Learning to Pitch

In preparation for RWA Nationals, I’ve taken two classes on pitching in the last several months. The first, entitled “The Pitch is Back”, was presented to the Hoover Write Club by my Southern Magic Chapter mates CarlaSwafford, Lexi George, and Heather Leonard. The second, entitled “Mastering the Pitch”, was presented by Michael Hague through RWA.
Both classes were extremely helpful in preparing my pitch. Now, I have to memorize it and practice it a few hundred times before July 19th. If you see me coming, I might throw one of my pitches at you. I hope it results in a homerun and not a strikeout.  (I realize this is the opposite of what a baseball pitcher wants.) I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned.

The Fastball: This is the high concept pitch or the elevator pitch. In case you’re on an elevator and an agent or editor is also there, you need to be able to describe your book in one or two sentences, before the elevator door opens and they run out of there. This might also be called a logline but it needs to be recognizable and give the editor or agent a good idea of what your story is about. For instance, my big idea for a series I’m working on is: Members of a large Southern family, the Brady Bunch in boots and blue jeans, struggle with life and loss on their journeys to lasting love.

The Curveball: This pitch is more like the back cover blurb for a book. It takes a little longer to get to the plate. With this pitch, you can share a few key elements of your story like: Who stars in your story? What motivates them? What obstacles will they have to overcome?

The Screwball: Since this is a difficult pitch to master in the game of baseball, I thought I’d include it as my metaphor for what not to do at a pitch appointment.
-Don’t pitch to the wrong person. Do your research and know who you’re pitching to, so you don’t pitch your contemporary novel to a historical editor.
-Don’t read your pitch from notecards. Memorize it and practice it enough that you can make it conversational.
-Don’t try to tell the whole story. Tell just enough to interest them.
-Don’t screw it up by being rude or overbearing. Smile, make eye contact, and thank them for their time.

 

In order to defeat the anxiety that might sneak up on you when you are ready to pitch, follow this advice: Treat your pitch like you are recommending a good book. Editors are people too and they have a job to do. They are looking for books to buy and they want your book to be good.

For all of my fellow writers who will be pitching at Nationals, I hope your pitch scores a request from the editor/agent of your choice. For my blog readers, wish me luck. I’m on my way…