Beth Miller

Writing and tea


The pitch is a bitch

Posted on June 21, 2010 at 1:03 PM

I'm going to the Winchester Writers' Conference on Friday. First time. Looking forward to: 50%. Crapping self: 60% (I like to give these things 110% in case there's any Apprentice recruitment scouts out there).


I'm signed up to meet two agents at Winchester. Two one-to-ones, very exciting, at which I get to tell them about my novel. Or rather, at which I must pitch the dang thing, as though it were a cricket ball, and hope no-one gets whacked on the head with it. Not having done a pitch before, I idly googled around, and am now properly bricking it, as is the usual response to googling anything. A little knowledge is completely paralysing. There are so many things to remember. My main concern is that the brain overload will result in me forgetting how to walk. I will stand hopelessly at the door, trying to recall what it is I do next, while across the room the agent waves half-heartedly at me from behind a desk, before giving up and starting to play Wordable on their iPhone.


Things to remember when doing a pitch:


1. What your novel is about (harder than it sounds, when you are a vague kind of writer who likes to 'let the reader work it out').


2. What your novel is about in approximately 50 words. These need to be 50 different words; you’re not allowed to just repeat the word ‘sex’ 50 times in the deluded belief that it will grab the agent’s attention. It will grab their attention, yes, but also the attention of the hefty guy on security.


3. What your name is (though the Conference have thoughtfully supplied me with a name badge so I don’t need to hold this in my head).


4. Ma-nish ta’ana – Why is this night different from all other nights? Or, more to the point, why is your novel different from all others? Acceptable answers do not include: because it’s worse/ because it’s written in crayon/ because the main character is a piece of dried mango.


5. What other authors your writing is like. Choose writers who sell, not writers like your Aunty Jane who self-published a booklet entitled, ‘The Life and Times of a Small-Town Computer Programmer’.


6. Who your target audience is. Correct answer is everyone over the age of 16. Incorrect answer is Swedish transvestites who are allergic to fish. There are probably not enough of them to constitute a ‘lively market’.


7. To not come across like a weirdo stalker (‘You want to see the entire ms? Brilliant, I’ll bring it right to your front door. Isle of Man? No problem’).


8. To be respectful yet not slavishly obsequious. To be the right side of needy and desperate. Do not: boast, show off, clam up, yell ‘you’re my only hope!’, clutch their hand and not let go, smoke, drink, spit, undress, show them that trick where you lick your nostril, tell them they’re deluded, argue at all, fart and pretend it was them, get their name wrong, let slip you haven’t read any of their authors, mistakenly tell them how much you love Kate Figes when it’s Kate Mosse they agent, set fire to your synopsis, forget they are a human being, take everything they say too personally. Or anything else, other than:


9. Pretend it’s a business meeting and act accordingly. This doesn’t mean do a Powerpoint of your book. Look smart, be polite, act sane.


10. Don’t start sobbing till you’re out of sight.


I’ll report back. Long as I remember how to do the walking thing.

Categories: Novel, Winchester Writers' Conference