Thursday, May 5, 2011

What Happens in a Pitch Session?

Recently, someone asked on Twitter about what happens during a pitch. There are a ton of articles on crafting your perfect pitch, but if you've never been through it, it can be pretty darn intimidating. I know it was for me. But the results can be awesome! I tied for the win in Changeling Press's Shamrock Challenge after a chat room pitch session during Savvy Authors's DigiCon. Now two of my novellas (a cyberpunk and a paranormal romance) are contracted.

There are pretty much three different kinds of pitching opportunities. One is a face to face with an editor or agent, usually at a conference or retreat. There are also chat room pitch sessions, which mirrors face to face, except you're in a chat room in the comfort of your own home. The third kind is blog pitching, which you post a three-line pitch for. Savvy Authors has several of these coming up this year.

Anyways, the types I'll be talking about are face to face and chat rooms. They each have pros and cons. With face-to-face, you can see the other person's reaction to what you're saying, but it's easier to get freaked out and scatterbrained too. With chat rooms, you can pitch in your pajamas and not be sitting in front of the editor or agent, but it’s harder to tell what they’re thinking during the process because you can’t see their faces.

Now for the process as I've experienced it. You wait for your turn, try to calm your nerves, and hope that it goes well. Then you're off and greeting the agent/editor. With both types of pitching, I usually start by saying, “Hello, my name is Sarah Mäkelä…” and jump straight into it.

After you give your pitch, the editor/agent will, most of the time, ask questions. Although, you might get an editor who says at that they don’t think it'd be a good fit for them. And that is why it's good to have a second story ready when pitching. When that happened to me, I pulled out a pitch for another story since it’d only taken about 3-4 minutes for my first pitch and for the editor to tell me they didn't have much of a market for my story. She ended up requesting the second one though!

But I digress... The questions. Be prepared! I received a question during one of my first pitches where the agent asked what the climax of the story was. I sat there and scratched my head, not remembering what it was or what to say. haha Not good... I got a request for a synopsis from that, but it’s not a good feeling to flub. Other times, there have been questions that made me ponder the answer because it was something beyond what I’d really thought of, but I answered without a lot of trouble. They will let you sit there for a few moments and gather your thoughts. There’s no need to feel like freaking out. All of the people I’ve pitched to have been very nice and if you do get stuck on something, they might try to help out and gently prompt you.

The ones I’ve done have been about 10 minutes long, so you have a decent amount of time, but it usually flies by. At the end, a moderator (both in person and in chat rooms) might pop in to make sure you don’t go over the time limit. At that point, start wrapping things up, maybe exchange business cards and/or copy down information if requests were made. Leave the pitch feeling either super excited, mildly enthused, or disappointed.

Have you ever been in a pitch session? Was it face to face or via a chat room? Any tips you'd like to share?


  1. I've been in lots of pitch sessions. I used to let my stomach tighten, but not any more. Somewhere along the way, I took a deep breath and just told my story. If the editor/agent didn't get it, they usually asked questions. Once, when I really didn't have anything to pitch, I grilled the editor. An interesting experience. She said she'd been attending conferences for about ten years, seeing a hundred people each time. I asked her how many manuscripts had she boughten from those people. She looked a little green for a sec, then said, "One." Ouch!

  2. I've heard a lot of good things about the chat room pitch sessions. I always enjoyed the face to face chances at conferences, but if I were still pitching (my agent does it all now) I'd check out the online stuff.

    They would be a lot cheaper than flying across country to talk to an agent/editor!

  3. Hi Darcy, wow! I do know that pitching does get a foot in the door better than just querying though.

    Hi Maureen, they're really good. I know another person aside from myself who got contracted from chat room pitching. I agree with you that they're cheaper and a little less stressful than doing one face to face.

    Thanks for the comments, ladies!

  4. At last years World Horror Convention, I had the chance to pitch to a dozen editors and agents. Interestingly, after hearing my pitch, they all asked the same questions:
    'Is it commercial?' (there's only one answer they want to hear: 'yes, definitely')
    'What made you write this?' (here, they asses the writer's passion for the theme and the genre, so make sure to ooze passion)
    'Is it a series or a standalone?' (Almost everyone was looking for a series. When I replied 'standalone', several agents and editors immediately replied 'not interested'. So during the next pitches, I said 'Standalone with series potential', and they said 'send it'.)


  5. Great tips, Rayne! I've experiences those questions too. lol I find "What made you write this?" challenging to figure out an answer for sometimes. Thank you for the comment! =)