Pitch, please! 5 Things I Learned While Pitching My Novel for the Very First Time

#writing #tips #novels #creativity
By Whitney Jones

I pitched my novel at a writers conference for the first time ever (!) and I survived. Phew. It was close, but I did it. And because Julie’s got a lot of great info for you guys this week on the process of pitching, I thought I’d jump on board, too!

But I’m not going to talk about how long your pitch should be or how many character names you should mention. If you want those details (and you do!) make sure to read Julie’s posts here and here.

This article is of a more personal nature and includes advice about pitching with friends, meeting strangers, locating restrooms, and more! So, if you anticipate pitching in the near or far future, here’s a first-time pitcher’s perspective of the process.

#1 – Bring backup!

I was super lucky that Julie was at this conference. My Writing Buddy turned into my Pitching Buddy, and I’m not kidding guys, having a pitching buddy by my side helped me stay calm and focused. Or, calm and unfocused when I just needed fun distractions. Things like this are always better with a friend to help you analyze, explore, and celebrate!

#2 – Dress comfortably!

I mean “comfortable” on two levels. First, plain ole physical comfort. You don’t want too-small shoes or broken bra wires pinching and poking you when you’re trying to concentrate. Second, I mean comfortable on the level of style. As I’ve discussed before, clothes are important expressions of your personality. Wear something that makes you feel like you, something that makes you feel bold, confident, and successful!

Me, I chose a high waisted navy blue tea-length skirt and green sleeveless shirt with a tie thingy. I was trying to channel Anne of Green Gables but with a modern vibe. I felt bold and confident and ME. But I failed to attain comfort level 1–my skirt pinched and I was hella glad to trade it in for my leggings when I got home. I’ll know better next time.

#3 – Bring water and know where the bathroom is!

When you’re talking and nervous sweating for intense ten minute periods, you need to stay hydrated. And when you’re hydrated, well, you need to know where to find the closest loo, preferably one nearest the pitching rooms.

#4 – Beware the space outside pitching rooms!

It does not abide by the laws of time. This is not hyperbole. Time slows down there. Five minutes of waiting to start my pitch felt like 30. I could talk to three other on-deck hopeful authors, recheck my notes five times, Google pictures of the agents so I can recognize them without a nameplate, chew one mint, wonder at least twice if I should have gone to the bathroom, tuck in my shirt three times, shake my foot to ward off its impending sleepiness, check the time on my phone again (HOW IS THERE STILL TWO MINUTES LEFT?!), share a nervous smile and laugh with the Pitch Room Guard, and repeat my pitch one last time in my head.

Seriously, what technology are they using to slow down time? I could totally use it while writing.

#5 –  Remember that agents are people too!

They need food and water to keep living. They need bathroom breaks and take notes to remember things. They smile and are bubbly; they are serious or nervous. Like meeting any other stranger at a party or walking down the street, there are some you just click with and others with whom that connection may take more time–but it’s nothing personal. Concentrating on agents’ regular old personhood instead of their super special Agent status helped me stay calm and friendly.

Bonus Tips!

  • Bring snacks you know will keep your energy up
  • End conversations with your business card
  • Smile at strangers–they’re nervous, like you!
  • Buy books
  • Be fierce!

Have any of you guys pitched your work to agents yet? What was it like? Share in the comments–we want to know!

Did you enjoy Whitney’s musings? If so, check out her post on Athletic Writers.

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