I write about strong historical women. I need inspiration in my own life, because being a novelist is a tough business. There’s long hours with potentially little pay while you strive to get it right.
Selling your work is part of writing. If you want a big traditional publisher, you need an agent. A lot of writers chase agents, and it’s easy for you to be lost in the hundreds of emails that crowd their inboxes every week.
One way to be successful at pitching is to attend a writing conference like Willamette Writers, which is being held this weekend in Portland, Oregon. This year, I’m on the conference committee.
The pitching room at Willamette Writers is in a huge banquet room. You have about five minutes to sell your book to the agent. Every minute counts.
Believe me, it’s rough. The only way I know how to handle it is to prepare:
Memorizing the pitch. I usually start a week ahead of time and learn the pitch sentence by sentence. I practice where I’m going to put suspenseful pauses and hand gestures.
When I’m in a pitch, I know exactly what I’m going to say. That takes a lot of pressure off.
Dressing strong. Conference attire is “business casual.” I wear what makes me feel strong. I’m invincible in a crisp white shirt.
Lean in. I’m at the table. The pleasantries are over and the agent looks at me expectantly. Before I start my pitch, I lean in slightly. That’s what you do when you have a great story to tell a friend. Then I smile and say my pitch.
Taking notes. Some agents will pass, some will ask for 10 pages, others will ask for the whole manuscript. I carry a leather folder large enough to hold an 8 1/2 by 11-inch notepad. In the middle of the pitch, when agents tell me what to send them, I write it down.
Right after I walk out of the pitch room, I pause and review my notes. There’s no opportunity to later ask the agent for clarification.
The pitch goes awry. Sometimes I pitch to an agent whom, despite my best research, turns me down flat. They’re not interested. It’s awkward. I have three industry questions just in case. Even though this isn’t the agent for me, they still see trends.
When I’m done. I follow through and send everything requested to every agent. It’s a critical step to success.
Pitching is tough. But women have always done tough things, so I’m not alone.