Insecure Writer's Support Group : Pitching your book to Agents - My flip-side tale

Posted on January 9, 2014
A few weeks ago I posted some advice to a fellow author who was looking for critique on her book blurb and elevator pitch. I gave her some tips I had learned while attending a Pitchapalooza event in New York City.

Pitchapalooza is basically a chance for any author to pitch her story in person to a group of agents from different NYC agencies looking for new talent. It's a raffle, so only twenty or so people got to pitch in front of the audience of agents and about three dozen aspiring authors. Mine was the second name drawn; my heart nearly beat out of my chest!

In the end, each agent decides if they want to take on one of the manuscripts based solely on the 1-minute pitch. (They actually use a buzzer!)  After the raffle winners all pitch their books, the agents meet privately for a few minutes and make their decisions. Throughout the event, agents also gave out a few tips on technique, style, and efficiency.  Below are a few things they emphasized in the event, or at least the points I took away:

  • You need to pitch your story in 1 minute or less, VERBALLY. If it sounds great verbally, it will read even better in print or an email. Recite the pitch over and over. (My entire pitch fit in just at the buzzer.)
  • Introduce your leading characters immediately and let your reader know what's at stake. 
  • Make your reader want more by posting a question in the pitch that will make them wonder, even worry about your characters. "Will she survive?" "Will he show up at the wedding?" (They gave several examples.)
  • Once you nail down #1, then the book blurb should be similar to your pitch with just a little extra. This would also be the email you send to agents/publishers or anyone you want to sell your book to. The idea is the same with the back of the book or the online book blurb: you want to entice your readers/agents/publishers as quickly as possible.
Before the event, I had researched pitching techniques online, studied loads of best sellers and tried to copy their book blurb formats, their "formula", and created the pitch below for A Selfish Moment which I read to the group:

Jubilee Ray wakes up Saturday morning in a strange bed with a handsome guy asleep at her side and no memory of how she got there. Everett Salerno wakes up ecstatic about the incredible night he spent with Jubilee. She can’t wait to get out of his apartment and he can’t wait to start their romance. Jubilee is a blackout drunk. Everett is drunk with love.  

Their one-night-stand ends almost as quickly as it began, however fate has other plans in mind. In the next three days filled with impossible coincidences, humiliating moments, and mouthwatering recollections, Everett can’t find the right moment to express his intentions and Jubilee can’t let go of her past long enough to really give Everett a chance.

Neither Jubilee nor Everett can let go of that first night together. Was that one perfect evening a fluke, or was it a preview of something greater than they ever imagined?

To my surprise, and to that of my friend who accompanied me to the Pitchapalooza event, I was chosen by one of the agents for my pitch for A Selfish Moment. Here's the Wall Street Journal article covering the event. I'm the "romance novel set in queens" author the reporter is referring to. Apparently, the other two winners made a bigger impression on the reporter since he got their full names and book titles in the article.  (I was so looking forward to seeing my name in the paper. GRRR. One step forward, two steps back.)

Kate McKean took my manuscript, read it and decided my dual-perspective format wasn't what she was looking for. She did say my writing voice was wonderful and that I had a good sense of dialog, but she was expecting a traditional romance novel, a single POV with a lot more sexual elements. I sent out a couple query letters to a few more romance-novel agents, using the same pitch and got a handful of requests for the manuscript. All of the agents returned with similar response about disliking the dual perspective format. I decided not to change a thing with my novel, because I absolutely LOVE both gal's and guy's perspective and the fact that it's not littered with sex, and took the self publishing route.

Nothing tangible came from "winning" Pitchapalooza, except it gave me more confidence in my pitching abilities. I even went back and rewrote my blurb for Dramani, my sci-fi novel. I don't remember the pitch I had before the event, but I recall thinking it was a mess.

As I push through the first round of editing on my current WIP and fumble with the first rough drafts of the pitch, I find myself doing what I did back in May of 2013....studying best sellers in the same genre and reading pointers on how pitching a book.

Thank goodness for bookmarks!

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If you liked this post, don’t forget to visit other bloggers in the Insecure Writers Support Group! Lots of great authors with tips, tales, and tootsie rolls.



8 comments:

  1. so glad I found your post! and holy crap about the buzzer!! great advice and tidbits here. now following your very informative, yet wise to the bone blog!

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    1. Thanks Tammy! The buzzer was totally unexpected and nerve wrecking.

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  2. I'd probably faint from anxiety in front of the audience and agents. Good advice and a littler downer 'cause you walked away without an agent after winning. It's almost impossible to get one. I like that your book isn't littered with sex, too much of that lately. You sound confident and tenacious, all the right elements. Your books sound amazing. Good Luck.

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    1. Thanks Cathrina! While the first guy made his pitch, I took a lot of deep breaths to slow down my heart rate, else I think I would have passed out. I'm a clam in real life, especially in the writing field where I'm still a newby. And my friend said I turned beet red when they announced my name at the end. As for not landing an agent...it was a downer but also a learning experience.

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  3. What a process! Don't know if I could do it.

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    1. I didn't think I could do it either Wendy, but with a room full of aspiring authors who never pitched in front of an audience before and being critiqued by agents like everyone else....we were all in the same boat and somehow that gives you a sense of relief. We're not alone in our struggles.

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  4. Pitching a book is tough enough but in front of people who have buzzers is downright scary so good for you that you got accepted and talked about in the WSJ-You did great in my eyes

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    1. You know Birgit, each time they pressed that button they made everyone in the audience jump in their seats. It was funny enough that you could hear a chuckle or two at each buzzer, and a lot of exhales. We were all holding out breaths.

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