Sharon Mignerey on Pitching Your Book
Every writer out there needs to learn to pitch a project. Whether you're participating in a formal pitch session at a conference, asked what you're working on by an agent at a mixer, or on the phone with your editor when she says, "So tell me what you're writing next," you have to be able to boil down your idea into something concise, appealing, and hopefully marketable. Even if you're not great at thinking on your feet, a well-written nugget can be tucked into a query letter or an e-mail and used to great effect.
Recently, author Sharon Mignerey, who's also an amazing writing teacher, wrote an article so terrific on the topic for the Happily Ever After, the newsletter of the West Houston Chapter of the Romance Writers of America, that I asked for her permission to reprint it here, in two parts. She'll also be stopping by the blog the next two days to answer your questions on the topic.
The Pitch . . . Formula or Free-for-all?
by Sharon Mignerey
You’re on your way to the RWA conference in July, and you’ve taken that leap--made an appointment to meet with an editor or an agent.
Editors and agents are looking for new writers and new material. That’s why they attend conferences. That face to face contact with a person is as important to them as it is to you, but remember: it’s only an appointment. Important as the time may seem to you, world peace and your career as a writer do not hang in the balance on that ten or fifteen minutes. . . time that will simultaneously seem like forever and will also seem like trying to explain the plots of Kerrelyn Sparks’ Vampire series in two seconds flat.
Michael Hauge, author of Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds has this sage advice: Your only goal is to get an editor or agent to read your story. That’s all. Sounds simple enough, right? Except I know what you’re thinking. That elevator pitch you keep hearing about is a bit like trying to stuff a size 22 woman into a size 2 bikini. And you’re right. It can’t be done, not without things flopping out all over the place that should never, ever flop.
The following pointers will help you.
First, relax! Though you may view editors and agents as god-like creatures who hold your future in their hands, they do spit when they brush their teeth, and they do want the same thing you do – a good book (hopefully yours) in print. Editors, especially new ones, are often just as nervous as you are and just as anxious as you to make a good impression. Agents may be more extroverted, but they, too, want to make a good impression. When you put them at ease, you’ll be doing the same for yourself.
Second, be prepared. Your appointment will go more smoothly if you know what you want to talk about before you arrive. Whether you’re talking to an editor or an agent, they want to know about your work and about you. So, to prepare for that appointment . . .
Figure out what your story is about.
So how, exactly, are we supposed to do that? Stay tuned for tomorrow's post containing a terrific "formula," helpful examples, and some more of Sharon's excellent tips.
If you have questions about pitching fiction project, please feel free to ask away, and we'll do our best to help.
Guest Blogger bio: Sharon Mignerey can personally attest that she gets just as nervous pitching to editors and agents now as she did as an unpublished author. As the saying goes, feel the fear and do it anyway. Sharon’s most recent book is The Good Neighbor(November 2008) from Love Inspired Suspense. She’s closing in on the end of her Masters program at Seton Hill University and expects to graduate in January 2010.