Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pitching your story face to face with editors

It's a great opportunity when you can pitch right to an editor, possibly even a decision-maker, and submit your manuscript, query or sample chapters in person. It's also frightening because the wrong approach may ruin your chances. No pressure lol! Really though, you only get a few minutes to get your message across, so you want to make the most of it!

Coming up is the BYU Publishing Fair in Provo, Utah, that I and another WiDo editor are going to attend, to meet authors and take manuscripts. Thinking ahead, and remembering a couple other times when we met with authors seeking publication, I thought I'd summarize a few tips.

1. Smile, make eye contact and don't cower. We're just people, too, and probably as scared of you as you are of us.

2. Prepare a pitch, or what I like to call a "me in 30 seconds" for your story. Time it at home and practice until it's smooth and polished. Make every word count and don't repeat yourself.

3. Start by telling the genre, and whether your story is character-driven or plot-driven. Word count is helpful, too. If plot-driven, give a quick plot summary. If character-driven, tell us what makes these characters remarkable. DO NOT spend twenty minutes giving every minutae of your ms.

4. You can also do a "me in 30 seconds" for yourself. Mention if you're previously published, won contests, have a masters degree in creative writing. Anything that makes you stand out from the crowd or that shows experience in the writing business. Mention that you're a heart surgeon, a retired police detective, you raised eight boys--something that suggests you might have a story in you.

5. Please don't ever say "This is my first novel." Instead say, "I've been writing since I was ten. I'm an English major from the University of Chicago. Published in my college literary magazine." Always say what makes you look polished and professional, not a like a beginner who just finished NaNoWriMo and is turning in the results.

6. If the publishing fair or event has no limits on submissions, go ahead and turn in chapter samples of your completed manuscripts. These are preferable to query letters. You being there is your query, so you want to take full advantage of the opportunity and hand the editors something more than a query or plot summary. Like the first three chapters or even a full ms.

These types of events can be intimidating, but also helpful and instructive. Even if you don't end up with a publishing contract, it makes you more polished and effective for the next time!


  1. Pitching is scary, but I managed to do it at the RWA Nationals and a regional conference and was requested. Woohoo. Now, nothing came from it, yet. But I learned I could pitch in person and enjoy it.

    Great post.

  2. Hi

    It's great to know there are events like these - where an aspiring author can do a pitch and maybe come out of it with a publishing contract! How brilliant is that?!

    And these tips are so handy too for say, a job interview - "stand out from the crowd" and not be intimidated because you have to sell yourself and create an excellent first impression in the first 2 minutes or so.

    I hope you get lots of fab manuscripts, KarenG! Is it this weekend? I look forward to reading how it went!

    Take care


  3. Kitty, it's not til March. Last year WiDo signed on 3 new authors from conference events like this, so it's beneficial for both the authors and the publishers. And actually the "me in 30 seconds" is something people are told in training for seeking employment. It's a helpful tool to master.

    Christine, I'm glad the RWA conf was a good experience for you. Next time may come a contract! I truly believe if I had not been so scared, and had taken advantage of conferences, I would have gotten published sooner. There's an empowerment that comes once you get over yourself and go out and do it, regardless of how frightening it might be the first time or so.

    Now that I've popped up on the other side as an editor, I have so much respect for those writers who are there. Even the ones who are cowering, (although my advice is not to), because I know how scared they are and yet they came. I never went to anything, I let my fears overcome me and only postponed my day of publication that much longer.

  4. I've been seriously considering signing up for a writing conference later in the year, so thank you for the tips!

  5. pitching sounds *so* scary.I don't see myself ever having the opportunity to do so, but these are great tips!

  6. I'm attending a small writing conference with my #1 agent next month and hoping for an opportunity to pitch. I'm very nervous, but I'm gonna face this fear head on! This is great advice! Perfect timing!

  7. these are great tips. Excellent advice that makes the process seem manageable - thank you :)

  8. I would definitely cower. I remember going to a the Careers fair at BYU as a freshman and trying to answer a Land's End rep's questions about PR. My heart hammered and my fingers shook when I handed her my resume. I know she thought, "Clueless!!" And oh, yes, I was. But I don't know what I was thinking, I didn't need an internship as a freshman.

    Yes, I would definitely cower. ;)

  9. Steena, the fact that you will have an agent near by should definitely help the confidence level!

    M., this is funny! Quite the picture.

  10. Thanks for the tips. If I ever have the good fortune to meet an agent or editor I will definitely use them. :)

  11. Karen, I tagged you. Sorry, David made me do it.

  12. Number five is really good advice for me. I am a first time novel writer, but that doesn't mean I have to blab it to the world! Duh, me.

    *smacks forehead*

  13. Xuxana,

    Thanks for your comment Xuxana, and that advice also goes for a query. Best not to write and say "This is my first novel." It just makes one sound like an amateur. Which, of course, one very well may be, but better not to broadcast it, right?


  14. Good points to remember. Thanks, and have fun at the fair.

  15. Thanks for the pointers. I hope to have my manuscript ready for a conference in October. I set a goal to have it in the best shape it can be by then. We will see how that goes.
    I will bookmark this so I can reference back.

  16. Hi Karen! I awarded you The Lovely Blog Award! Come by and pick it up!


Comments are welcome!