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The Value of Pitch Sessions

For obvious reasons, authors and agents have very different perspectives on pitch sessions. Authors attend pitches in the hopes of finding an agent. Agents tend to take pitches because they are a necessary part of the business.

I believe pitch sessions are best used as an avenue to meet and interview prospective agents or to gain valuable feedback. Not as a way to “find” an agent. Most agents will tell you that they’ve rarely if ever, signed an author from a pitch.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong or bad with pitching. I do think there’s an unfair expectation usually created by organizers and even some authors and that the most valuable piece of a pitch session, feedback, is often overlooked.

In my post on why I’m not mad about pitmad, a reader asks:

I’ve done the Pitch Slam at the Writers Digest conference in NYC twice now. I appreciate it most for the feedback I receive at the time. As a writer, if you keep your pitch lean, it gives the agent lots of time to ask questions and give feedback.  It’s a great way to refine your pitch/query and troubleshoot potential salability issues.

However…lots of writers receive requests from agents at pitch events. From the agent’s perspective, why not be generous with requests? But just like Twitter pitch contests, too many writers are tempted to view this as their chance at a big break. From my experience, it’s just not. The rate of rejections and non-responses from agents who request at pitch slams seems pretty comparable to well-researched cold querying via email.

Do you participate in live pitch events? Do you find them valuable? As a writer, I think they can be worth the money if you view it as a chance to test the water. If you talk about yourself as little as possible so you can learn from the agent’s questions. What do they want to know about my character motivations? My central conflict? The age of my protagonist? This can all inform query revisions.

But as a fast-track way to bag an agent and watch your book become a bestseller, I’m not convinced. And I have to imagine these events are *exhausting* for agents, and don’t necessarily guarantee quality submissions.

I think you nailed it. I like when writers keep the pitch lean, as you say, and give us both time to ask questions and actually get to know each other a bit. If you’ve ever pitched me, you know that I’m a big believer in giving feedback. It’s what I like most about pitches.

I do still attend pitch events. I try to go to Thrillerfest every year and anytime I’m at a conference there is usually a requirement for pitch sessions (although I will try to limit the number I take). I don’t know that I find them valuable for me, but I can identify those writers who do find them valuable. They are writers just like you who keep the pitch lean and take the time to listen and talk with the agent. They are there to learn and not just hear an agent request material.

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3 comments

  1. I’ve been to a few pitches. It reminds me what speed dating must be like and if I’m right on that I’m really happy I never ventured into the land of speed dating.

    I think it’s healthy to get out of our comfort zone and pitching is just that. What I tell my fellow writers is to do a couple but don’t break your bank account over it. Enjoy the experience but keep in mind it is an experience and that is all.

  2. I’ve slowly come to the same conclusion about feedback, although the pitching session I have coming up is a bit different.
    We have to send our documents in this week for the sessions on the 26th March.

    I still don’t know who I’ll be meeting, but I will soon enough. None of the agents or publishers themselves work with children’s/YA authors, their companies do.

    I hope i can get enough feedback to polish my bio, synopsis and sample.
    If I’m really lucky I’ll get feedback on me

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