Conference season is well under way, and I know from experience that some writers get very nervous about pitching literary agents in person. To calm your nerves, I’m sharing some advice to help you approach in-person pitches from a new perspective. Hopefully you can refrain from being too nervous and let your enthusiasm for your book shine through.
RELAX. This is the most important thing you can do before pitching a literary agent. Remember that we are humans too! We also like to talk about books. We also stumble over words sometimes. It’s okay to be excited to talk about your project, but don’t let that turn into nervousness! We want to hear about what you’re working on. I promise we won’t bite.
PREPARE AN ELEVATOR PITCH. If you’re worried that you’re going to forget everything about your book, then prepare an elevator pitch in advance. An elevator pitch is a super short description of your project (two or three sentences). It’s something that is easy to memorize. You can be confident that you’re sharing the most important parts. It’s even okay to write your pitch down on paper! We won’t mind.
HAVE A CONVERSATION. This goes back to what I said earlier: literary agents are humans too. Not only do we want to hear about your project, but we actually want to talk about it! Don’t be alarmed if the agent you’re pitching starts asking questions. And it’s okay to talk about things that aren’t your manuscript after you’re done pitching. Being friendly and open to conversation makes a great first impression.
ASK QUESTIONS. Come prepared with questions about your manuscript idea or even the current market for your category/genre. It’s not every day that you get to discuss your work, and writing in general, with a literary agent, so make the most of your time and ask questions that can help you as you move forward in your writing career. The best way to make the most of your pitch session time is to know which questions you can ask if you’re done talking about your project and there’s still time remaining.
LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. This piece of advice might seem a bit weird, but I think it’s necessary. There is a good chance that the literary agent you’re pitching won’t ask to see more material. This is completely fine. Every story isn’t for every person, and your pitch session is a way for you to get feedback on your idea and then use that feedback to contact even more agents (which is why having a conversation and asking questions is so important). Definitely don’t expect a literary agent to physically take material from you during the pitch session—if interested, we’ll ask for you to send some pages over email… we don’t want to carry around your printed manuscript all day.