Friday, April 2, 2010

How to pitch your romance

You signed up for a RWA conference. You got an appointment with a real, live editor.  You are days away from making your first pitch, and you're terrified.

Here are a couple of points to keep in mind:

  • Once you know who your appointment is with, do a little research about that person. If they are looking for regency romances and you've just finished a paranormal romance, they may not be a good fit. You have a couple of options: you can ask the person who organized the editor/agent meetings to help you find a better fit; you can mention to fellow attendees that you'd be interested in trading for a different agent/editor appointment; or you can go ahead and meet with your assigned person. Be forthright and mention that your work may not be what they're looking for, but ask if they know someone else you can contact.
  • Pitch meetings are brief, usually not more than 8 minutes long.
  • When you pitch your story, focus mainly on the hero and heroine. Be prepared to explain the conflict between them and how it is resolved.
  • Being a writer, you may feel daunted by the prospect of having to talk to someone. Don't worry, it's okay to stutter and lose your train of thought, especially when you're nervous. The editor/agent you're talking to is used to speaking with nervous writers. They are sympathetic to your plight, and will often ask you a couple of questions to get you back on track.
  • You can have a synopsis and business card handy, but usually editors and agents don't ask for those items when they are at a conference because it's too much to carry home. If they're interested in your work, they'll request that you send it to their office. Hold onto their business card and don't lose it! Write down their request so that you remember exactly when they're asking for. Believe me, a few minutes after you walk out of the appointment, you might have trouble remembering what was said.
  • While you are waiting in the hallway for your appointment, you will be surrounded by extremely nervous writers. You will also feel extremely nervous. It's okay. It's just a feeling. Plow forward.
  • Keep in mind that editors and agents are people, too. They're nervous about meeting you, too.
  • Stay true to yourself, but present a professional appearance. Whether you feel comfortable in a business suit or just slacks and a nice top, dress in a way that flatters you. You are endeavoring to create a business relationship, so look the part.
  • Have some gum or mints handy so that you don't have to worry about eating garlic for lunch.
  • Before the pitch, be mindful of how your fellow writers are feeling. If they are nervously studying their pitch, give them some space. If you need to talk in order to expend nervous energy, find someone else with the same requirement and talk softly.
  • Don't worry if you completely botch your pitch. It's worth the experience, because you'll learn what to do better next time. There are lots of agents and editors, so a poor performance doesn't mean that you'll never find representation. Be willing to grow and learn. You'll be better for it.
  • Regardless of the outcome of your appointment, write a thank you note. 
Finally, if you are lucky enough to meet with an editor or agent and they ask for a partial or full manuscript, DO NOT bound out of the room screaming and yelling in delight!  Save that for the privacy of your hotel room. Remember, there are people within earshot who haven't been asked to send their manuscript, and crowing about your success makes your colleagues feel rotten. Have a care. Every writer has poured their soul into their manuscripts; don't make them feel bad if they didn't get an invitation to share their story with a publishing house.