Tuesday, October 23, 2012

JRWC12 Tidbit #1 - The Power & The Glory of The Pitch

First, friends, don't faint, I'll be posting quite a bit this week because I've got a lot of good stuff to share from the James River Writers 2012 Writers Conference. Today - The Pitch

For writers, there is nothing so exciting and terrifying as the pitch session. For non-writers, the term will generate a "huh?" so a moment to describe.

"The Pitch" - Writers need to approach agents and/or editors with their writing and any good writing conference offers short little interview-type sessions for authors. These can range from five to fifteen minutes (times vary from conference to conference) however, the level of terror does not.

At conference Pitch Sessions, authors select the agent/editor that they hope will be most interested in their current brainchild. Then, at the appointed time, heart in throat, notes in hand, they sit down across the table and offer their most concise and eloquent summary of their story.

Think Job Interview distilled down to its most intense moments.

The James River Writers 2012 Writers Conference provided not only Pitch Sessions of seven precious minutes, but also hosted their Second Pitchapalooza with The Book Doctors and this year's guest agent, Alec Shane of Writers House.

Writers signed up and names were drawn randomly. The fortunate stepped up to the mikes and were given ONE MINUTE to pitch their book. In front of a full auditorium, no less. Afterwards, The Book Doctors, David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut, and Alec Shane would offer critiques on the pitch.

Every year, I sit in awe and breathless support of the brave pitchers and gobble up all the helpful advice offered in a kind & generous manner by the panel. Here are a few things that I gleaned and need to apply to my own pitch:

  • Lead with action
  • Your Protagonist must be named and their stakes explained.
  • Your Antagonist should be uniquely identified
  • Tease us with the worst thing that could happen/what's at stake
  • Give a solid example of your "fabulous voice and particular story"
  • Offer comparative titles to help identify your genre/audience
There were far more nuggets of gold scattered at our feet by the panel, but these were the ones I managed to scoop up.

If you're interested in learning more about The Book Doctors follow the links I've embedded and consider their book - The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published

Thank you, James River Writers, for producing yet another spectacular event and I look forward to sharing more tidbits over the course of this week.


  1. Pitching in front of everyone?! OMG, I would have died. That's a bravery I don't think I'll ever have.
    I know my first pitches were terrifying. I was a nervous wreck, and I was a trial attorney! But trying to convince someone to love your work--you're very vulnerable. But it's part of the job.
    Great notes, Denise. Very useful information.

    1. Hi again, Tracey! Yeah, the fear factor is right off the scale, but the best part of this is that you have such a truly supportive audience. Everyone in the audience is in total EMPATHY with you, knowing how terrifying and exhilarating the experience will be. In a way, it might be easier than pitching to the editor/agent because nothing's actually at stake. Except improvement of your pitch!