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Pitch Secrets

Do agents often give out their cards rather than face the (hopefully) distasteful task of telling authors they aren’t interested? Or did I just have a good pitch?

Also, when an agent asks for chapters, should “Requested Material” be written on the envelope? Does it get to the agent faster that way?

Yes. Agents admit to me all the time that they just request everything that’s pitched to them because it’s easier. Why is it easier? They can reject it when it gets to the office, or even have an assistant reject it, and they don’t have to deal with the author’s reaction face-to-face. Cowardice? Yes, probably. Stupid? Not when you read back through the many crazy responses I get to rejection letters. Can you imagine getting those in person?

Is it necessarily a bad thing? Not if you’re getting your work into someone’s hands. You never know what will happen when it crosses an agent’s desk. My thoughts on whether or not your pitch was good is really about how people reacted. Did it seem as if they just handed over a card mechanically? Or did the agents seem obviously enthusiastic? If you got requests universally I would safely assume you have a strong pitch. There’s always one or two who will reject the work if they don’t feel your pitch was strong.

Feel free to write “requested materials” on the envelope. In my office it doesn’t make any difference, but in another office it might.

And congratulations and good luck.


Category: Blog



  1. You know I thought as much (about editors and agents not wanting to reject you to your face). Doesn’t that then reduce the importance of pitching at conferences?

  2. Paid-for pitches at conferences…waste of time and money?

    I did 2 last summer locally and won’t do it again.

    The 1st: I didn’t have a big enough platform for mommylit (MOPS leader and a mommy blog in the Rocky Mountain News). She told me she wasn’t taking on any new clients anyway, unless they are big time. I wondered why she was taking pitches. Plus that hurt, but looking back I totally appreciate the honesty.

    The 2nd (an editor at an indie press) requested a full of my women’s fiction on the spot. He even mentioned changing the title and how well the book would fit with another on his list. I emailed it and never heard from him again.

    My new approach: Even if you are DYING to pitch, be helpful without brown-nosing. Water, food, drink, compliment on something they have edited. BE NORMAL. Make casual contact at some point during the day and save my money by sending a good old-fashioned query AFTER the conference. Of course mentioning any conversation in passing.

  3. I always figured it was a crapshoot and since agents (and even editors) are human, dependent on an amazing load of random factors. Well, gotta keep trying!

  4. I’ve known this for quite some time, but I’m careful never to burst the bubble of a writer who runs out of a pitch session squealing, “She wants to see the first 50 pages of my manuscript! AAAAAHHH!” Congratulations are in order. This is one of the best parts of being a writer: the anticipation, the excitement, the high-energy that results from the conference pitch session.

    Perhaps I’m jaded, but that’s okay. I still think pitch sessions are extremely valuable. It loosens up new writers to banish their fears of the all-powerful editors and agents who are real people doing their jobs. Yes, they have the power to make dreams come true, but it probably won’t happen during the weekend of the conference you attend. Listen to the questions they ask during your pitch, pay attention to their comments, and remember everything they said, then work on that to improve your story. Send the partial and keep up your hopes because that’s the fun part. But be prepared if you’re answered with a rejection. The experience is both sweet and sour, and it validates you as a writer.

    I don’t pitch to agents at conferences any more because I know I can query them with better results. I pitch to the editors. IMO, that’s the greatest benefit of pitching at a conference because most editors require a writer have agent representation. If you don’t yet have an agent (and even if you do), this is the way to go.

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