Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 28, 2010

Author Pitch Tips

How to Pitch

Last month we talked about working on a one line pitch for your book.  This is something everyone who has written a book should try to perfect.  But what if you are attending a conference and you know you have more than 30 seconds with an editor or agent?  You shouldn’t say, “Oh, I’ll wing it.  I like to talk, so I’ll just talk about my book.”  Not a good idea.  It is better if you prepare and practice, so what you want to say is clear and hits all the points you want to make.  It’s a little longer than the one line pitch, but not as much as a synopsis. 

At the June conference attendees will have 4 minutes from when they sit down to when they get up to leave.  The first time the NJSCBWI offered a pitch session, people showed up with a piece of paper in hand and proceeded to read it to the editor.  That didn’t work. 

Here are the reasons why: 

1.  The person reading is looking down at their paper, so their voice is not directed towards the editor.  There are other people in the room giving pitches, so the noise level is high.  Remember, you want to  make it easy for the editor to hear what you are saying.

2.  If you are looking at your paper, you are not making eye contact with the editor.  Personality is important and if you are looking at your paper you are not projecting your personality to the editor.

3.  You give the appearance that you don’t know your own story, when you have to read prepared text.

Okay, so what do you do?

1.  Write down what you want to say about your book.

2.  Read and time it, so you leave a minute for the editor to respond.

3.  Now e-mail it to a few writer friends to get their opinions.

4.  Tweak your text accordingly.

5.  Practice using someone in your family or critique group to help get you comfortable.

6.  Pull a Sarah Palin and write a few key points on the inside of your hand, so if you choke you can take a quick glance.

7.  Don’t rush your words.  Make it feel like a conversation on the phone with a good friend.

8.  Remember that it is just a pitch, so don’t get nervous.  If you do all the above things in advance, you will have more confidence going in and that will help keep you from going off course.

So prepare and practice, you’ll be glad you did.  Even if you aren’t joining us at the conference, this is still a great excercise.  I just ran into another writer who was able to sell her book in the reception line at a funeral.  Now that is a story.  I am sure she only had a few minutes to peak their interest and get them to want to talk further about her book.  So being prepared at all times is a good idea.  Here is the link to the post on one line pitches



  1. Kathy,

    I remember at the conference, 2 years ago, how much of a wreck I was over the pitches! I have to tell you though, that being very prepared helped me tremendously.

    I had decided to pitch 4 picture books, rather than 1, so I wrote a few sentences for each book. It having been the first time I did it, and knowing how tongue-tied I could get, especially since my short-term memory is AWful, I did my best to memorize all of it. I was surprised at how much of it I retained.

    Also, just prior to the pitch session, I had a massive headache and I ran into Lisa Mullarkey. She was so kind, I explained to her how I was feeling and how awful the timing was. She offered to hear my pitch as a “practice”. I originally was going to open to specific pages in my dummies while I was speaking, but trying it on her showed how obvious it was to NOT do that. It kept me from being smooth (it was very awkward trying to open the books) and I made little eye contact. She told me this because the one book I pitched that wasn’t in dummy form was the one I spoke about most comfortably and she said I was much more engaging that way, having looked at her the whole time. I decided to simply hold up the dummies as I spoke, and it all worked out well. She was a tremendous help.

    I basically begged God to help get rid of my headache and to help me through the pitches. I sincerely believe he helped me that day because, as I was standing on line waiting, my headache lifted and I became exceptionally calm (after having been extremely stressed!).

    My pitches went well, and in having honed in on the specific points I needed to make about each book, although I didn’t recite them verbatim, I was confident and able to present my work REALLY effectively.

    Also, it didn’t turn out to be a cut-and-dry “I talk straight through and then the agent responds and we’re done”—it was broken up because the editors ended up making comments or asking questions as I went, making it more conversational. STILL—I got across the important points without getting sidetracked because I worked so hard beforehand. Your advice, as always, is great, Kathy!


  2. Hey Kathy,

    I didn’t sign up for a drive by, I mean a pitch session because I thought it might get me so freaked out I’d be all wiggy for my meetings. But maybe I should. Are they all filled? Probably!
    I’m certainly going to check out the link anyway.



  3. Kathy do you know of any place I can read what someone else used for their pitch session? (Sounds like there should be a “B” instead of a “P” doesn’t it?) I’ve never done one, I am signed up for it (along with 3 critiques, the poetry intensive AND the group critiques) and it would be super helpful to know what kind of stuff to cover. Help?


    • Nanci,

      I would do it like what you wrote up for Scott in November, but add a few more things. I don’t have an example.



  4. Kathy,
    Your timing is perfect–I hadn’t even thought about this yet, even though I hope to pitch at the Conference. This will be my first time. Is the purpose of the Pitch Session to actually try to get an editor/agent to say “That’s sounds interesting. Please send me the manuscript.” ? Has that actually happened in the past?

    Donna mentioned she pitched four books. Does it make sense to pitch more than one? I have a MG and a PB to pitch.


    • Mary,

      I wouldn’t try to do four pitches. I don’t know how she did that in 4 minutes. How could the agent manage to say anything. I guess it could be a good idea to have something else in the back of your mind to say, if the agent bluntly says, “Sorry, not for me, what else do you have?” Never bad to be prepared.

      I think Donna must have been referring to the pitch session we had where everyone got to pitch to three agents. This year, you only get to pitch to one.

      And yes, many people are asked to send their work to them in a pitch session.



    • Hi, Mary,
      I just wanted you to know that I did pitch 4 Picture Books. In my opinion, depending on who it is you’re pitching to would determine whether you would want to pitch more than one, especially a MG ’cause that might require more conversation. I don’t know.

      But when I pitched to three editors, two asked me to send one of the four. Unfortunately, although I got very positive rejection letters, they didn’t fit their lists well enough.


  5. Donna,

    That year was a mess. We’ll never do it like that, again.



    • Kathy,

      Yes, I remember there was a lot of confusion as to how it was going to work, but once it got started, it seemed fine.

      Also, I think the reason I was able to successfully squeeze in the 4 was because I had dummies and illustrations for 3 of them, so I didn’t have to explain as much either. Whichever one appealed to them is what they literally grabbed out of my hand. I got great responses, especially to the illustrations, and it was positive in the way that they showed interest. None of it resulted in a contract, but it was definitely a boost for me since it helped me see I was heading in the right direction.

      I would think, though, that if my MG series was ready to pitch, that’s all I would pitch.

      And before, if you were responding to me, not knowing what I was talking about, I was mistaken thinking the blue and black bags were for we attendees! That was my “oops” 🙂


      • Donna,

        What are you talking about? Are you referring to the comment that just showed up in the bag post where I said I don’t know what you said (or something to that effect)? If so, no I replied to someone from Amsterdam who wrote something in Dutch? I’m an English only person. I didn’t approve it, because I didn’t know what it said. I didn’t know the comments to unapproved people showed up.



  6. LOL, Kathy, yes! I thought you may have been responding to me! I didn’t see a post from anyone Dutch, unless I’m more oblivious than I fear! lol So ignore me!


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