This past weekend, I did a small group pitch session where writers had a few minutes to tell me about their books. A couple of things struck me as worthy of mention, in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation:
1. It’s really important to be able to say what your story is about in a couple of sentences, not in fifteen paragraphs. For fiction, who are your main characters, why should we care about them, and what is the main conflict of the story? Figure that out before your pitch session. For non-fiction, what category are you writing in, who is your audience, what other books are like yours, and why are you the right person to write the book? Tell me this concisely. If I want to know more, I can ask more.
2. What is the title of your book? No one in the session mentioned their book title until prompted. This is the hook that people will remember you by, so don’t forget to mention it!
3. Give the listener a chance to talk. Several people would have gone on and on except I interrupted them and made them stop. They were all shocked to find that they had taken two-and-a-half or three minutes to describe their book. Remember, say a couple of sentences, then stop and let the listener respond.
4. The pitch session is not hugely different from the pitch letter. If you’re making mistakes in a pitch session, you may be making them in your pitch letter. Let what you learn about each inform the other.
5. And on the topic of pitch letters . . . when you query via e-mail, it is very helpful for you to include your actual name in your letter. I get e-mails from addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org but the writer never signs his/her e-mail, so I have no idea who is writing to me. And I have no idea how to respond to people who don’t give their names. Who you are should not be a secret.
Hope these tips help!