Have you ever asked about a writer’s story and been subjected to a longwinded explanation? One, which had you inventing an excuse to leave? Or have you struggled to explain your 50,000 or 100,000 word story simply and succinctly? Prepare to amaze your friends, dazzle your fellow writers and, most importantly of all, hook yourself an editor, publisher or agent, by learning the skills of a successful pitch.
Okay, so you’ve finished your novel? Good. Now what? If you haven’t done so already, write your premise on a post-it note and stick it on your computer to keep you on track as you go through rewrites. Go back over your manuscript as many times as necessary to make sure this book is the best writing you’re capable of.
You don’t know what your premise is? You’re in luck. Alexandra Sokoloff (presenter of our Friday Workshop at the upcoming Diamonds Are Forever Conference) shows you how to stun with a knockout premise. So what are you waiting for? Go here now.
Okay, so you’ve polished your book to perfection? By now you should know your story backwards; be able to succinctly describe who your characters are and have short punchy explanation of their goals, motivations and conflicts (internal and external). You have distilled into a few delicious words: the emotional highs, lows and major plot points? It might look like this:
“When (hero/heroine), a (role) who (empathy/setup) is (opportunity), she/he decides to (new situation/preliminary goal). But when (change of plans) she/he now must (outer motivation/primary goal) by (hero's plan/deadline) as well as (secondary goal) in spite of the fact that (outer conflict).”
Congratulations! Now you are ready to pitch your story to an agent and/or editor. Go ahead and dream of what the Back Page Blurb for your printed book might say.
Don’t forget: You are the expert on your story. If you love it, go in confident that you will get your goal, a request for submission of part of your story.
Where do I start?
RWA’s mission is to promote excellence in romantic fiction, to help aspiring writers become published and published authors to maintain and establish their careers, and to provide continuing support for romance writers – whatever their genre – within the romance publishing industry.
One of the ways it achieves this mission is through the annual conference and the opportunity for its delegates to pitch to an editor or agent.
Before the Conference: You need to be registered for the core conference (Saturday and Sunday) to be eligible for the opportunity to pitch your story, face to face with one of the editors and agents attending. The Diamonds Are Forever conference has free bonus pitching workshops (limited availability) on Thursday and Friday (see Bonus Conference Sessions page) and these are recommended for anyone who is pitching.
While you wait until pitch registration opens, go back over the questions at the beginning of this article. If you’re unsure about where your book fits, try http://www.agentquery.com/genre_descriptions.aspx for genre descriptions. The Agent Query site has plenty of good information that will help you to match your work with the right person taking pitches at conference.
Make sure you understand the language of publishers/editors/agents before you begin. Knowing where your story belongs is crucial when you start looking at who to target. Is it a “romance” story or is it a story with “romantic elements”? Stories suitable for one of Harlequin Mills & Boon’s ‘category’ lines is unlikely to be of interest to someone looking for “commercial women’s fiction”. Don’t waste your time or theirs pitching to the wrong publishing house representative.
You will be asked to nominate your preferred option when pitching opens. To help you make this decision, read all the information on the agents/editors/publishers attending the conference (in May Hearts Talk and also on Pitches page) and make use of the pitch grid (A4 version or A3 version) that explains what each of the attendees is looking for.
Before you Register to Pitch: Read all of the information about pitch takers very carefully. You may want to supplement this with further research, and your favourite search engine will help you out here to learn as much as you can about their house lines, their recent releases and their recent signings. We are giving you the opportunity to do your research by releasing the information on agents/editors/publishers taking pitches well before the pitch registration opens.
When Pitch Registration Opens: Pitch registrations will be open on 15th May. We will let the membership know by sending out an e-newsletter, so keep an eye on your inbox. Register early. There are no guarantees everyone will get their first choice so you will be asked to nominate a number of choices.
How Pitching will work
Pitch appointments are scheduled to run as one-on-one sessions of approximately five minutes each, during which time you will need to "tell me what your story is about, how it fits in my line and what makes it stand out," as one senior editor put it. Remember to leave time for your publisher/agent to ask and for you to answer any questions they have.
- Do you have a business card in case you are asked for your contact details?
- Have you printed several copies of your pitch to take to the conference, in case you are asked for a copy or something get spilled on that one precious piece of paper?
- Clichés aside, rehearse, rehearse and rehearse your pitch at every opportunity. Subtly practice your pitch on friends, fellow writers and future readers. If you have to, fake it until you make it.
Note: At the Gold Coast, editors/agents/publishers taking pitches will be seated within the same large conference room area, with pitching areas separated for privacy.
At the Conference: Get your career off to a great start by minding your manners and looking the part.
- Act the consummate professional.
- Be on time or early for your pitch sessions and other appointments.
- Be courteous and thoughtful of those you are pitching to, and to fellow delegates pitching.
- Be gracious and welcoming to your future readers: fellow conference delegates, pitchers, pitchees and all the volunteers who work so hard to make this opportunity available to you.
Don’t forget to prepare your own secret method of soothing those jangled nerves, calming that churning stomach and making that beautiful smile of yours sincere. Walk into your appointment excited and confident. We expect you to walk out beaming.
After the conference: Make good all your promises. Get that submission in as soon as you go home. RWA is here ready to encourage you, waiting to hear your call story, for your dream to come true.
Good Luck! May you receive requests from every pitch, sell your manuscript and be in the line-up to receive your First Sale ribbon next conference! We are cheering for you, looking forward to reading your published story.
Team Diamond member and Pitch Coordinator