With RWA National only four weeks away, it's time to warm up those presentation skills for those knee-quaking pitch sessions with editors and agents. To help us prepare, I've invited talented author CJ Lyons to join us with tips on how to successfully pitch your novels to industry professionals. Hope this helps!
Secrets of Pitching from CJ Lyons
Award winning medical suspense author CJ Lyons has had requests for manuscripts every time she has pitched her work. Here are a few of her secrets to success:
First of all, relax. 90% of the time the person you're pitching to is going to ask for your material if it is anything that sounds at all like what they are looking for. And since you did your research ahead of time, you already know what they're looking for, right?
Second of all, the agents and editors will probably listen to 100 or more pitches during their time there. Guess what? They won't remember any of them.
BUT they might remember you. That's what you want, to make an impression—hopefully a good one.
Why? To build that emotional Velcro, make a connection.
So, how to make a good impression? Of course, be professional, act professional. Come prepared, display poise and confidence. Have a business card to offer, lay it on the table between you so the agent can glance at it when they're forgotten your name.
On the back of this business card, type the title of your book and a short (15-20 words) hook or tag line. This way the editor will remember both you and your book when they get back to NYC.
Next, use your pitch to elicit questions. Remember, you are NOT there to describe your book. You're there to make an impression, so that when you send in your work the agent or editor will remember you.
Keep your actual pitch short and sweet, to hook your audience and keep them asking for more. It's that simple.
So you give your twenty second pitch (it shouldn't be any longer) and the agent nods and asks a few questions and wants the full manuscript. Mission accomplished, right?
Not quite. That should take maybe five minutes, probably less, of your allotted time. Don't waste the rest!! Use it to cement that professional impression, to increase that emotional Velcro.
Think of it as a job interview—only now it's YOUR turn. Come prepared with some well-thought out professional questions for your agent and editor. Things that will make that glazed expression in their eyes fade away as they sit up and actually talk with you instead of being barraged with pitches.
Here are a few:
--where do you see the (insert genre) market going?
--any recent successes? OR better yet, do your research ahead of time and compliment them on a client's success
--what's the best advice you would give a writer trying to break in?
--what's the best book you've read recently?
You get the picture. Suddenly you've turned a one-way pitch session into a professional conversation. Guess what? People remember conversations. People have conversations with people they like. People they want to do business with.
Bingo!! Mission accomplished!
Also, be prepared by bringing the synopsis and first few chapters with you. 99% of the time the agent or editor will NOT want them (they don't want to carry stuff on the plane back home) but there are exceptions.
The very first time I ever (ever!) pitched it was to Donald Maass. He liked my pitch, liked my credentials even more (it was a medical thriller) and asked if I had the first chapter with me. To my amazement, he sat there and read it, right in front of me!
He made it through the first ten pages or so and proceeded to give me the best writing lesson I ever had. He ripped it to shreds, told me about conflict on every page and basically our fifteen minute meeting turned into a very dynamic critique session as we brainstormed alternative openings and plot lines.
Moral of the story: always be prepared.
Thanks for reading and good luck with your pitches!
Award winning medical suspense author CJ Lyons is a physician trained in Pediatric Emergency Medicine. Winner of the Golden Gateway and a Golden Heart Finalist in Romantic Suspense, CJ is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Romance Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime. Her writing has appeared in Romantic Times BookReviews, CrimeSpree and Spinetingler. Look for her debut novel, LIFELINES, coming from Berkley in April, 2008. Contact her at www.cjlyons.net
CJ, thanks for joining us today! I'd love to hear from our readers how they best prepare for pitch sessions. Good luck to everyone at National!