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Monday, August 18, 2008

Surviving the Pitch to Editors & Agents

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

When are you ready?

1. When writing fiction, you don’t want to pitch until you’ve completed at least one book. 

Nonfiction proposals or articles can be pitched as long as you have a solid concept of your idea.

2. When you know you want to be published.

3. Do your research on the conference and know which editors and agents are going to be there. Visit their websites, try to find out what they like and dislike. What kind of works have they recently purchased? What are they acquiring?

4. You may not want to set up an appointment if there are only two editors and both are acquiring contemporaries and all you’ve written is a historical.

Pitch: Is a one-two sentence description of your story.

A pitch should contain four elements:

1. Two Main Characters

2. Goal

3. Conflict

4. Goal + Conflict = Hook

When meeting with an editor or agent in a one-on-one interview, be prepared to discuss the main plot points in your story, as well as goals and motivations of your characters.

What to bring

1. Business cards

2. Sell-sheets or One-sheets

3. First five pages of manuscript (do not show unless they request it)

What to Expect

At conferences they schedule editors and agents all day long with back-to-back 10-15 minute appointments. You will want to arrive 5-10 minutes early to get in line. If a prayer room is available, you might want to visit it ahead of time.

1. Dress like you’re going into an interview, but be comfortable

2. Be professional

3. Introduce yourself and ask them how they are doing. Treat them like an individual

4. You can take note cards with you, but you shouldn’t read from them. This gives them the impression that you’re not as familiar with your work as you should be.

5. Make eye contact. Talk to them like you’re chatting with them. You don’t want to sound so rehearsed that you remind them of a used car salesman.

6. There will be a monitor who will be keeping time. The monitor will tell everyone in the room that they have 1-2 minutes left. When this happens, wrap up the conversation and move on so you don’t take time away from the next person and put the editor behind schedule.

Possible Scenarios

If you only have one proposal, and they aren’t interested, what should you do?

1. Ask them what other genres they are looking for.

2. If you have time, chat with them and spend a few minutes getting to know them. After a while their eyes begin to glaze over from hearing one rehearsed pitch after another.

3. If an editor gives you ideas on how to improve your plot, please be courteous and listen. Ask if they would be willing to look at a proposal if you make their suggested revisions.

What if you have more than one project and you don’t know which one to pitch in your allotted time?

1. Tell them the categories you’ve written such as (contemporary, a Scottish Medieval, Regency, young adult, children’s book, etc.) Then ask them which one they would prefer to discuss.

2. Or choose the one that you feel is written the best or closer to being finished.

3. The editor or agent will guide you in their interests.

Editors and agents will ask questions. Examples include:

1. Why did you write this story?

2. Do you have any other stories or ideas?

3. Can you expand this into a series?

4. If we publish it, how do you plan to market it?


1. Leave your business card, even if they do not ask to see your proposal.

2. Make note if they ask for a query letter, proposal, or the complete. Send them exactly what they ask for and nothing more and nothing less.

3. If they refuse your sell-sheets, don’t force it on them.

4. Thank them for their time. Be sure to walk away with a smile.



Good artielce, excellent advice and very timely for ACFW Conference.


Janice K. Olson

Hello, Jennifer~

Not only am I using this wonderful post now, but I have printed it off, and it is in my folder to go with me to the ACFW conference in Indianapolis. Thanks for the valuable information. Blessings!

Write on!

Because of Christ,