Pitch Etiquette for Writers

Over at Miss Crankypants, yesterday’s subject was writing conferences, specifically those nerve-racking pitch sessions with agents. Miss CP never met a writing subject she couldn’t poke fun at, but a real-life agent commented to say that it isn’t easy being the person who has to put up with sniffling writers. So perhaps a lesson in pitch etiquette is in order.
Writing Tip for Today: A lot of stuff gets written about “the other side of the desk.” Some of this is frustration with an insane system. But so often we writers don’t think about anybody but ourselves. Here are some pointers for dealing with agents and editors at pitch sessions:

  • Be Polite. The obvious important point is to treat an editor or agent with the same respect you give your grandmother. It only FEELS like an agent/ed controls your fate.
  • No Smarm. Don’t take your hospitality too far, though. Scented paper, expensive chocolates or a pear basket probably won’t sway the agent as much as a well-written query. Resist the urge to kiss up. Except maybe with the chocolate.
  • Know Your Agent. Don’t try to pitch your erotic novel to a Christian agent, or try to buttonhole an agent about your historical when they’ve already said they only look for contemporary. Market books abound, and most agents have websites. Use them.
  • Be on Time. I accidentally stood up an agent at a conference. It was an honest mistake but I was embarrassed. Let’s just say the agent wasn’t impressed. And while we’re on the subject, don’t try to hog the next appointment’s time.
  • Know Your Pitch. Most important, you need to be able to talk about your book intelligently. I have misgivings about spewing a canned speech, but you should practice so that your mind doesn’t go blank. Even if the agent looks bored and then says, “OK. Send me 3 chapters,” you still have a chance to impress her with the actual material.

Next: Choosing Your Pitches.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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