Pitching 101

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: May 17 2017

There have been a million blog posts and articles about how best to pitch to agents and network at a writers conference. While I’m not going to tell you to ignore all that advice (I’m sure some of it is good), I’m going to simplify it and show you how to have the greatest success and, hopefully, the most fun.

If you want to “pitch” to me at a conference the very best way to do that is not to pitch at all. Now certainly, if you have a pitch appointment I’m going to expect to hear some sort of pitch, but if you find yourself sitting down next to me at the bar, at the dinner table, or riding the elevator together don’t pitch me. Ever. Unless of course I ask about your book. Instead, just engage me.

Like most agents at a conference I’m open to queries which means you can pitch me anytime. Whether you query or pitch all that’s really going to matter is the book. If you want me to remember you and take a little extra time with your submission the best way to do that is make yourself memorable, interesting and likable. That means, just be you.

Rather than being made to feel like the sounding board for another author’s pitch, I’d rather have a real conversation. I’d love to talk about the weather, hear a funny story, or (and this is a really good one) answer questions you might have about the publishing industry. Agents spend a lot of time in small offices with little human interaction (sort of like authors) and we LOVE to talk about our passions. Our passions just happen to be our jobs and publishing. I for one love to give my insights and opinions on everything from the latest publishing dramas, trend alerts, what an agent meant when she said…, or even my opinion on how you might handle a more personal situation. Want to get me talking for hours (I’m warning you), talk to me about publishing. And then, later, when you query me I’m not just reading your pitch for a second time, I’m reminded of the lively and fun conversation I had over rubber chicken and cheap (but delicious) wine. I’m reminded how much I liked someone and would love to work with them.

5 responses to “Pitching 101”

  1. Avatar Janet Reid says:

    yup yup yup!

  2. Avatar Ruthie Marlenee says:

    I had a great time at a recent writers’ conference where I enjoyed a glass of cheap (but delicious) chardonnay with an agent. I knew my book wasn’t for her, but I’d enjoyed the talk she’d given and I was just happy to be out of my writing bubble. I was thrilled to be able to talk to a professional about books and authors and then we talked about her business. We found things in common, like our children, our families and life in the military. The next morning we met for coffee. I came away knowing a little bit more about the business, but also made a connection and then I went home to dig out my draft about a woman in the military. You never know.

  3. Avatar Colin Smith says:

    This is sound advice. Treat agents as people, not a means to an end. And most are very interesting people (as I have come to learn) with stories to tell and insights into publishing that are, at least, eye-opening, if not instructive.

    I’m glad now that I didn’t have a “pitch” prepared when I met you at Bouchercon 2015, Jessica. You asked me about my WiP, but it was part of the conversation, and, while it put me on the spot, it sounded less like a sales pitch, and more like the way I would talk to my brother about my latest project.

  4. Avatar Max Szadek says:

    Thank you, this is great advice! I’ve been wondering how a flamboyant diabetes advocate clad in a fruit suit can enter the publishing world with an original cozy mystery featuring a diva sleuth with diabetes and healthy recipes.

  5. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    I remember a conference where a US editor attended (I’m in Oz). We got chatting with her in the foyer, and she said she was feeling a little lost as she didn’t know anyone so we invited her to dinner with us. We had a fabulous time and ended up dining together every night. When one of my friends submitted to her a few months later she was remembered and, while she got a rejection, she got detailed feedback she’s sure she wouldn’t have got if she hadn’t made that connection at conference.