Friday, March 4, 2016

Want An Agent? Perfect Your Pitch.

 by Joe Siple

If you want to know how to sell a million copies of your novel, I’m not your guy (yet). If you want craft advice from someone with an MFA, I’m afraid that’s not me, either. But there is one thing I do know quite a bit about—landing an agent through the pitching process. 

In fact, in my pitching “career,” I was 9-9, having received requests for my manuscript each of the nine times I pitched my work. Wish my old baseball statistics could have been so good.

Pitching is the best way to land an agent for several reasons. The first (and maybe the most important) is that it gets you straight to the decision-maker. Want to know just how important this aspect is? Read on.

I spent twelve years writing query letters to agents for each of my first handful of manuscripts. For the first four or five, I’d send out a batch of query letters only to receive rejection letters (typically of the “Dear Author” variety) in an SASE. I always thought receiving a rejection via a letter in my own handwriting included a little extra twist of the knife. 

Then I wrote a story called “The Town with No Roads.” The submission process started out like the others—a batch of query letters, a batch of rejection letters. But this story was personal to me because I wrote it with my two daughters in mind. So instead of moving on to the next manuscript, like I’d always done, I went back to work on it. I rewrote and revised and edited until I’d made it the very best I possibly could. This time, when I sent out another batch of query letters, something amazing happened. I received responses (via email, by this time, thank God) from three different agencies, each requesting the first three chapters. Within a month, all three had said they loved my chapters and requested the full manuscript. Needless to say, I was on Cloud 9. Things were finally starting to happen for me!

But then something strange happened.  After a month with no response (no, that’s not the strange part—that’s frustratingly normal) I sent a polite, professional, follow-up email to each agency. The three responses were the same, nearly verbatim. 

“I’m sorry. I was an intern at that agency. I loved your story, but I’m no longer at that agency, and there are so many manuscripts, no one picked yours up when I left. Have a good day!”

Of course, I didn’t have a good day. I had a very bad day. 

But I didn’t quit. I ended up going to a conference, where I pitched my novel. And not to interns. The result? I got an offer and signed with my current agent. A big reason for that was the ability to get straight to the decision-maker for my pitch—something that never happened with my query letters. 

In coming weeks, I’ll write about the other reasons I think the pitch is superior to the query, but if you’re interested in learning what your pitch should consist of and how to deliver it, join me on March 26th at 10am for my class, “From Rejection to Representation: How to Perfect Your Pitch and Become an Agented Author.” 

Registration is open now, so to sign up, follow this link:

I hope to see you there!

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