Sunday, June 19, 2016


Pitching a novel or non-fiction idea verbally at a writers' conference causes an epidemic of tangled tongues and sweaty palms, at least in first-timers. The remedy is in three Ps - preparation, practice, and pauses.

As you have about ten to fifteen minutes for each appointment, which includes the niceties, it's best to define exactly what you want to get out of the meeting before you go. Do you want a contract, advice, or just info?
Prepare by researching the editors/agents you are meeting. If you're pitching a book, compose a 'zinger' sentence describing it to open the discussion, otherwise explain your reason for meeting. Flesh out your opening sentence to a 50–60 word verbal pitch and figure out some questions. Write a one page synopsis or non-fiction overview to leave with the editors/agents. Don't risk ad libbing – you're likely to babble. Bring a business card. Note: Your zinger sentence is also invaluable if you are informally asked about your book, e.g. at a conference lunch and later with the media.
Practice the pitch until you can say it aloud with passion and precision. I know of one writer who practised role-playing her first editor meeting to get comfortable. It was that important to her.
Pauses  these are the gaps that give you what you came for. Pauses let the editor/agent ask you questions and give advice to you. Talk for no more than 25 seconds at a time, then stop and listen!
Top 3 mistakes editors/agents complain about are explaining why you wrote the book, talking too much, and presenting poorly formatted work.
I suggest you try it out at your writers' group well in advance of the big day too. Good luck!
More detail about how to write a verbal pitch and manage the meeting is available in Julie's Book Magic: Turning Writers into Published Authors here.