In my previous post, I gave some thoughts about being an agent accepting pitches at a recent conference, and what I learned about pitching from it. Here’s Part 2:
Because of the informal nature of the program and because a lot of the writers involved are colleagues, people I’ve known a long time, I offered to open up pitch sessions to include just talking about projects people were working on even if they hadn’t finished a proposal, or if they just wanted to know more about the book publishing process/agenting process. A couple of people took me up on this offer and we had some nice conversations. However:
4. There’s a reason agents and editors want you to pitch a project for which you have a completed book proposal (or a completed manuscript for fiction). There’s nothing quite so hard as to offer advice about a vague project or an idea that hasn’t really coalesced into a concrete shape. The people in this category I was most able to help were those who had started proposals and had questions about what direction they should take to make their books most marketable. That is, they had a clear vision for their book and a good sense of who their audience would be, they just wanted to make sure their book would appeal to agents and editors and to be warned of any potential pitfalls they could stumble into.
5. What I know about the market and what editors are looking for is very much fixed in the present moment. If I say editors are looking for Scottish highlands historicals (and I’m not saying they are) and you happen to have that manuscript in your back pocket, then let’s make a deal. But if you think that my comment means you should spend the next year laboring over a Scottish highlands historical because that’s what the market wants, you’ve already missed the boat. By the time you get back to me with that, I’ll be hearing that editors are looking for World War II romantic suspense.
6. Pick one project to pitch – your best/most important one. It’s okay to pitch a second project if the editor/agent passes on the first and you still have time in your session, but don’t sit down and say, “I have five ideas, which one do you think I should focus on?” That’s something that you have to decide, not me. Even if I can give you some market information to help you make the decision, see #5. That market information is quickly outdated. The thing is, if you can hook me with one idea, then at some later date you can introduce the other ideas – you already have entre, you know? You don’t have to lay everything on the table right this minute. Plus, book publishing is really a one-step-at-a-time business. Take it a step at a time, and you’ll be fine.
Stay tuned for Part 3. . . .