Get comfortable with the territory
When you arrive at conference and receive your pitch appointment time go and find the pitch room. Do it now before you’re swept up in the excitement of catching up with friends and going to events. A pitch room will often be a meeting room tucked away from where the main workshop rooms are located and can be tricky to find. Last year a couple of frantic first timers stopped by the information desk with just minutes to spare, desperate to know where their pitch was being held.
Get comfortable with the Editor
Eyeball the editor or agent before your pitch if you can. If she’s speaking at a plenary or workshop, go along and listen. She might have something to say that affects how you pitch. If you’ve done your homework there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises about what she’s looking for but her comments may make you want to adjust your pitch a little so you hit the notes she’s interested in. And at the end of a pitch, an editor will sometimes ask if you have any questions. An intelligent question about something she talked about in her workshop is a lot better than ‘nope’.
Don’t shake hands. There are differing opinions on this but frankly if I was sitting in a room all afternoon I’d not want to shake every hand offered, especially in what is our prime virus season. The editor won’t offer so don’t put her on the spot by extending your hand.
Get comfortable with yourself
When the time comes, it’s quite all right to get up in the middle of your workshop and leave for your pitch then return when it’s over. The speaker won’t be offended nor the audience. You’ll see a small steady stream of people coming and going all day.
Don’t go too early. Don’t arrive too late. Getting there early is great but there’s only so much room in the waiting area not to mention a collective nervousness that can take over. On the other hand, sliding into a pitch with seconds to spare is also to be avoided.
Take a supporter if you want but don’t take a whole team. They will clog up the waiting space and a lot of nervous women make a lot of noise. They can’t help it. J It could also be counter-productive to keeping you calm.
If you get a request don’t squeal as soon as you leave the room (it does happen). Usually the door is still open while the pitch moderator introduces the next person to the editor.
Practice your pitch. The first year I pitched I went to conference totally unprepared. Because I sell for a living I planned to just sit down and sell my story. A lovely friend I made at that conference said, “okay so pretend I’m the editor, sell it to me.” Er…
Keep it professional and keep it in perspective. If you didn’t get a request maybe your project wasn’t for that editor. Did you do your homework about what they’re looking for? Listen carefully to what the editor says because she will tell you why she’s not interested and if it’s to do with your story (as opposed to it being not what she’s looking for) you may need to work on that point before you pitch to someone else.
Wardrobe. Be comfortable but present a persona that tells the editor that if they sign you, you’re presentable in public.
Don’t take your manuscript with you. Much as we all fantasise about an editor leaping across the table and demanding to read this masterpiece you’ve created, she will never ask for a copy on the spot.
And remember, editors and agents are there because they’re hungry for interesting new talent. They are always pleasant and they’ll listen attentively to your pitch. They’re used to picking through a pitch to find out if there are the elements of a good story and they will ask questions. Know your story back to front and be prepared to discuss it in depth.
So they’re my tips. What about you? Do you have any tips that have helped you when pitching?