline (yes, Linda Rohrbaugh is excellent here, but I'm unsure whether she'll be here this year, due to having moved out of state). If she is, I definitely recommend her workshop.

I've pitched officially at PPWC once, and then unofficially when the agent at our table asked if anyone would like to pitch to her. It wasn't any less terrifying, but it was a great experience. Both times, I gave my short version, then answered questions. It really is very conversational, and it gets easier after that initial shooting out of the logline/short pitch. I got an ask the first time, so we sat there and chatted about children's books after, and the editor recommended a series that my son is now reading. The second time, I didn't get an ask, but I got some really good feedback, which I also appreciated.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse

David P. King said...

The best pitch I've ever done that landed a full request was I presented the elevator pitch first and allowed the agent think about it for a second before I went into more detail. Memorize your short pitch and let the expounding be on the fly, from your heart. That's what worked for me, though.

Is it too late to sign up for this conference? :)

M. J. Joachim said...

From what I understand, pitching is a lot like writing your first paragraph. If you don't grab them from the outset, you've already lost them.

Jenny S. Morris said...

I've never done an oral pitch. Good Luck!!

michelle said...

Oral pitch? Good luck Jennie.

Nick Wilford said...

Never done this so my advice will be limited. But I would say don't be afraid of being passionate and excited, not stiff and over-rehearsed (even if you have practiced it a million times). Hopefully, they will respond to that enthusiasm and that this is something you really want to share with the world.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I've never done an oral pitch, but I'd probably attempt to memorise your one liner, elevator pitch and the longer version if they want it. I think it leaves you feeling more prepared and less stuttery. Wishing you lots of luck!

Tara Tyler said...

they are super friendly, they want to give offers!
know your blurb, hit the highlights
know your interviewer, research what they've pubbed
have questions, like where do you think the industry is headed, what genres are up & coming, what would they like to see, etc stuff you are curious about...
smile, shake hands
send a follow up thank you email

its really not bad. better than a job interview!

Tara Tyler said...

good luck! deep breath and be yourself!