At the upcoming LDStorymakers conference, there are opportunities for pitch sessions with a few LDS publishers as well as an agent. I have signed up to meet with one of the LDS publishers. Can you give me some guidelines as to how an ideal pitch session would go? What should I bring? Other than the obvious questions about my manuscripts meeting the needs of their publishing house, what other questions would be good to ask?
You should not be asking if your manuscript meets the needs of their publishing house. You should already know that because you will have done your research. Instead, you will come prepared to explain to the editor why your manuscript does indeed meet their needs. Examples of “arguments” to develop are: they publish in this area, but there’s a gap/need; your book is similar to XXX (something they’ve already published, hopefully a good selling title), but different in the following aspects…; the demand for this genre/topic is high because…, etc.
You can’t just BS the publisher because they will know right away if you know what you’re talking about or not. You have to have solid reasons why they would want your book.
Some editors will totally control the pitch session. You’ll walk in, introduce yourself, and they’ll start firing off questions. Other editors will say something like, “Tell me about your book…” You need to be prepared for either approach.
Try to anticipate what an editor might ask. Some things they’ll want to know are the title and a brief description, word count, genre, target audience. They may also ask you to talk about your character’s motivation, what their greatest challenge is, why they are moved to act or change, if there is a “moral” to the story. They may also want to know what your marketing plans are—how you see the book promoted, what you’re planning to do to promote it yourself. They may also ask for information about yourself—where you’re from, what you do for a living other than writing, information on past publishing credentials, hobbies, etc.
Bring a submission packet, just in case they ask for it. Some will. Others will give you a card and ask you to mail or e-mail it to them after the conference. Submission packet should include everything they ask for in a regular submission (see their website)—plus the first chapter (or more, if they ask for it). I’d also include a hand written thank you card. Put it all in a large manilla envelope.
Do not insist they take this packet. Some editors will have traveled to the conference by plane and have limited room to take the packets back with them. Ask them if they’d like you to give it to them now or if they’d prefer you mail it to them.
There may or may not be time during the pitch for you to ask questions. If there is, you’ll want to ask first if you may submit to them. Ask if there are certain genres or topics they prefer, or if they’re looking to expand into a new area—because you’re ready to start a new project and would love to write something in their current area of interest.
A few other tips:
- Be friendly and personable. Remember, you’re talking to a person, not a position.
- Dress business casual. Clean, neat, professional.
- Brush your teeth before you go in. Do not chew gum or suck on candies—not even if you have a sore throat because then they’ll be worried that you’re breathing germs all over them.
- Do not bring gifts or bribes.
- Remember—you are pitching A book, not a whole slew of books. One. You can, however, mention that you have ideas for continuing the story into a series (if you do) and an extremely brief description of the series. Example: “I have had a few ideas for developing this into a series. In book two, the characters could have an adventure in New York; in book three, they’ll go to Paris; the story could possibly continue on after that if you were interested…”
- Do not whine about rejections or mistreatment by other publishers in the past.
Hmmm, what else? If you’ve done a successful pitch session, share your experience in the comments section.