Monday, July 12, 2010

RWA Nationals Is Around The Corner – Are you ready to pitch?

Yesterday at TARA (Tampa Area Romance Authors) was our normal July meeting. With RWA National conference the month of July, we typically have what we call a Bird of a Feather meeting. We have critique groups by genre and it’s just a great day. This year we added a shorter morning workshop with Kimberly Llewellyn who talked about pitching. It was great. People even signed up to pitch their story to Kim at the end of the workshop. In front of everyone. Kim acted as the agent/editor (she reminded us several times she was a published author, not an agent or editor), and once they were through she asked questions much as would happen in a pitch appointment. It was great and amazing what you can hear when your listening. They all had really good/great pitches.

This got me to thinking back to my very first pitch. Several years ago (okay, more than several), I wrote an article on “Pitch That Story”. I was going to my very first RWA National conference. I didn’t have an appointment to see an editor/agent as my wip wasn’t finished. But I was working on a pitch.

Why? My book wasn’t finished, so why did I need a pitch? Because people will ask you about your book. You never know who you may end up talking with, meeting through another friend, or by simply having a drink at the bar. Oh and yes, the smoking area. It amazed me at my first conference how many people who DO NOT smoke, hang out in the smoking area. Lot’s of great connections happen there.

Anyway, back to the pitching thing. Whether you have an appointment or not, you should have an elevator pitch ready. Yes, if your wip isn’t complete.

Creating the perfect pitch sounds easy, right? Not so much. You’ve written the book and you know every detail that to you seem major important. Don’t get me wrong, each of those details are important. To the book. Not to the pitch.

Maybe you do have a pitch appointment or perhaps you’re going to check out any open/canceled spots. Either way you’re working on the pitch. You’ve got roughly eight minutes to tell them everything you believe will hook them and have them wanting more. The eight minutes is if you’re in an appointment. If you’re in the elevator you’ve got a couple of minutes at best.

Sit down, type out a summary of your book. If you have too, type bullet points of each chapter. Then condense those bullet points to one or two sentences for each chapter. Then condense again. One or two sentences for every three chapters. Touch on the most important parts of the story. The hero and heroine’s names are the only names you’ll want to use. Secondary character’s may be important to your story, but using their names in a pitch will only confuse the person you’re pitching to.

Don’t forget the GMC, goal, motivation, conflict. Someone wants something, but can’t have it because. Your pitch isn’t a synopsis. It’s more like a backcover blurb you’d read on the back of books. You can’t add to many words or it’s no longer a pitch. No one wants to pitch their work to an agent or editor only to see said agent/editors eyes glaze over when your in the middle of it.

Kathy Carmichael has an awesome pitch generator. It’s a starting off point though. You then have to do the same as you would with you wip. You have to flesh it out.

If you don’t have an appointment and especially if this is your first year, think about volunteering at the appointments if they still need people. Lkap and I met a lot of agents and editors that first year. It’s a good thing to volunteer at Nationals. People learn who you are and you are giving back your time to our “Mother Chapter”.

Back to the non-appointment but still need that pitch concern. I’d been told by several that while I may not have the actual appointment since I’d be there for quite a few hours directing appointment traffic that more often than not the volunteers are asked what they write and what it’s about. Again, several friends who did this the past several years were asked for partials just by volunteering and talking with the agents and editors.

I realize that this may or may not happen to anyone who is volunteering. But if it does you don’t want to stand there fumbling over your words. Looking like you have no idea what you write, how long it will be, and what the conflict and hook is.

And then there’s the sitting in the bar, riding the elevator, and just general conversation that could lead to someone asking: Tell me about your book question.

So, here I sit working on the all important pitch. Nope. This pitch isn’t for a finished book and no I don’t have an appointment (because my current wip isn’t finished). I am working hard to make it a back cover blurb in fewer words yet still giving what the book is about all the while making the person asking feel like “I’ve just got to read this.”

What about you? Are you pitching at nationals? Writing a query letter? Or are you reading a great book that you chose because of what you read on the back?



Cynthia Sherrick said...

I'm going to my first Nationals and I'm very excited! I'm pitching to an agent and an editor and I'm just about ready. I have my pitch ready but I'm working on two more pitches for my other two manuscripts.
Fingers crossed. :]

Vicki said...

Your pitch is awesome! I know you're going to love nationals. Everywhere you turn will be people who love what you love. Of course, there isn't much sleeping and some of the best stuff happens around the bar at night. Can't wait!!