What They Saw
“More than any other factor, it
is the people we have to deal with that determine the quality of our
Conference pitches are always a time of nerves and questioning. It’s unknown territory for most people, as they have no idea how the agents and editors will respond to their ideas and hopes.
I was at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference last week, this time as a mentor. I talked to a lot of shaky young writers, just to give them advice on what steps to take next. During one of my last appointments, a young woman sat down, her face clouded in puzzlement. She introduced herself and said, “Can I talk to you about something?”
“Sure. What’s up?”
Her hands were shaking as she took out her one-sheets and handed me a business card. She pitched two ideas in just under three minutes. I looked at her and said, “These sound marvelous. So what do you want from me?”
She looked over her shoulder, then leaned in to explain. She’d pitched to sixteen editors and agents, and every single one of them had asked for a full manuscript. She thought that was odd—everyone had warned her it would be tough in this market. So she had two main questions. Was it strange to get so many requests? And with that many, who should she start with?
“This is a good problem to have,” I said. “But, first, let me explain what people are seeing when you sit in front of them.”
1) She had a polished and professional appearance. This
is more important than some people would like to admit. While writers
don’t have to be pretty or handsome, they do need to be clean and
neatly dressed in appropriate attire.
As I rattled off the litany of reasons she’d make a good client for an agent or author for an editor, her eyes widened. She had no idea that she was hitting all the sweet spots. She was simply trying to be as professional and as prepared as possible. She succeeded—and the agents and editors spotted it right away.
I spread her one-sheets in front of me, and made suggestions on which agent/editor might be a good fit for her. I also suggested that she find a couple of authors who worked with them and have a chat. Every agent/editor is different, and making a good personality and career-focus match is vital for a long-term success.
Pitches are stressful, but being prepared can alleviate some nerves. Presenting a professional appearance takes little time and can have encouraging results. It costs nothing to bathe and put on clean clothes. Comb your hair. Read over your pitches until you can deliver them with enthusiasm and few stutters. Be on time for your appointment and leave when your time is up.
We may hear this over and over, but you might be surprised to know how few people come to the table ready to present. The ones who do prepare stand out. And that’s what made this young author shine for a roomful of agents and editors.