I was super pleased recently when my friend Sasha Greene (2016 winner of Kosta’s Olive Tree short story competition ) got a well-deserved 10 minute pitch with an agent. I’ve invited her on to my blog to talk about what she learned from the pitch.
Meeting with, and pitching to an agent is the holy grail for most authors but also terrifying. You were recently lucky enough to attend a pitching event run by a well known agent so tell us, how did you feel when you secured the appointment?
I was both excited and and also a little bit scared! I’m never very good at selling things as I generally think people should be allowed to make decisions for themselves without things being pushed in their faces, but what really helped me is that I genuinely believe that the manuscript I was pitching is a really good story that deserves to be published.
Did you do any research/preparation prior to the appointment?
I didn’t do much research prior to the appointment, but I did do a lot before sending in my submission. I took a good look at the agency website and made sure that the agent I was pitching to would be interested in the genre that I was submitting. Once I had decided on the agent I thought would be the best then I had a look at the authors that person represented and even bought a couple of those authors’ books to see what their writin
g was like. I was also very fortunate to get some really valuable input from another lovely RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) member on things that had worked for her in cover letters to agents. Then I carefully crafted my cover letter, making sure that I also adhered to the agency guidelines about what they wanted me to mention. When preparing for the pitch session I had a good think about what messages I wanted to put across and how I could best convey them in a simple way.
What sort of things did the agent expect from you during the pitch?
I think every agent will be very different in this, but I have the feeling they always ask some variant of the question “What is your book about?” It’s always good if you can describe it succinctly. I was helped by the fact that I had answered a lot of the basic questions in my cover letter so we could really make the most of the time I had. The agent was also really nice so that was a real bonus that I was very happy about!
What did you learn from the experience?
It wasn’t my first pitching session; I was lucky enough to have three sessions last year at the RNA conference so that helped a lot in knowing what to expect. Even if it’s not ultimately successful, any practice at these sort of things is great. However I realised specifically this time around that it’s essential to prepare, but in the end I just had to play it by ear as I couldn’t really tell in advance exactly what they might say or what
questions they might ask. We did also discuss my current work in progress and I also feel that helped as it showed that I am serious about writing.
What would you do differently?
I think I would be less nervous next time. it’s a bit like job interviews; they get easier the more practice you get!
Any hints for anyone facing a pitch?
I think probably the following:
– Do your research. Most agents have a list of what they are looking for and provide lots of useful information on their websites and twitter feeds.
– Know your work. Be prepared to answer in-depth questions about it.
– Be confident in the quality of what you are offering. If you don’t think your work is good then it’s going to be much harder to sell it to anyone else.
– Be concise. Ten minutes just flies by.
– Ask for feedback if they don’t offer it willingly. It’s free advice from someone in the industry so why wouldn’t you?
I think most importantly though be yourself. OK, so you probably want to put your best side forward, but if you don’t get on at the start it’s going to be more of a challenge to end up with a solid working relationship!
And also remember that if you get to the pitch stage they have already seen your writing and you wouldn’t be there if they didn’t like it, or at least think it has potential, so take courage and go in with your head held high.
Wonderful advice Sasha, thank you for sharing! Best of luck with your WIP.
You can find out more about Sasha at http://sashagreene.wordpress.com/
and follow her at @SashaGreeneAuth