Many authors find pitching scary, whether they’re talking to editors and agents or to readers. Sometimes, this fear (or nerves, if you prefer) is responsible for the pitch running far too long and becoming convoluted. Often, authors think they need to read the pitch off a card or “cheat sheet,” to keep themselves from forgetting critical elements.
Nervousness, the “need to read” and stress-induced over-complication of pitches are symptoms of the same problem, and today we’ll talk about how to overcome it.
Tip #1: Write a Strong, SHORT, Pitch That Can Be Delivered in a Single Sentence.
If the pitch is too long, too complex, or too hard to remember, delivering it will always be more stressful. Crafting a quality, one-sentence pitch that hooks the reader does take time and effort (often hours’ worth), but it’s critical to successful pitching of an author’s work. Spend as many hours as it takes to write a high-quality, one-sentence pitch – and then get feedback from readers and other writers.
Tip #2: Memorize the (One-Sentence) Pitch For Your Novel, And Practice It Until It Feels Completely Natural.
If the pitch is too complex or too difficult to memorize, you haven’t finished revising it. Go back to the drawing board and edit, revise, and rework it until it rolls smoothly off the tongue. Commit your pitch to memory, and practice it until it flows naturally when you deliver it – and let your passion for your work show in the delivery.
Many authors panic at the thought of pitching without a cheat sheet. You spent months or years writing this work. You can remember what it’s about. The point of a single-sentence pitch is that you don’t need a cheat sheet – you’re starting a conversation, not giving a TED talk.
Tip #3: Practice your pitch in front of “things with eyes” before you try it on real people.
Many people have a fear of speaking in public, or to strangers. One way to ease into the process is practicing the pitch in front of LEGO men, stuffed animals, or similar inanimate “things with eyes.” Pets make excellent practice audiences also. Practicing in front of a non-human audience can help build confidence until you’re ready to try in front of real people.
Tip #4: Move up to practicing in front of people – family, friends, and other (supportive) authors.
Ask the audience for feedback, or to role-play a conversation with an editor or agent. You can also ask someone to film you (or film yourself) to see the pitch from the audience perspective. When people offer feedback, don’t dismiss it. Even if you disagree, ask yourself why they believe the critique is true. Something in your delivery (or pitch) made the listener react; your job is to figure out why, and adjust if necessary.
Tip #5: Remember that editors and agents who take pitches actually do want to hear about acquire new projects.
Most people want to hear your pitch, as long as it’s short and sweet. What people don’t want to hear is lengthy, convoluted backstory-logged explanation read off a page. That’s not a pitch.
Tip #6: Do your research in advance, and pitch only editors and agents who want to hear about books of your type and genre.
No matter how much you might want to publish with a given publisher, or work with a certain agent, your work must be a fit or the pitch will fail.
If you write a stellar one-sentence pitch, work up confidence with practice, and choose the right people to pitch, you can overcome fear. For some authors, pitching will always be stressful, but with time, practice, and preparation it does get easier.
Now, get out there and nail that pitch.
And here’s your seahorse palate-cleanser:
Today, it’s Vega, peeking out from behind the sea fans. Seahorses are timid by nature, but given time and opportunity they get more confident with the camera. Let her confidence inspire you!