Friday, March 4, 2011

The Dreaded Pitch and a Teaser

Happy Friday! Today I need your help, writer friends. I think the thing I am most nervous about at the conference is giving my verbal pitch to an agent. There's a reason I'm a writer, guys. I'm not always the best speaker. There are a lot of "ums" and "like" and "you know?", paired with a tendency to ramble and make lame jokes.

So how the heck do I pull off this pitch thing? Do I have to come up with one of those run-on sentences that sums up my whole book? Do I do it sort of like I'm reading my query letter? Am I supposed to memorize the thing? How long should I talk for? Has anyone reading this ever done one? Spill forth knowledge to me (us)!

In other news, I was trying to submit a 250 word excerpt from Countless to one of Miss Snark's First Victim's critique posts, but it is limited to 25 entries and I missed it. Which was very frustrating, because I pulled over on the side of the highway so I wouldn't miss the opening of the submission window, and at exactly 6:00 I sent the excerpt via my phone. However, the dumb email bot said I had submitted at 5:59 and rejected the entry. By the time I was able to get back into my email and submit again 3 minutes later, it had already filled up. This incident was followed by expletives and angry monster noises. So, I'm going to post my clip here to relieve said frustration. Enjoy!

He looked at her with a strange intensity. “You should know what I am. You should know what you are.” A vortex of emotion swirled in his eyes – frustration, fascination, even a trace of fear. “How is it you don’t know?”

She closed her eyes and shook her head. “Know what? What is it I’m supposed to know?” Her voice quavered.

He put his palm on the side of her face and her eyes opened. “You should know that you are the biggest mystery of all.”

Eva’s brain was trying to swim through what he’d just said, when suddenly his lips were pressing against hers.

She struggled and shoved back hard on his chest. “What the hell are you doing, Ambrose?” But through her anger she felt something emanating from him, a swirl of magic like she’d felt in her vision.

"I’m trying to show you something,” he said, pulling her against him again. His lips found hers and the power washed around them and she didn’t pull away.

The magic felt familiar and normal, it surrounded and melded with her. Then a power of her own shimmered against it. It felt so recognizable that she didn’t know how she hadn’t noticed its absence before. Like a missing limb or lack of vision, it was so vital a part of her she couldn’t imagine not having it.

“Do you understand now?” he asked, piercing her with a laser gaze.“You’re not normal, Eva. We share that.”


  1. Loved your exerpt! The thing to remember about pitching in person is to relax and share your love of your story with that person. Try to keep the pitch under two minutes. Just a few paragraphs is best. I use a modification of the first two paragraphs of my query letter. The key is to make them want to know more. Best of luck!

  2. I think you are supposed to have your pitch memorized..... GOOD LUCK

  3. Talking about your work and reading it out is an essential skill (that's what my lecturers always tell us)

    First of all, you need to read it out loud so often that you know it by hard. Then you should practice on a group of friends, maybe more than once.
    Second. It's not always wrong to make a pause. Just try not to say erm to much. Rather just stay quiet and think about how the listeners are sucking what you just said in.

    last would be, try to stay calm, it's alright. You get to read YOUR work to others, this should be fun, because they NEED to listen to you, they can't run away (or won't, good society rules). Enjoy that they hear your book and think about all those, who will like it. Never the other way around.
    Nahno ∗ McLein

  4. Relax and just be your sweet self. I believe in you. I know you will do great. No doubt.

  5. I used to boil the book's plot down to one sentence, and memorize that sentence. You also need to say the audience & genre (e.g., "YA fantasy," "middle-grade historical," whatever). Then allow the person to ask questions about the book, or speak naturally about the book. I would also come prepared with questions for the person I was pitching.
    If you want to have more than one sentence ready, you could memorize or write down a few cues to help you remember what you want to say.

    Don't feel like you have to tell them every little thing that happens in the book. The point of a pitch is just to tell them enough so that they know whether they want to read the book.

    And don't forget to breathe! Try to speak slowly, also--or at least more slowly than adrenaline will want to make you talk. :)

  6. My Miss Snark entries have never gone through - she insists she's gotten every one, but even with emails saying I'm not getting an autobot response, she can't answer why...oops, sorry, that's not what I meant to say.

    We're both pitching face-to-face to agents next month, so we feel your pain, er joy??!!!! I'm (erica) posting about this tomorrow. Good luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Pitches are the hardest thing ever. I try to consider it as telling my friends what my latest project is about. Usuallly I do it quickly, concisely, and in an entertaining manner. Unfortunately, I complete forget how I did that when it comes to the time to speak to actual agents. Argh.

    Good luck with yours. It's looking pretty good already.


  8. I'm sorry, but I've never pitched anything face to face so I have no adivce to give you (and I feel positively terrified just at the thought of it!).
    Your excerpt sounds interesting though, and I'd be keen to know what the story is about :-)

  9. Sorry, blonde moment - I just saw what it's about on your sidebar. Sounds like fun!

  10. Verbal pitches are hard - I so feel your pain. I practised mine out loud over and over again. I felt like an idiot, but it really helped. I also victimised the hubs until his ears bled.

  11. That sucks that you pulled over just to submit and then it went through one minute early! I'm sorry by the time you sent it through again, you were full!

    I've never pitched to an agent in a conference setting. The pitching I've done has been at parties and not for books. Since Erica blogged about it, I would seek her out as a source of wisdom. It seems totally nervewracking to me in a conference setting! I think tackling nerves is a huge part of it. Did they tell you how much time you would have? Or tell you to go with an elevator pitch? Because that also will determine what you're going to say. Fingers and toes crossed for you!

    Love your piece - I love that he kisses her to show her!

  12. I've never pitched my work (other than really crappy old stories into the trash), so I can't be much help there. But I agree with previous comments: share your love of the story, keep it brief/to the point, and breathe. =]

  13. Sorry about the contest! That happened to me last year on a different blog contest and I was so frustrated!

    I've a total pitching newbie. I'd need a ton of practice before I pitched anyone.

  14. What a fabulous, swoon-worthy excerpt! I want to know so much more! And I agree with everyone about the pitch: short and sweet and enthusiastic. Good luck!

  15. Aw, that stinks you couldn't get it in. Maybe next time! Great excerpt, too. Very tense scene. Makes me want to know what she is!

    Good luck with the pitch! So tough, but you can do it!

  16. I've never pitched to an agent before, so I can't offer any advice. However, I understand your nerves - I'm not the best at speaking either. I guess keeping it short and remembering to breath would work.

    I loved your excerpt and want to read more!


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