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.
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!