So you've scheduled a time to meet face to face with a literary agent at a Pitch Session. Now What?
The most important thing to remember about a literary agent is that THEY WANT TO BELIEVE IN YOU AND YOUR MANUSCRIPT. They are just as hopeful to find the next big success story as you are to become that shining star. So don't allow yourself to be intimidated by the process. The best way to stay focused and calm is to remember the agent is on your side. Keeping this in mind, and being prepared, will help you make the most of your agent pitch session.
First, remember, you're already ahead of the game because you have a direct in. You're meeting your agent in person. This gives you a tremendous advantage. Nearly 90% of all queries come from people who have very little knowledge of the publishing industry and the process involved to get a book to market. But when an agent meets an author or aspiring author at a writers' conference pitch session, they know that person is dedicated to learning more about the craft of writing, publishing, and promoting a book with professionalism.
Before the conference, take some time to do a little homework. Agents are always impressed when a writer knows something about their agency and the writers they represent. It helps to know where your manuscript falls in the marketplace. For instance, who is the audience? What types of publishers are likely to buy your book?
Educate yourself on books similar to yours that have already been published, then be prepared to share why yours is different. What category does it fall into, who is your target audience, and how will it fit within the market?
Prepare a pitch in which you present your proposed piece in a comfortably condensed version of the full story. Practice that pitch until you can deliver it effortlessly. DO NOT MEMORIZE a script. You don't want to come off as though you are giving a canned speech. Be enthusiastic about your manuscript. If you can't show that you're excited about it, then why should an agent be? Remember, enthusiasm is contagious!
The point of the pitch session is to get your manuscript read. You’re not there to chat, make a new friend, or share the problems you’re having with your writing. You're there to convince them that you are a professional and your manuscript is worthy of having a look.
For fiction, break down the pitch into three points: the set-up, the hook, and a final resolution. For nonfiction, explain what the book is about, how and why you are qualified to write on the topic, who will read it, and how you are able to promote it.
Agents are not usually likely to carry your manuscript home with them. And don’t expect them to read your synopsis while you wait. Sell the agent on you as a writer and then the book you’re presenting. It is far more helpful to convince the agent of your vision, talent, and commitment first, and then hopefully about the book itself. Don't worry if they don't show too much interest at the time. If the agent is interested, they will usually follow up at a later date.
Be prepared with a few questions. If the agent asks you if you have any questions for them, you're going to want to be prepared to pose questions which show you've done your homework. A few questions you may wish to ask could include asking about their agenting style, or asking them to share with you a little about the process including the next steps. This session is as much about you as it is about them. Before you sign with an agent, you'll want to get to know them. Having a good relationship with a literary agent is important, so make sure you feel comfortable passing the baton to this person as they carry your manuscript through to the next step in the publishing game.
Don't talk yourself out of this. If you start to get nervous about your pitch session remember, you typically have a year to get a completed manuscript to your agent. If you're afraid it's not ready yet, that's fine. The purpose of this session is to see if the story idea fits with them. They'll want to know your book is marketable. So sell them on the idea.
You've signed up for this session. This is your time, so use it wisely. If the session wraps up more quickly than expected you can use any additional time to ask them for tips about your query letter, or about other manuscript ideas you may be considering.
Many best wishes for an enlightening and highly successful pitch session!