Writing Advice: Pitching to Agents in Person

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Hello, everyone and welcome to a special writing advice post today. I recently got back from YALC, where there was an agent arena that allowed people to pitch to agents, and it got me thinking that now would be a good time to post about the mechanics of that, and how to improve your book’s chances of getting noticed.

What is pitching?

It’s where you either meet an agent face to face or you do a social media event where you get to discuss your book for a limited amount of time. Face to face pitching is very like a job interview [but with less questions from the interviewer]. The author talks about the plot of their book and what genre it is etc, and then the agent offers advice, asks to see more of the book in a query email, or tells the author that it isn’t something they would take on.

What’s the point though? If you still have to send a query email, why not just save time and effort and just send the email?

It sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? Going to a pitching event in the hopes that an agent tells you to send them a query letter. BUT the benefit of this is that you get to talk about your book for about 5 mins [or longer, depending on the event and its popularity]. An agent will get to meet you face to face and hear your passion for your work. They’ll also be able to ask you any questions in terms of plot and character that you might not have thought to include in your query. Most importantly, showing that enthusiasm and your personality in person can sway an agent a lot more than a query letter. Agents get a LOT of query letters [some get around 200 a day] but they don’t do anywhere near as many pitching events, so meeting them in person can make you and your pitch a lot more memorable.

What should I do to prepare?

Dress smartly. I mean, you don’t absolutely have to, but I personally like to treat pitching events like a job interview. I think dressing smartly makes me feel more confident talking to people. Take a look over your query letter [and if you don’t have one, write one] and bring it with you. The agent might not be interested in it, they might want to just listen to you talk about your book, or they might not be allowed to take away bits of paper, but it helps to have one anyway so you can stay on track during the conversation and remember everything you have to say. It also helps because, even if an agent tells you they’re not interested, they might read through your query letter and give you pointers on how to improve it so you’ll do better at future querying.

Should I pitch if I haven’t finished my novel yet?

I mean, you caaaan, but I wouldn’t advise it. At somewhere like YALC, pitching events are more about agents giving hopeful authors some one-on-one advice, whether that be on their query letter, or just listening to you explain the premise of your current WIP and telling you if you have a shot at it. So you can, but some pitching events are more serious and require you to have finished the book. If you want a chance at an agent asking to read your work, it really should be finished and edited and ready to be pitched, same as it would if you were querying via email.

Should I bring my book or part of my book with me to the pitch?

No. Again, you can, but if you’re only given a 5 minute window, the agent isn’t going to spend that time reading your work. They’re also probably not going to want to take lots of pages home with them, especially if 20 or 30 other people have the same idea. If they’re interested, or they’re on the fence, you can send them some chapters via email and save some trees too.

What other advice would you give me?

Do your research. Some pitching events are actually for people who only have an idea for a book, rather than a completed novel and visa versa. Some agents will only be looking for specific genres. At the one in YALC, there were agents who repped both children’s books and YA. There were agents who mostly dealt with fantasy, or mostly with contemporary. You can still get some sound advice from an agent who doesn’t represent your genre, but obviously pitching at someone who spends a lot of their time reading books in your genre is definitely going to lead to more concentrated advice.

I can’t attend any events. What about online pitching?

Pitching can be done online too. There are twitter events such as #pitmad which go on several times a year and it’s where hopeful authors post 280 character synopsis of their work and the hashtag. You can post up to three different synopses a day, and then encourage your followers to retweet it to get more attention. If an agent likes your tweet pitch, you send them a query email with some of your writing, and mention on the email that they liked your pitmad pitch.

What if they say no?

If an agent says no to your work, you have a chance to ask them why, which is more than you do in an email query. It might be that they don’t rep your genre, or they don’t think the book is a good fit for them, or they’re not passionate enough about it to want to pursue it, or maybe it isn’t finished yet and they’re not willing to take it on while it’s still being worked on. You can ask, and they should be able to give you details and maybe even a way to improve your work. Just don’t be rude about it, whatever they say.

What if they say yes?

Awesome. They’ll give you an email address to send your query and sample chapters over. Or maybe they’ll ask for the whole book. Just send them what they ask for, cross your fingers and pat yourself on the back. You deserve it.

Has anyone else attended a pitching event and has some advice for it? Let me know in the comment section below ๐Ÿ˜€


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