10 Steps to a Great Pitch!
Is your literary conference having a Pitchapalooza or similar pitching event? Do you have an opportunity to pitch yourself to a literary agent in a one-on one-interview? Do you want to learn how to pitch yourself right into an introduction to a literary agent or a request for a submission? Follow these 10 steps to blow your audience away with your pitch!
Step 1: Participate!
Seriously, you can’t win unless you drag your butt up there on that podium or to that chair across the desk from that agent. Give it a whirl. I know you’re nervous and that’s all right. Here is a little secret: everyone else is as well. Afraid to be embarrassed or humiliated? Don’t be! Take control of your fears and insecurities. What do you have to lose?
Step 2: Don’t wait until the night before to write your pitch.
Actually the morning of the event isn’t a good idea either. Write it out a week before. Re-read it, reflect on it, and have some of your peers read it for you. You wouldn’t submit the first draft of your novel for publication, would you?
Step 3: Rehearse your Pitch.
You don’t have to memorize your pitch but be comfortable with it. I rehearsed my Pitchapalooza pitch hundreds of times. I rehearsed several days prior, the day before and that morning. I even rehearsed in the hallways during the conference breaks the day of the event. Did I have the pitch memorized? Yes. Did I have my pitch in my hand when I delivered it? Yes. Did I look down from time to time for reassurance? Yes.
Step 4: Don’t start out “My name is Jane Smith and I’ve written an 85,000 word Young Adult novel.
Everyone does this. Be different, standout, but not in a bad way. Don’t give your pitch while doing a handstand! If your characters and plot are compelling enough then the panel will figure out the genre and won’t care about the page length.
You don’t have the time to explain your character’s journey. Get to the heart of your story immediately. Take them to the ledge of the cliff, let them peer down, and then pull them back. Tease your audience and the panel with the characters and conflict. Give them enough to be intrigued and then be gone.
Step 6: Um is not a transitional word!
Wiktionary says that using the word “um” means to express confusion or hesitancy. Yes, they said confusion and hesitancy. Is this how you want to be portrayed? Practice your pitch, have someone listen, and focus on not saying “um.” If you need to pause or transition, it’s all right to do this silently!
Step 7: Stop speaking AT people!
You don’t need to wink at them, but connecting to your audience, judging panel, or agent is important. Smile and make eye contact with them. When you see them smiling back at you, focusing on your words and nodding their heads as you speak then, you know that you have them!
Step 8: Follow the Rules!
Don’t go over the allotted time if you are in a timed contest. You will be stopped in mid- sentence and you will not win. If you followed Step 4 then you should know how long it will take for you to deliver your winning pitch. If you are over in your rehearsal then you will go over during the competition or your agent one-on-one session. My winning pitch was 154 words and I delivered in 46-48 seconds during rehearsal. During the competition I delivered it in 59 seconds. When I pitched to Dave Sterry during my one-on-one pitch it lasted under two of the seven minutes I had allotted with him.
Life is short. Don’t spend the next year regretting that you didn’t follow Step 1.
The Final Tip: Don’t look like a bum or bag lady! Perception is reality. How you look matters.
Here is my pitch that won Pitchapalooza:
Boots on the ground – Paws on the Ground. This novel is about US soldiers and the dogs who protect them.
Caleb, Megan and Ramon are young Americans who are fighting for the US in Afghanistan — and Brady, Sammy, and Chica are the dogs who stand between them and death or terrible injury.
(I removed 38 words here. It details the climax of the book. Sorry I’m afraid it would give to much away and those in the publishing world wouldn’t like this) I did step 6 here though.
Dogs are outperforming million dollar pieces of equipment on the battlefield, finding improvised explosives with their noses and instinct. I’m Major Kevin Hanrahan and I’ve witnessed this first hand in the treacherous and alien terrain of Afghanistan.
I’ve written a novel about the true and ancient bonds of friendship, love, and loyalty as they are tested in the world of modern warfare
-Read this piece by David who provides his own list of tips for pitching on his Book Doctor Site. (Follow Them)
-These tips can be used for any elevator pitch or oral presentation.
United States Army Major, Kevin Hanrahan is the winner of the 2011 James River Writing Conference Pitchapalooza contest. He has received outstanding ratings in oral communication in every military school that he has attended.