Blogger: Mary Keeley
Pitch appointments can be stomach-churning, nerve-wracking moments of angst and brain freeze, which seem to last forever in too little time. It’s understandable when you view them as do-or-die verdicts on your career as a writer. Let’s observe a pitch appointment through an agent’s lens. Hopefully, it will minimize your apprehension that your whole career is in the balance.
But first, I’ll set the scene for a pitch appointment. I witness authors at every conference I’m at, and it’s pretty easy to spot writers who already have had an appointment and came away with regrets on your performance or lackluster interest in your book.
If your debut novel isn’t completed, it may be more worthwhile for you to schedule appointments with editors to get advice on the marketability of your book. It’s best to wait until your novel is finished and polished before scheduling an agent appointment. Nonfiction authors may be tempted to pitch your book as soon as you have the chapter descriptions and first three chapters completed. However, if your platform is weak, you won’t serve yourself well in terms of getting an agent’s interest until you grow it further.
The point is to be prepared.
Believe it or not, agents I know in the industry try hard to put authors at ease so you can give it your best shot. With this perspective in mind, peek into a typical agent’s inner thoughts during a pitch appointment with an author.
“Welcome. I’m happy to meet you. In a sentence or two, tell me a little about yourself.”
Note to self: friendly handshake, direct eye contact, relaxed smile, and confidant. My first impression is that she would be enjoyable to work with. Good start.
If you are an unpublished author, the agent will likely ask something like this: “When did you decide you want to be an author, and how have you been learning your craft?”
Note: She has invested time to learn craft and the industry and belongs to a critique group. She goes on to list books on craft she has read and industry blogs she follows. I see enthusiasm in her eyes. So far, so good.
“Describe your audience and what you are doing to connect with these readers.”
She is ready with a clear description. Next, she details how she connects with them via social media networks in which they are most active, newsletter, speaking events, and by hanging out where they hang out. She gives examples of how they connect with her and what she writes. Looking better yet.
“Tell me about your book and how you came to write it.”
I note her passion and excitement as she begins with her elevator pitch. The book sounds marketable. I’m interested in hearing more as she continues. Good, she isn’t getting bogged down in too much detail, which I couldn’t possibly follow since I haven’t read any samples yet. She sticks to the main plot and the main characters’ struggles and motivations (or developing the main theme for nonfiction) as the book progresses. Obviously, she has spent plenty of time practicing. I’m impressed.
One minute left.
“I’d like to see a formal proposal and the first three chapters of your book. Here is my business card.”
Her easy smile broadens as she respects her time limit, stands, and shakes my hand. I write on my notes: “Promising!”
Pitch complete and ended on time.
If your previous pitch meetings haven’t gone so well, this little peek will help you to know where to improve for next time. Like I said, agents are rooting for you because we love authors and we’re hoping to find a gem.
How does this little glimpse help you to know how you need to ready mentally and emotionally for your pitch meetings? What do you need to work on to be fully prepared for your next 15-minute meeting with an agent? What made your best agent meeting a good one?
Here is a peek into what the agent is thinking during your pitch appointment at a conference? Click to Tweet.
Here is what gets an agent’s attention during your pitch at a conference. Click to Tweet.