Pitching At A Writing Conference Doesn’t Have To Be Scary

writerstumpedThere will be a time that you say to yourself, it’s done. It’s time to find an agent, an editor, someone to get this manuscript breathing and out there. That’s when it’s time to hit the conference scene. That’s when you inevitable turn your eyes to the dreaded pitch. There are books, workshops, on-line courses on how to write a pitch. You can take them and pull your hair out just getting it right, but when it comes down to it, all you need is a simple formula. Setting-Characters-What’s at stake!

I’ve just returned from the San Francisco Writers Conference with a fantastic, positive journey. I’m going to give you some background on what happened leading up so you can prepare for your next conference in the same way.

For some reason, after all of the courses and workshops, this formula stuck. It might be that I was really ready, manuscript in hand, for this moment. I think that really helped. The irony is that I’d finished two manuscripts and had two ready. I’d taken an on-line writing course through Writer’s Digest University a few weeks before the conference. I really worked on my query letters, synopsis, and 10 pages to have them ready for the conference. What was really helpful was the members of the class all formed a private writer’s group on Facebook for the critique of queries and pitches. They were giving me feedback, and cheering me on during the conference. There is nothing better than getting support from fellow writers.

That brings me to my next point. My fellow writers at the conference all were in the similar knowledge of whether our pitch was good or not. We formed a critique group at dinner and slowly over a bottle of wine, our pitch session turned into a helpful drinking game. We started with everyone taking a drink, and then a person would pitch. Then, everyone drinks passing the pitch to the the next person topping off their glass. Thus, the process of drink, pitch, drink, pitch, drink, pitch created one of the best critique sessions I’ve experienced in tightening my pitch. When we were done, I went back to the hotel room (it was only 11 pm), and spent an hour tightening my pitch from the feedback.

Here’s what I got back: You need to let all the extra details fall away. I know you want to share all the details that make your story great. The only thing that really matters though for the pitch is this: Setting(Time and place), Characters(explain main characters), and what is at stake. You don’t need anything else. Let EVERYTHING ELSE fall away and you’ll have the perfect pitch.

I don’t know whether it was the feedback, the alcohol, or all the info at the workshops that day, but for some reason it all clicked in my head. The next evening I tried going to get more help to fine tune from author coaches in an evening of “Ask the Pros”. This lead me to practice pitching to two editors that both loved it. One editor even said it was the perfect pitch. The next day at the pitchathon to agents, I had five agents give me their card to send them a query and first 10 pages.

Why is it perfect? Well, it had several parts. The title of the manuscript is followed by the genre. Next, I had a tagline, explaining it in one sentence. I followed that with comparitive books or movies to my manuscript (also known as comps.) The last part is a paragraph that contains the setting/characters/what’s at stake.

Here is my pitch that I used at the conference for an example:

Everything For Love: A Time Travel Erotic Romance

One women’s sexual journey transcends space and time.

“The Time Traveler’s Wife” meets “Lady of Devices”

Deidre Thomson is a timeanaut studying artists in the early 20th century that powers her time device by sex. A mysterious stranger follows her from Paris 1899 to London 1914. He saves her form being killed, which changes the timeline. The man, Max, reveals he’s been sent by the Time Counsel to save her. Max helps Deidre on assignment. But he is scretly in love with her, and defied the Time Counsel to save her. The timeline change brings Deidre’s past love back to life, and she must choose between the two men she loves.

The other thing that was really helpful was downloading a free note app to my phone, and writing my pitches into it. I also created a separate note listing all the agents I wished to approach with each manuscript. I even took notes on what the agents said during our meeting during the pitch session on the app. Everything was easily organized on my phone, and that really kept my nerves down.

In summary I’d suggest using the pitch formula I described, write out your pitch onto your phone with a note app, and practicing it with lots of different people before and during the conference. You’ll change and hone it until it’s time to pitch. It will only getting better this way, and you’ll increase your confidence the more you read it out loud to others.

If you’re off to a conference, good luck to you. Remain calm, you’ve got this. If your still writing the manuscript, wait until you’re done to pitch. Most agents and editors want it done first before they can do anything with it. It’s taken me 2 1/2 years to write mine. It will take time. The whole writing process does. Bookmark this post and use it as a reference. As always, keep writing!

**Marilyn Vix is a paranormal romance writer that has her paranormal romance novelette series, Beware of Warlocks, available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. It has been recently released as an audiobook on Audible.com. She is currently pitching her new Time Travel romance manuscript, Everything For Love, to agents and editors. You can contact her at marilyn(at)tiffmeister(dot)net.

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