Becoming pitch perfect

A couple of weeks ago, I signed up to take part in Savvy Authors‘ Pitch Practice Week (seriously, if you’re not a savvy author already, go join now! So many fantastic resources and opportunities).

We were invited over to Pitch University, a site dedicated to helping authors learn how to pitch. The amazing Diane Holmes, founder of Pitch University, chose six of us to make examples out of – in the most pleasant way possible.

I learned loads from Diane, and hope this post showing the different steps we went through together will help you get over any fears you have. (And, if you make it to the end, I’ll show you my practice pitch video.)

I’ve never pitched anything before. The only pitches I’d ever seen were on The Apprentice and, let’s face it, pitches like this one are more likely to fill me with fear of crashing and burning. (Aside: isn’t it great how the guys in this video assume the wife should do the cleaning, and create a product so she’ll have time and energy left over to pleasure her husband? Lovely.)

These are the steps I went through with Diane.

1. Figure out the expectations you ‘re setting with your query or pitch.

For me, it was easier to start with my query because I had no idea what a successful pitch looked like (hint: Diane has loads of pitch videos on her site, so I’ll link to them later in this post).

Diane made a fantastic point that your query can be beautifully written, but if it doesn’t match the story then you’ve just hooked an agent or editor on something that doesn’t exist.

She read my query and made notes about what she expected the characters to be like and what she thought happened. You can read my query and her expectations here. Then you can read my responses where I realize that some of the expectations I set don’t fit my story.

I can’t tell you how useful this was, and I’ve never seen anyone else suggest it before. My advice to you: do this with someone who doesn’t know your story at all.

2. Correct the wrong expectations you’ve set and figure out where to focus your pitch/query.

Through working with Diane (you can read our back-and-forth conversation about my story) I was able to see which parts of the story I should emphasize more.

3. Write your pitch.

Diane gives some very helpful guidance on writing a pitch. You can also find her series on Pitching 101 on the right-hand side of that page. There’s too much advice for me to replicate it here, but go read it.

4. Watch yourself pitch.

This can be really awful. When I took a public speaking class in college, the professor videoed every one of our speeches and made us watch them. Excruciating. But also pretty useful for forcing you to see what kinds of strange mannerisms you have when you’re nervous, and hear the places where you need to put more oomph into your voice.

Here are some great pitch videos from other Savvy Authors.

You can record your own video directly onto YouTube – you don’t have to show it to anyone. Just get used to the sound of yourself pitching, and make note of where you should trim your sentences because they’re difficult to say out loud.

Okay, moment of truth. I’m sharing my pitch practice video with you. It’s way too long – I’ll never remember all those words when I’m pitching for real. So I still have work to do. But at least now I’m more confident I can deliver.

A few words of warning before you hit play: My mic sucks, and so does my voice. This is what I sound like with a stuffy nose and a sore throat (which is why you’ll see me grimace and swallow hard whenever I try to put more enthusiasm into my voice). The main thing going through my head was “Whatever you do, DON’T sneeze on the camera!” By the end, my throat was killing me.

So yeah, pity me.

BONUS! Helpful info from super-agent Sara Megibow!

Sara Megibow hosted an #askagent session on Twitter the other day, and I asked her what some of her favorite follow-up questions are if someone’s hooked her in a pitch – because you don’t want to nail your pitch and then fluff the rest of the meeting.

She said, “I like to ask, ‘have you queried this?’ ‘Do you have a website?’ ‘What’s your vision for your career?’ I also ask, ‘what other authors in your genre do you love?’ ‘Do you know any of them personally?’

Hope that’s helpful to all of you heading to RWA Nationals next week! I’ll see you there!

Have you ever pitched before? What kind of experience did you have? What follow-up questions did the agent or editor ask?

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8 Comments

Filed under Writer's toolbox

8 responses to “Becoming pitch perfect

  1. Really useful post. I particularly like the idea of trying your pitch out on someone who doesn’t know your book. If your pitch is misleading, readers will be disappointed. I’m off to tweet!

    • Katrina

      Yes, trying it out on someone else showed me several areas I needed to strengthen – not just in my pitch but in my story itself.

      Glad you liked the post, Roz!

  2. Pitching sucks … BUT … the agents & editors are usually looking for good stuff and understand that your presentation can have nothing to do with your writing skills. The “best” pitch I ever gave was on where I didn’t know I was talking to an editor. He ended up offering a contract.
    Terry
    Terry’s Place

    • Katrina

      How serendipious, Terry! But I bet that only happened after you’d gotten used to talking about your story in a way that would reflect it well. That’s something that seems to take a lot more practice than I imagined.

  3. What a great post! And I LOVED working with you over at Pitch U. 🙂 I also fell in love with your story, just fyi.

    I’ll be posting your pitch with my recommendations tonight, if I can pull it off. Our PitchFest Submission deadline was Saturday, and I’ve been sorting and verifying submissions ever since. 😉

    I hope to see a lot more of you at Pitch U.

    And for everyone… check out our LEARN tab. We have so much key information at Pitch U that we’ve found a clever way to display it. It’s the little things, you know?

    • Katrina

      Diane, I was hoping to write this post before your PitchFest submission deadline and encourage people to take part, but this darn virus derailed me last week. Looks like you had a great turnout, though – 92 submissions! Wow! How do you have time to write? 🙂

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