Pitches: Sliders, Curveballs, and The Infamous Wild Pitch, Part II

Yesterday we talked about the basics. Now onto the more advanced stuff.

What are the possible outcomes of a pitch session? Today we’ll talk about the Slider, the Curveball and the Infamous Wild Pitch

1. The Slider—If you pitch to the agent or editor, they may ask for a partial or even a full manuscript. This means you’ve gotten them interested enough in your work to ask for more. This is a GOOD thing. It means you were professional, you had a good pitch, and they saw something they liked. If you’re lucky enough to get a SLIDER, keep several things in mind.

A. Send exactly and only what the person asked for–if they want a partial, DO NOT send a full.

B. Don’t hound the agent or editor during the rest of the conference. They’ve met with you and asked for more work. Don’t ruin it by being a pest.

C. Stay professional. A request is by no means a guarantee of representation. It’s important not to burn bridges. If you’re successful in the business, YOU WILL see this person again.

2. The Curveball—If the agent or editor liked you work, but thought an element of it needed to be reworked or revised, or maybe you need to add or delete a character, you may feel a little overwhelmed. But remember, this too, can be a GOOD THING. It means your story was interesting enough for them to suggest changes. If you’re thrown a curveball, here are a few ideas on what to do next.

A. Consider the suggested changes. Do you agree with them? Or do they make you feel you would be compromising the work? Are you committed to the changes? Take the time to make your own decision and make sure you don’t commit to anything you can’t deliver on.

B. Research the person’s sales, acquisitions, etc. See what they like and what they don’t. Maybe your match was not a good one and maybe another agent or editor would like your story just as it is.

C. Follow up. If you agree to make the changes, especially if you give a time frame, make sure you honor this. Most agents keep detailed databases of contacts with potential clients. You don’t want to promise them something and then do a disappearing act. Even if it’s not THE BOOK for them, you might sell them on another manuscript in the future and you don’t want to ruin your chances by being unprofessional. And again, if you are successful in publishing, YOU WILL see this person again. Somewhere. I promise.

D. Don’t argue with their opinion. It’s their OPINION. Be gracious and accept it for what it is: constructive criticism.

3. The Infamous Wild Pitch—This category covers several possible outcomes: the agent or editor didn’t like your work, you weren’t prepared and/or professional, you chose to meet with someone who doesn’t handle your type of book, or your story wasn’t marketable. Now you think I’m going to say this is a BAD THING, right? Nope. This too is a GOOD THING. But how could it be? I mean, I crashed and burned in there. This is a HORRIBLE THING and it means I’m not good enough to ever make it. I should burn all my work and take a knitting class, right? WRONG. STOP THAT NEGATIVE THINKING! Let me tell you, now that you’ve calmed yourself, how this too is a GOOD THING.

A. You faced a professional, a real live bona fide agent or editor, and you survived. You realized that they’re just people, too. Not fire-breathing dragons with red pens and menacing brows. And now, you know just what to expect the next time. You’re not a rookie anymore. And now you’ll know how to better prepare.

B. You saw things about your work that may prevent you from succeeding and now you have a chance, before you’ve sent out a million queries netting a million rejections, to FIX IT.

C. You’ve learned there is no market for your book. If your goal is to get published, this is a good thing to know. Before you spend hundreds of hours on a manuscript and then face the heartbreak of widespread rejection. This doesn’t mean you have to junk the whole story. With your new outlook on marketablity, you may be able to make changes now that will make it more sellable in the future.

D. Don’t give up! This is your dream, remember? And one pitch session is not the end of the world.

Also, no matter what the outcome of you pitch session may be, keep in mind that there is no implied guarantee of representation or acquisition. It’s simply a chance to introduce someone in the business to your work.

One of the agents who will be on our faculty in October, Scott Eagan of Greyhaus, has some great tips on effective pitching. Check out his latest “pitch blog” using the link below. I know I mentioned this yesterday, but it’s worth a second mention.


Good luck to all of you in the preparation and presentation of your pitches. This may just be YOUR YEAR!

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