What I Learned: Pitching an Agent

Ever wondered how to pitch your book to an agent? Here are some tips to get you started!

Hey writer friends! Last weekend I got to go to a writing conference in New Jersey. I haven’t been to one in a few years now, so it was really exciting to get to travel, meet with other writers, and have the chance to pitch Sea of Broken Glass to an agent.

But let me tell you: it is not easy figuring out how to pitch. There aren’t a ton of resources out there. And it is so nerve-wracking!

But luckily, the host, Marisa Corvisiero of Corvisiero Agency, shared some helpful tips, and I have some experiences of my own to help you prepare for your next in-person pitch.

So here we go.

Tips for Pitching an Agent

Practice your pitch.

Take some time before you get there to work through what you want to say. I used Tomi Adeyemi’s advice for crafting my pitch. I wrote out my general info, then practiced saying it until I didn’t really need to look at what I wrote. Other advice is to practice in front of friends or family, if you get the chance. For me, I was too nervous to practice before I got there…and I was so busy the week leading up to the conference that I completely forgot.

But the more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be talking about your book and the less mechanical you’ll sound.

It’s okay to bring a notecard.

If you’re like me and have trouble remembering things when you’re nervous, write your important points on an index card to take with you. The agent won’t mind if you reference it during your pitch.

Be ready for questions.

The agent may stop you during your pitch to clarify something or just ask a general question (which is a good reason to have an index card, so you can get back on track after the question). Be ready to answer whatever they ask. Generally, they may ask to clarify some things about your story or characters or, like for me, they may even ask what inspired your story. Take a deep breath, and answer. This is your baby, and take heart that you know what you’re talking about.

Be polite.

This should go without saying, but don’t act like you’re God’s gift to the world. Be polite, be humble. If they don’t like your book, don’t be offended, and don’t lash out at them. There’s no better way to ensure no one will ever want your book than to disrespect an agent (hint: the agent community is actually quite small).

Pick the right agent.

Make sure you do your research. At every event I’ve been to, you have to pay for pitches. If you pick an agent who doesn’t even rep what you’re selling, you’ve already lost…and wasted the cost of the pitch. Also make sure they’d be interested in your content. For example, some agents, even though they may rep your genre, won’t be interested in reading your time-travel fantasy if they are mainly interested in contemporary romance. Use the time leading up to the pitching event to find your perfect fit(s). There are plenty of resources online, like Twitter, Manuscript Wish List, Publisher’s Marketplace, and Query Tracker. Use them!

They don’t care if you’re nervous.

This was actually one of the biggest things that helped me at the conference: knowing that however nervous you are doesn’t matter. And it’s okay. So just power through and talk about your story, because that’s why you’re both there. What the agent really cares about is the quality of your story.

You have the same goals.

You want to sell your book. The agent you’re pitching wants to find a great book. That’s the most important thing, even if you stumble over your words.

Don’t let your nerves get the better of you.

Marisa told a story about how she was being pitched at an event, and this person came up to pitch. Her skin was all splotchy red, she made a comment about how nervous she was, started pitching, then stopped and ran from the room. The kicker? Marisa really loved what she was pitching. She never did find that person again.

Don’t let this happen to you. Remember my earlier points, if it helps: they don’t care if you’re nervous, and they just want to hear about your book. It’s why you’re both there!

Leave them with something to remember you.

You’re a professional, so I’d recommend creating business cards and leaving one with the agent. It will give them something physical to remember you, and if you have a card that wows, so much the better!

Above all, remember that this is your baby, the story you love. Let your passion for it shine!

Conclusions and more help

These are just some quick tips, mostly for emotional support and preparation, but there are a few other resources out there that can help you pitch an agent. For instance, Writer’s Digest and Author Tomi Adeyemi both discuss pitching and how to craft your pitch. I found Tomi Adeyemi’s advice the most valuable in crafting my pitch, as I mentioned above, so you may find it practical as well.

And if you’re wondering how my pitch session went, I got a request for the first 50 pages, despite my nerves. I sent it over that very night and got a request for the full by Monday. Keep your fingers crossed that she loves the whole story as much as I do, but I’ll give you updates when I have them!

