Pitching your work to agents and editors is difficult and when things don’t go according to plan, it can do a number on you. So, based on my past writers conference experiences, I thought I’d make a list of my top 3 what to do when your pitch goes less than perfect.
What to do when:
1. You forget your name. This may be an exaggeration, but it is quite possible that the pitch you have been practicing for weeks flies from your head and you don’t even remember who your characters are, where your book is set or the time period.
Personal Example: While I haven’t forgotten my name, I have forgotten the theme of my work and oh, you know, the basic plot of my story haha and to top it all off, I think my voice shook the entire time…good times folks. Good times.
Fix: Take a deep breath, apologize and try again. Most editors and agents are very nice and extremely understanding as they are used to writers being nervous around them.
2. The agent/editor is tired (of listening). If you have a morning or an end of the day slot, chances are that they are going to be either physically exhausted or tired of hearing pitches.
Personal Example: Last year (before I signed with my agent), I went to a writers conference and pitched to an agent that I had thought would be the perfect fit to rep my work. Let’s just say she looked bored out of her mind, gave me about 3 sentences of pretty hard criticism and dismissed me. As a new writer, I was super discouraged to have an agent I was looking forward to meeting brush me off and I thought:
Very dramatic haha, but at the time, I didn’t understand why I received that no, but I trusted that the Lord knew what He was doing and kept pitching. Not 4 months later, I was signed with Tamela and I can’t imagine having a more perfect fit who is EXCITED about my stories and works tirelessly to make sure my work gets in front of top editors!!
Fix: Try to put yourself into the agent’s/editor’s shoes and don’t believe the lie that your fate rests solely in their hands and if they don’t give you their full attention, what’s this been all about??! If they are tired, be polite, keep the pitch short and act like a normal person and don’t be crazed to have their undivided attention. Don’t argue. If their mind is made up, you don’t want to burn bridges by saying something you will regret. It’s close-knit industry and if someone is labeled difficult to work with, it will get around. If they pass on your work because they were too tired to listen, remember that there is probably a better fit out there for you, so take a moment between appointments to gather your thoughts, call a friend and keep going. Don’t be discouraged! You can do this!
3. An agent/editor says no. It takes courage to sit down and pitch your work and even if it you pitch your work flawlessly, it may not be what the agent needs at the moment. While it is disheartening that they aren’t instantly drawn to your book that you’ve spent the last six months or years writing, remember, there are always other agents/editors out there and judgments placed on your book can be relative.
Personal Example: When I received my first conference flat out rejection, it didn’t feel good at all. I was discouraged and felt on the brink of tears. (And I thought I had tough skin after going through hundreds of critique sessions in my Masters program. HA!) Well, I regrouped, gave myself about fifteen minutes to contemplate the meaning of my writing life haha and tried not to let it ruin the rest of my conference experience.
Fix: Don’t be discouraged and stop writing. Listen to their advice and either take it/take some of it or leave it and try again. At the least, you can always use practice on your pitch, so even if they say no, it’s not a loss because with each pitch in front of agents/editors, you are getting better and learning something.
While pitching can be difficult at first, it does get “easier” with each passing pitch! Don’t forget to celebrate the little victories and give yourself a mental round of applause when your appointment does go well!
I hope my stories of pitches past helps!