Pitching a book or a book series doesn’t have to be nerve wracking and painful. It can be fun and energizing. Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the New England Conference of the Romance Writers of America (May 2-3 2014). It was so much fun. I heard a lot of pitches. Some great, some not so great. Over the years, you kind of figure out what works and what doesn’t. There is a lot of good knowledge out there online as well. Take advantage of that. Do research, ask fellow writers, editors and agents about pitching. And practice your pitch in front of a mirror at home or with your spouse or a friend or fellow writer.
Here are 7 dos and 7 don’ts when pitching in person:
- Don’t tell me what your story isn’t. That sets a negative tone. Do tell me what your story is.
- Don’t go off on tangents, describing little details of your book or series. It bogs you down and confuses me. It also takes up important time. You don’t have much time in a verbal pitch at a conference so do use your time wisely.
- Don’t undermine yourself or put yourself down. Everyone is nervous. Just smile and tell me about your book.
- Don’t tell me your life story or your book’s life story, unless it is crucial to the pitch. We don’t have that kind of time. If we end up working together, there is plenty of time to get to know each other.
- Don’t jump into the plot without telling me what genre you are pitching.
- Don’t forget to listen. Some people are so immersed in what they want to convey that they don’t pay attention to what I’m saying, especially if I ask them a question. Pay attention.
- Don’t forget to do your research ahead of time. Make sure you know what kinds of books we publish at Lachesis Publishing. Visit our web site and make sure to tell me you’ve been to our site.
Do begin with handshake, a smile and a greeting. I’m a friendly and open person. I know you’re nervous. I’ve been in the same position loads of times. But I’m there standing or sitting across from you and I’m smiling back. So try to relax, take a deep breath and tell me about your book.
- Do have business cards with your e-mail and web site address. I like getting a business card because then I can write on the back of it and it helps me remember who you are and what you pitched to me. If you have a partial with you, then certainly add your contact info to your partial. But I dig business cards.
- Do begin by telling me what you are pitching me. Is it a contemporary horror set in New Brunswick, or a cozy mystery set in a fictional town in New Hampshire, or a Regency historical set in England? It’s a great launching off point and it will help anchor you in your pitch.
- Do tell me the basic story in a few lines. When I worked in film and TV, I always had a two-three line pitch that basically summed up the plot. Why? Because you have to be ready to pitch at any time and to anyone. They don’t call them “elevator pitches” for nothing.
- Do tell me about the tone of your book. Do you write with a light touch or are your books dark and brooding or deep and emotional? I want to know this, because it helps me understand the book and your style.
- Do ask me what I’m looking for. I usually tell people who are pitching me, but it’s a good idea to be ready to ask that.
- Do follow up with me afterwards with a thank you. Remember, that I will give you my business card. So it’s smart to send me an e-mail and remind me of who you are what what you pitched me. And it’s also smart to ask me if you can contact me again in the future.
I hope this list has been helpful. Does anyone else have any other great dos and don’ts? There’s a lot of wisdom out there. Don’t be afraid to tap into it.
Joanna D’Angelo is Editor in Chief at Lachesis Publishing Inc. She loves Cinnamon Dolce Lattes, hearing pitches, and a good story.