Good luck!

Writing is Vulnerability

Writing is hard. So is letting someone else see your writing. And most of all, hearing what they have to say about it.

Happy Friday, writing friends! A bit of a short post today, but there are some things on my mind this week that won’t take up as much time and space as usual.

Recently, I’ve done a lot of things in my writing life that have been putting my vulnerabilities to the test: I sent my first book baby off to a developmental editor (and got all the comments back this week), I’m publishing this book baby next year (so promoting it a lot), I am entering writing contests, I am preparing to query (again), and I opened a freelance business (more on that at the end of this post).

Needless to say, I’ve been busy, both mentally and with my time. And besides just keeping me busy, they have exposed me to not only hearing and accepting criticism but asking for it as well.

That’s rough.

But it got me thinking about the process of writing itself. While all these activities have opened me up to a place where I have to leave my vulnerabilities out in the sun for all to see, all those things I hold dear and support my image of myself (or used to hide from others)… the truth is that we already do that whenever we write with honesty.

You see, if we write from our own lives, whether it is using experiences, emotions, or ideas with which we are familiar, we are telling truths that, more often than not, are so close to who we are as people that letting someone else see it, or even just admitting it on a piece of paper (or computer screen, whatever) is telling the world something about us. It’s a piece of us, so much so that any criticism or questioning of the things we write feel like criticisms of us both as the writer and the human.

It’s so hard to do this, even in the privacy of our own homes, but it is so important to being a writer. Lending our truths and our vulnerabilities to our stories makes them real and gives them more connection and depth. Without it, the story is shallow and meaningless. And without letting others offer criticisms, we are limiting our ability to improve ourselves and our craft.

So yes, it’s hard to let other people see these things, to open yourself up to criticism. And it’s hard to hear the critical things about our work and ourselves. But it’s vital to our growth as writers and to make our stories that much better.

So go write, go share. Don’t be afraid of the criticism. Ask for it. Embrace it. Use it to your advantage. And remember these words:

Writing is vulnerability.

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IT’S TIME!!! Friends, I am finally open for business! If you have editing and/or proofreading needs, consulting needs, or the need for a fantastic fantasy map, I’m your girl! Take a look at my Services page to see what I’m now offering (and the rates), and if you need a little more convincing, look over at the Testimonials as well.

I can’t wait to work with you to make your stories shine!

Friends in Creative Places

A while back you may recall my post titled “The Demons of Discouragement.” Well, after reviewing that post recently, I realized that the discouragement I was feeling has been somewhat alleviated. So I started thinking about why that might be, and I have come to a conclusion: I found the right creative friend. This isn’t to say my other support hasn’t been phenomenal, and I love my friends and family for their support every day. But it’s quite different to have a creative friend doing the same work as you.

Back toward the end of summer I had joined a local writing group that met in the Barnes & Noble closest to where I lived (I still attend every meeting!). About the same time I started going, another woman near my age also began attending. Like me, she had written a book. Like me, it was fantasy. Like me, she was ready to query. Unlike me, she was vocal about it.

So we gravitated together at and around these meetings, talking shop and gushing over our books. She began pushing me to do things I would have avoided out of my introverted, shy nature or because of the cost. With her, I attended a writing workshop in Philly in April. I went to a Sarah J. Maas book signing and discovered that she lives pretty close to me. I traded critiques and reviews of synopses and query letters and drafts.

And you know what? The query process is going so much better. I got a request for my full manuscript at the workshop. I have six queries out in the world, shining in their new and improved status. I feel more confident in what I’m doing, not like I’m just flailing in the dark and hoping to hit something.

But you know what’s even better than all that?

I’m in love with my writing again. Because of her, I’ve had professionals tell me I was talented and skilled (a huge boost for the discouraged writer!). I’ve had a passionate friend who loves fantastic worlds as much as I do. I’ve had opportunities to meet people and grow not only as a writer but also as a person.

And because of her, I’m back.

So what about you? What have you experienced or done that has fueled your creation and your passions? I’d love to hear about it!