Writing Conferences: Pitch Practice

Up today, part 4 of the Writing Conferences series, brought to you by my wonderful guest blogger, Maddy!

Check out part 1, Logistics of Pitching, here
and part 2, Writing Your Pitch, here
and part 3, Pitch Templates, here.


Now that you have a polished pitch (hopefully three), it’s time to grab a willing victim audience member, force them to pretend to be a literary agent and roleplay the crap out of your pitches. Guys, I cannot stress how important this part is.

If you don’t practice your pitch out loud, you might think you have a two-minute pitch, only to get in front of an agent and realize it’s a nine-minute pitch—and you’ve just used almost all of your ten-minute pitch time that you could have used to talk to the agent, get to know them, and ask and answer questions. If you only practice in front of a mirror and not another person, you might get to your pitch session only to stumble with nerves or freeze up the first time you’re asked a question or interrupted from your rehearsed monologue.

So practice with a buddy, and then practice some more, and then some more after that. Have them time you. Practice different scenarios: the ten minute time slot that should start with a two-minute pitch then evolve into questions; the five minute time slot that will require your one-minute pitch; the “speed-dating” or just casual conversations with agents/other authors around the convention in which you’ll need your 30-second pitch.  Welcome your audience’s feedback. Keep going.

Have your friend/acting literary agent pick your brain about your story throughout the time you’re trying to speak. Have them pepper you with plot questions at the end of your pitch. Have them ask you about other projects you’re working on. Have them lull into an awkward silence after your pitch so you’re forced to use all those questions you prepared for this very moment. Have them interrupt your intro sentence about how your book is a mashup of Westworld and Vengeance Road to say “OMG I LOVE THOSE TWO THINGS” so that you get used to the conversation-like nature of a pitch session and don’t stammer “uh-uh-uh—great, so anyways, complete at 94K, my manuscript…”

Trust me—all of these things are liable to happen, have happened to me, will happen again. Also, fun fact—interestingly enough, most literary agents tend also to be human beings. They get bored at conferences sitting in one chair all day too. They are going to thank you so much more for a conversation in which they get to talk about the books and TV they loved this year, and also hear a little about a cool new idea from an interesting person who they like talking to, than for a rehearsed monologue that they have to sit through while thinking about what they’re going to have for lunch.

Practice out loud a ton, and the nerves and robot-like nature of your pitch will disappear. You’ll be able to relax a bit more during your time with agents, which will help you get the necessary info out smoothly. Then you can get back to having an interesting conversation, where you get to ask your own questions, are ready with answers for theirs, and make the most of your time together.


For a great article on what questions agents might ask you, check out Eric Smith’s post here.

Now that your pitch is ready and you’ve practiced, we’ll be getting to the actual pitching next week!

If you enjoyed this post or are interested in the rest of this series, you can follow this blog by email or WordPress on the sidebar (or below for mobile), and you can check out Maddy’s site here!

img_8730Madeleine Colis is a YA writer from Chicago who lives in Australia and helps with the Boston Teen Author Festival—so she is perpetually time zone confused. She went to Northwestern University, where she studied English and began her YA fantasy series during her study abroad in Madrid, over espresso and sangria. She now lives in Melbourne: writing, learning martial arts, and failing to resist pretty foreign edition books.
Find her online: Twitter | Website

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