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Perfectly Pitched

by Silver James 14 June 2011 5 Comments

Two weeks from now, at exactly this time, I’ll be in the air approaching…New Jersey? I’m headed to RWA Nationals and this year, I fully intend on enjoying myself. Why? I don’t have to pitch. Not once. (Yay for having an agent!) Should I mention that I suck at pitching? Yeah, pretty much. Last year, I decided the editor felt so sorry for me she requested a partial just to keep me from a full-blown panic attack. Well…I wasn’t that far gone. Mostly. There is a story there. I had an appointment, I was in line ready to go when they called that editor’s name and said anyone with appointments needed to sit back down. When that group was sent off to their appointed rounds, the volunteer came over and explained the editor had to go to a spotlight panel, the two of us with appointments were to go to the panel, with her card, see her afterwards and make our pitch then. Mine was made in the hallway outside the meeting rooms with people scurrying by. Oh, yeah. Ideal circumstances. Not. I’ll give the editor this, she was apologetic and very nice but I was so flustered and out of breath I could barely talk.

Now don’t get me wrong, I can stand up in front of a crowd and give a speech. I can teach a class. I can announce awards. But pitching? I just…freak out. I hate “selling” myself. Yes, I’m definitely in the wrong business. *rolls eyes* I’d be perfectly happy hiding in my well-lit writing cave tip-tap-tappity-tapping out words. Yeah, like that’s going to happen, but I can dream about being the next LaNora, right?

This Saturday, I’m reversing roles. I’ll be the agent/editor as the non-published members of my local RWA chapter try out their pitches. Oh, boy. This is going to be fun. 😀 I pulled some information that I accumulated while working on pitches previously.


If you can perfect your elevator pitch, you can ace your ten minute appointment with that agent or editor. First, do your research. For a scheduled pitch, you surely have confirmed the agent/editor works with your genre. If not, uhm….ouch. This is not a good thing. But we’re all smarter than the average bear, right? Right! So…

For an off-the-cuff pitch, when you meet an editor/agent, ASK them what they handle. If they then inquire about your work and you fit, follow up with your one sentence pitch. Wait! What?!? ONE sentence!!!!

A good one-sentence pitch has three basic elements:
• Opening conflict
• Obstacle to be overcome
• Quest

The quest represents the journey undertaken by the character(s), whether physical or emotional. It’s what happens to them between the beginning of the plot and the end. The first step of that journey is the opening conflict is the first step in the quest. In romance, we talk of the “Black Moment”. That equates to the obstacle–it is what stands in the way of the quest.

As a result, your very basic, one-line pitch is: When OPENING CONFLICT happens to CHARACTER(s), they have to OVERCOME CONFLICT to COMPLETE QUEST. You can structure this in different ways, but those are the basics. Another way of looking at it is like GOAL, MOTIVATION, and CONFLICT. Same idea.

Just remember that a good pitch describes what actually happens. It’s all about the plot, not the theme.

Now that you have your elevator pitch, you can expand it a little. Talk about your hero and heroine. Explain why your book is different from every other book on the shelves. And keep it to around five minutes. Give the editor/agent enough information to make them curious. You WANT them to ask questions. But be prepared! Is this book the first in a series? Do you have other works completed? Why did you choose this genre to write?

Now, my question to y’all… What questions were you asked when you pitched? Anything that threw you off-balance? When I listen to the pitches for my chapter mates, I want to make them think and find better ways to be prepared. Needless to say, I need all the information I can get! So, folks…hit me with your own “war stories.”


  • Laurie Ryan said:

    EVERYTHING throws me off balance. lol. I get test anxiety. I’m writing and tweaking and practicing for the next two weeks to be as prepared as possible.

    Actually, I have found editors and agents to be quite nice (and gentle) in my limited pitching experience.

    Don’t have TOO muc fun with grilling your chapter-mates. :) And I’ll hopefully see you in New York!

  • Lavada Dee said:

    I almost didn’t comment this morning Silver because I don’t have anything that will help you. It’s been a number of years since I ‘pitched’. At that time I’d never even heard the concept of Elevator pitch. If you have a copy of RT there are a lot of examples there. That’s where I first heard of the term.

    The only other thing I remember is how incredibly nice the editor was that I pitched too. She immediately put me at ease. It turned out to be an enjoyable conversation and made me forget it was a ‘pitch’.

    Have fun, your chapter mates will love you.

  • Silver James (author) said:

    Laurie, I’ll be working the registration desk first thing on Tuesday morning if you’re coming in that early. There’s a few “command performances” like the literacy signing and two panels I want to hear, but I’m really hoping to find a lobby area where I can sit and watch people go by and visit with folks! I hope we hook up at some point!

    Lavada, thanks for piping up anyway. Most of my pitches were very friendly despite my stuttering and feeling foolish. LOL And I have my agent now because I pitched to her at a smaller conference, she requested and then signed me. She now has two of my MSS and has requested I revise a third ASAP so she can start shopping it.

    I just want the gals to have a realistic experience and have a chance to practice “live”. I promise to be nice. 😉

  • Laurie Ryan said:

    I won’t get to the hotel before early afternoon Tuesday. I’ll be keeping an eye out for you, though. :)

  • JK Coi said:

    When I’m pitching I speak very very slowly. It probably makes me look like a dork but it’s the only way to keep myself from stuttering from nervousness!

    I hope everyone has a great time! I’m so disappointed that I won’t be there this year, but I’ll be holding everyone’s hand in the pitching room in spirit :)

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