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!

3 Simple Tricks to Read More Books

There are so many books being released every day, and personally, my list of books to be read is massively long. I know that I will likely never read everything I want to read, but I do my best to get to them. I have even learned one of the hardest lessons any reader faces: how to quit a book I’m not enjoying. But that’s a post for another day.

As writers, it is critical for us to read books in and out of our genre. We need to know what is being published in our chosen genre, what is selling, and what readers want. But you may wonder how you can possibly fit more books into your busy schedule.

Or maybe you’re not even a writer. You’re an avid reader who has no idea how to get to all the abundance of books you want to read. Maybe it takes you a while to finish a book, or maybe your list is just so long you don’t even know where to start.

Whichever group you fall into, I have three simple tricks that have helped me to read more books per year. Just last year, I read a total of 72 books, and I am on track to match, if not beat, that number this year.

Here’s how I did it.

1. Always have a book with you.

This one may seem a bit obvious, but it’s true. The easiest way to find time to read is by having the material available whenever you find yourself with a spare moment.

Now, I know it can be hard to carry a hulking hardcover everywhere you go. Or even juggle multiple books if you’re almost finished with one.

But here’s a helpful hint: install an ereader app on your phone, whichever one you like. I mean, you carry that thing around with you all the time, right? Most of us do. Whenever you find yourself with a dull moment or waiting for a friend or bus or train, pull out your phone and start reading your e-book-in-progress.

For me, I discovered this because of all the awkward incubation times while I’m working in the lab. There is no point in taking off your lab gear when you have five minutes of waiting time. By the time you make it back to your desk, you just have to go right back. So while I sit in the lab waiting for incubations or time points to complete, I read a book! It keeps me from getting bored, and I get to make progress on my yearly reading goals and enjoy a fresh new story.

2. Make the most of your time.

Another great way to increase the books you read is to start listening to audiobooks while you commute, clean, walk, or do other mindless work. Again, looking to my lab experience, I once ran an experiment for two months that required me to pay attention to something for four-five hours every morning. But it was absolutely mindless work, tedious and boring, so I downloaded audiobooks and listened to fifteen books in the course of those two months.

Another great time to use them is while you commute. Chances are if you’re driving, walking, or otherwise paying attention to where you’re headed, you can’t really look at a book. But you can listen. Instead of listening to music or the news every day, invest that time in a few books. And you can of course take breaks between books, go back to your music or news stations, but this is an easy way to rack up those pages!

If you decide (like me) that an audiobook subscription service just isn’t worth your money, there are alternatives. Many audiobooks are available online for free. Additionally, check with your local library. The Free Library of Philadelphia works with the Overdrive app so that you can borrow e-books and audiobooks without ever stepping foot inside a branch. One bonus of this app: no late fees. Books are automatically returned at the end of the loan period, and you can extend your loan straight from the app. Borrowing is also extremely helpful if you want to try a book or author before you buy anything.

3. Don’t be afraid to read more than one book at a time.

By using multiple formats of books, you can read multiple works at once. For example, I read a hard copy of a book at all times. I bring it with me to work, I read it at home or on trips, I love the feel of having it in my hands. But I also keep an e-book ready at all times on my phone or ereader, for those moments when I have time but can’t have my physical book, like in the lab. And the ereader itself is great for trips that limit your ability to carry the extra weight of a bunch of books (like when flying or going far away). And finally, I listen to an audiobook while I commute to and from work, which gives me at least 45 minutes each direction. And that doesn’t even touch the long car trips!

This can be a hard one for a lot of people, especially if you have trouble keeping stories separated in your head. But I have a trick for that, too. If you struggle to keep the details of stories straight when reading more than one at a time, use a different genre for a different format. To give you a quick example, if you are reading a fantasy story in paperback (or hardcover), you may choose to read a contemporary romance as your e-book and a non-fiction book as your audiobook. Or perhaps you pick classic literature as one of those other formats. By separating the type of books you are reading simultaneously, it may be easier for you to enjoy and understand the stories without mixing up those details. Definitely steer clear of reading similar books at the same time! Been there, done that, still can’t remember which is which!

So there you have it. How to read more books, Selina-style. So what about you? What tips do you have to read more books? Share below in the comments!