Pitch sessions have become a common, and popular, feature of most writer conferences and festivals. Some are private, where writers and illustrators get to present their work one on one to editors, publishers and agents; others are in public, where creators present their work to a panel of publishing professionals, in front of an audience of fellow attendees. The private sessions tend to be longer; the public ones shorter. With both types, prior preparation is the key. But on the day itself, you also need to keep in mind certain things which will help you strike the right note. Here are some tips based on my experience of seeing it from both sides of the pitch table!
- Keep to the time, but don’t panic if your pitch presentation is shorter than you thought. Better to be clear and succinct than to ramble on just to fill in time.
- Introduce yourself, and say a few words about your relevant personal and professional experience. Don’t spend too long on the introductory bit though. And best not to try too hard to be funny—unless of course you are a writer of comedies!
- Assuming you have done your research on what the editor or publisher you are facing has worked on, be crystal clear as to what you are pitching, especially if it is to publishers. With agents you should be clear about the kind of writing you do, but you need to think you’re also presenting as a potential client that they may want to represent to publishers more than once—hopefully!
- Don’t read from your pitch package. It should be there just as a memory aid.
- Your pitch needs to stick in the listener’s mind: be ready to encapsulate your book with passion but not hyperbole!
- Don’t say that your manuscript is just like some bestselling book or movie, but do show that you are well-versed in the genre you are writing in by a subtle mention of your reading.
- Don’t talk about ‘the market’ but about readers or audience.
- Have a one-page summary of your book, and a bit about yourself, printed ready to give out with your card. Gently inform the person you are pitching to that you have it, but do not thrust it on them: they will request it from you if they want it.
- Don’t ask them for their business cards: if they want to give it to you, they will do so. Similarly, don’t just give yours to them: wait to be asked.
- If you are an author-illustrator, make it clear if you are available for/interested in illustrating other people’s work as well—publishers are usually interested in adding illustrators to their files in terms of possibly matching them up with authors of picture-book texts.
- And I know it goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway; be courteous at all times, during the pitch, and after it. If you see the publishing professional in a social setting at a conference event, do not try to extend your pitching time by going on about your book. But don’t think you have to avoid them, either! A friendly conversation—about non-pitch matters—is not only pleasant, but it may help to keep you in that person’s mind as someone who understands professional and social courtesies: and therefore someone who they may be happy to work with!
Over to you: what do you think are the most important elements of a successful face to face pitch?