Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Editors Answer: Pitch Sessions

What’s a pitch session, what do you say, what do you bring?

Okay, to start with JOIN A WRITING ORGANIZATION. They will teach you all this, have workshops and practice sessions, explain the business to you. If you write romance, consider RWA; for mystery writers, consider MWA. There are lots of other organizations for aspiring and published authors.

Research online. You can find a million articles and blogs about how to pitch to an editor. Okay, to start you off, I’ll mention a fun little video with tips on what to do and illustrations of how not to do it: go to www.writewithus.net and scroll down to the YouTube video link.

Now, the basics:

A pitch session is a very short meeting between an aspiring author and an editor or agent, in which the author briefly describes the book they've written in order to determine if the editor/agent has any interest in considering it as a submission.

1. A standard pitch session is four to eight minutes long. That’s it! There is always a timekeeper who will make sure you get out of the chair and make way for the next person on the schedule.

2. Never, ever bring your book to a pitch session. NEVER! You may bring your own notes to talk from, and some editors will accept a card or one sheet of paper containing your blurb and contact info.

3. Start with the basic facts: genre, length, and status. Most editors expect that anyone pitching to them has a completed or almost completed manuscript ready to submit if requested.

4. Provide a two to three minute summary of your story: the hook, the basic setting and time period, a few words about each main character, and a very high-level and fast summary of the plot.

5. The editor or agent will ask any questions they have, if there is time. They will then express whether they're interested in having you submit the story and will tell you how to do so.

Every editor and agent I've ever spoken to agrees that they cannot tell at all from a pitch session whether a book will be well written or not. The point is to weed out the books that are not appropriate for that publisher or agency. If they don't take poetry or young adult, if they are overfilled with romantic suspense and not currently looking at more, or if your story description contains elements they know they are not interested in - they can let you know that. But they can't tell from your pitch if you can write a good story. Some of the most polished pitches are for incredibly poor books, and some of the most nervous and inept pitching authors send in wonderful manuscripts. We've got to actually see the story before we can judge that.

Sometimes there are more "private" venues for pitching that accommodate lengthier sessions. A writing group may schedule an agent or editor to come to their meeting and hold pitches. Or at something like EC's upcoming Romanticon, where we can allow a little more time to talk to aspiring authors. But the sessions will still be pretty short. You need to convey your book in a concise way. The extra time is usually available for talking about the publishing company or for answering aspiring author questions about the whole process.

Did that help? Questions?

2 comments:

Ann said...

Yes, it does. Thank you.

Gwyn Lacy said...

I hope I can make it to Romanticon 2010!