The RWA National Annual Conference takes place in four weeks, and the internet is abuzz with tips on how to sharpen your pitch. Entire workshops are devoted to squishing characters, plot, goals, motivation, and conflict into the time allowed. With proper preparation, most serious writers manage to get a request from their chosen editor and/or agent when they pitch at Nationals.
You might consider that a success, but the ultimate goal is to sell your book. There’s more to sales than simply advertising. And there’s more to pitching than simply getting a request for a partial. If you want to sell your book, you have to leave your editor/agent feeling like you were worth the time she spent on you. That’s customer satisfaction in the world of publishing.
Speaking of customer satisfaction, think about the last time you felt like you’d been cheated by a salesman. Chances are the problem fell into one of the following categories:
The product or service was not as advertised.
The work was not performed on time.
There was no customer service after the sale.
Let’s see what these problems tell us about how we should make the most of our pitching opportunity.
The Product Needs to Match the Pitch
When you pitch at a conference, you are presenting yourself as a serious writer. Inherent in that is a promise that you have taken the time to learn the craft, to finish your manuscript, and polish it to industry standards. If you haven’t done these things, then you’re misrepresenting your product. Don’t pitch before you’re ready.
No matter how well you write, the tone of your pitch needs to match the tone of your novel. If your pitch is plot-based and the novel is character-driven, the editor/agent is going to feel like you misled him. Don’t promise Star Wars and send in Little Women.
The Product Needs to be Delivered on Time
If you’re an unpublished author, your book needs to be polished and ready to send before you pitch it. Ideally, you would send it as soon as you got done pitching. But sometimes, something you see at the conference might give you an idea on how to tweak it and make it better. If that’s the case, it’s best to be upfront with the editor/agent and agree on a time frame for submission. You don’t want to leave them with the impression that you can’t be counted on to make your deadlines.
Customer service after the pitch
So you’ve pitched your novel, and sent in the partial. If you’re lucky, this will result in a request for a full. But you might be advised to “revise and resubmit.” This is where you get to show off your customer service skills. Listen carefully and make sure you understand what they’re asking you to do. If you agree to the changes, then make them as quickly as you can while maintaining the quality of writing. The editor/agent will take note of how easy (or difficult) you are to work with.
I hope these tips have given you something to think about as you prepare you pitch. For those of you who have pitched before, please share your expertise. What’s the best pitching advice you ever received?