Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 1, 2012

Being Pitch Ready

One of the main goals of the New Jersey SCBWI Conference is to get you in front of as many editors and agents as possible.  

That is why you get to have lunch each day with a member of the faculty; why we have a Mix and Mingle on Friday night with the faculty; why one-on-one critiques and consultations are set up; why we have over an hour to network during the book fair; and why you are given the opportunity to pitch to two agents. 

You may laugh and say, well at least I don’t have to worry about giving a pitch, I didn’t sign up for one.


Now is the time to prepare a pitch, whether or not you chose to schedule yourself a 5 minute agent pitch.  Why should you prepare, when a pitch isn’t on your agenda?  Precisely because of the lunches, the Mix and Mingle, and the other networking opportunities available during the weekend.  Members of the faculty really do want to talk to you and they will ask, “What are you working on?”

If you do not have something prepared, you will stumble and ramble around trying to get to the point of your story.  Think how you work on your story and revise and revise to get the rhythm and pace down to match your story.  Think about how you pluck out unneeded words?  Remember how long you worked to get a strong hook for your story?  All those things took work and thought.  So if you don’t give some thought and work to what your answer will be if an agent or editor asks you that general question, you will ramble on trying to get to the point of your story and their eyes will glaze over.

I was on the phone this week with a writer who was registering for the conference.  I asked her what her book was about and she rambled on to the point where she said, “It really is a good story.  It just doesn’t sound like it the way I am explaining it.”

That was perfectly fine, since she was talking to me, but she would have lost all chances of enticing an editor or agent into saying they would like to read it, if she had floundered around like that.

I am pointing this out, so you will take the time to prepare.  Start with coming up with a one line pitch.

Here are some one line pitches you might recognize:

A cop comes to L.A. to visit his estranged wife and her office building is taken over by terrorist. – Die Hard

A businessman falls in love with a hooker he hires to be his date for the weekend – Pretty Woman

A newly married couple must spend Christmas Day at each of their four divorced parent’s home. – 4 Christmases

A just-hired employee goes on a company weekend and discovers someone’s try to kill him. – The Retreat

A risk-averse teacher plans on marrying his dream girl but must first accompany his overprotective future brother-in-law — a cop — on a ride along from Hell. – Ride Along

Now that you have the idea, give it a try. After you perfect your one line pitch, try it out on ten people and use the feedback you get to improve it further.

Here are some tips for your 5 minute pitch:

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. Don’t show up with your text written down and try reading it to the agent.  You should be able to talk about your book without reading it – BORING!

7. 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.

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

9. 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.  You only have a few minutes to pique someones interest and get them to want to talk further about your book. So being prepared at all times is a good idea.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. This is ALways excellent advice! Thanks for the reminder, Kathy 🙂


  2. Donna,

    Are you still up? I just made it to number six with the letters that need to be sent out. Since it is 2:45am now, I doubt if I am going to make my goal of ten before I go to bed.



    • Yeah, I was still up. I just finished a painting as a gift for one of my best friend’s daughter. It’s her bridal shower tomorrow. We are two wild women with these ridiculous hours! That’s ’cause there will NEVER be enough of them! lol


  3. Pleasant dreams, Kathy and Donna.

    Excellent pitch advice–I’ll come to the Conference prepared.


    • Yay, Mary 🙂


    • Mary,

      The conference will probably keep me so busy that I will not be able to follow my own advice.

      See you soon,



  4. ANother blog for my class wiki! Thanks.


    • Carol,

      You should let me know if there are any topics you would like to blog about. Maybe I could fill in those holes.



  5. You bring up some excellent point, Kathy, and my verbal skills in book descriptions are a real weak spot for me, so these points are much appreciated. You did a great job on your examples, so thank you for sharing. Enjoy the conference, while you are there. 🙂 Marcy


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