How to Make the Most of Your Pitch Session

30 May

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If you’re an unpublished author, your book needs to be polished and ready to send before you pitch it.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?




Posted by on May 30, 2011 in Idaho, RWA Nationals, writers


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25 responses to “How to Make the Most of Your Pitch Session

  1. Janis

    May 30, 2011 at 7:42 AM

    Thanks, Clarissa,

    Excellent tips that are sensible and “doable.”

    • Patti Yager Delagrange

      May 30, 2011 at 8:58 AM

      I won’t be able to make nationals this year but I wish all of you luck in your pitching sessions. Thank you for the tips.

      • Clarissa Southwick

        May 31, 2011 at 7:16 PM

        Thank you, Patti. We will miss you at Nationals. Thanks for the the good wishes.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      May 31, 2011 at 7:15 PM

      Thank you, Janis. You’ve taught me a thing or two about writing pitches too. 🙂

  2. Carley Ash

    May 30, 2011 at 7:47 AM

    Appreciate the tips, and will remember them as I begin pitching my manuscript. Thank you.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      May 31, 2011 at 7:16 PM

      I’m looking forward to hearing your pitch, Carley. Call me if you need an audience. Your book is such a mystery 🙂

  3. Abigail Sharpe

    May 30, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    And don’t forget to relax. 🙂

    • Clarissa Southwick

      May 31, 2011 at 7:18 PM

      Possibly the best advice ever. Thank you, Abigail. I think we commiserated about pitches at Nationals last year. 🙂

  4. Meredith Conner

    May 30, 2011 at 8:30 AM

    Great advice as usual Clarissa!

    • Clarissa Southwick

      May 31, 2011 at 7:19 PM

      Thanks, Meredith. I hope you’re planning to pitch this year. I can’t wait to hear more about your witch story 🙂

  5. Carly Carson

    May 30, 2011 at 8:55 AM

    I think it’s important to do as much research as possible on the person you’re pitching. If possible, read some books they’ve edited/agented. Then be sure you have a couple questions you can ask them.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      May 31, 2011 at 7:20 PM

      Another great suggestion. I always freeze up when it’s my turn to ask questions. I probably should prepare some in advance.

  6. Liz Fredericks

    May 30, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    I’m going to my first conference and am gearing up on ‘the pitch’. I plan to practice using Clarissa’s points and those offered in comments. Excellent and timely post, Clarissa. Thanks to you and the the writers who offer advice in comments.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      May 31, 2011 at 7:21 PM

      You’ll have a wonderful pitch session, I’m sure. Your story is just fantastic. Good luck.

  7. MKHutchins

    May 30, 2011 at 11:55 AM

    The other great advice I’ve heard is to stop talking when you’re done and let the agent have a chance to say “yes!” (hopefully). This was a really cool way to break down pitching — it makes it sound doable and not so intimidating.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      May 31, 2011 at 9:20 PM

      Wow. Another fantastic suggestion. Hard for me, but what a payoff. Thanks, MK!

  8. Debby Lee

    May 30, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    I won’t be going to National this year but next year I plan on being there. And I plan on utilizing these tips for pitching. Thanks so much for sharing Clarissa.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      May 31, 2011 at 9:20 PM

      Debby, Thanks for commenting. We will miss you at Nationals but maybe we’ll see you at ECWC in the fall.

  9. lynn mapp

    May 30, 2011 at 7:57 PM

    I won’t be going to National this year either, but you have shared important tips. Thanks, Clarissa.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      May 31, 2011 at 9:21 PM

      Wah! Wish you could go with us, Lynn. Have a wonderful, stress-free summer break.

  10. Donna Goode

    May 31, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    I won’t be headed to NYC this year, either, Clarissa but these are very good tips since there are pitch sessions throughout the year. Thank you!

    • Clarissa Southwick

      May 31, 2011 at 9:22 PM

      Hi Donna. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment. Maybe you’ll have good luck at a regional conference 🙂

  11. Kimberly Kincaid

    May 31, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    I pitched last year, and the one thing that I was so worried about pitching the book (the plot! the characters! the personal arcs! ooo, don’t forget to touch on that dark moment!) that I forgot to tell the agent the title and subgenre of my book!

    Luckily, she asked (and we laughed about it), but I’d say the best piece of advice I can offer is to look the agent or editor in the eye, give him her a natural, confident smile, and tell her your name and the title of your book! *Then* pitch it. Hehe!

    • Clarissa Southwick

      May 31, 2011 at 9:24 PM

      Isn’t it nice that agents and editors can be so understanding? Smile, name, title, subgenre. Got it! Thanks for commenting, Kimberly 🙂

  12. Donna Cummings

    June 2, 2011 at 8:54 AM

    Great tips! And so clever, comparing it to customer satisfaction, which really is our goal. 🙂 I think I forget that sometimes, because I’m focusing on “selling” my pitch. Now you’ve made me think how to revise my methods!


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