Monday, 11 February 2013

Pitching and Business

Helen commented, "Whilst I haven't pitched books before, I've done plenty of pitching over the years as part of my career in professional and financial services. What's worked for me is firstly,
  • ensure the target already knows you or is aware of you before you even try and pitch."
I don't know how many pitches a business person receives but they say a literary agent receives thousands of partial submissions a year. If I lived in London, where most agents seem to congregate, then meeting them at a conference or party would be possible, but even then I suspect they get mortally tired of being approached by would-be authors talking work over an alcoholic beverage. I should think the best we can do is read their websites. Some give lots of detailed instructions on how to approach them, others give very little; but at least we can check that they are seeking new authors, which is vital, and that they want stories in the genre we are writing.  Then it is sensible and polite to address them by name - with the correct spelling - and introduce ourselves in the covering letter. Does that fit your suggestion or miss it by a mile?

"Secondly, really understand his/her work style and preferences (you could even ask them long before you pitch)."
 That’s a difficult one. Looking over their author list gives some idea of their past choices, but isn't foolproof as each title is so different. Making contact with an author who works with the agent would be one way of getting the information. Some agents are quite specific and say what they require on the website – and of course, the sensible person matches those requirements.
  • "Finally, understand their next steps in the the pitch process (e.g. is his/her next step to present to a committee, board etc). By understanding this stage you will be able to prepare your pitch in a format that makes their life a little easier"
Here we seem closer. If the agent accepts you  and your story, then s/he has to pitch it to editors of publishing houses, who then has to convince her colleagues that her story is the one they should take on. It follows that if we provide a killer title, a succinct tag line or selling blurb that really works, then it makes their job so much easier.

 "Just my observations - not sure if they translate from the business world to the wonderful and exciting literary world."
It was good to see them, Helen, and thank you. Do tell if you think I'm missing opportunities!

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