We had a surprise guest speaker at the Houston YA/MG Writers meeting this month. Diane Holmes, the creative brain behind Pitch University, talked with us about how to come up with an effective live pitch to agents and editors.
Over the next week, Pitch University is hosting a Young Adult, Middle Grade, & Romance PitchFest “Feedback Week” with seven agents (submissions to this event have closed) who will give feedback on video pitches from authors. If you aren’t familiar with Pitch University, head over there for a minute and look around. One of the great posts you’ll find there is words of wisdom from one of Houston YA/MG Writers own members:
5 Genius Steps to Crafting Your Pitch (a.k.a. How Lynn Lorenz Changed my Life)
One of the points Diane made during her talk with us was that most pitches and queries are wildly incorrect and give a wrong impression of their book. If a writer is not employing the right structure, the reader will not find their reading experience satisfying.
According to Diane (and to agents who have suggested a similar approach, like Elana Johnson, and Kristin Nelson) the query should focus on the first 50 pages of a novel. The agent or editor will be reading these pages with the query in mind. If the story in these pages does not match the story put forth in the query, the reader will be disappointed. This goes for the tone of the story as well as the content. The same is true for live pitches.
For pitches, writers must also consider their ability to deliver the pitch in an appealing way. For live pitches, Diane advises writers to memorize their query letter, but to also take notes into the pitch session. It is best not to read the pitch, but better to read it than to freeze, forget your pitch, then have nothing to say! Another of Diane’s tips is to stop talking if the agent or editor says yes. Nervous writers are often so relieved at this point that they babble and ruin the good impression they made with their polished pitch. If the agent or editor says no and there is still time left in the interview, writers should set hurt feelings aside and take the opportunity to ask how they might improve their pitch.
Further advice from Diane on queries was to send out no more than five at a time, then revise the query based on feedback (or the lack of feedback) before sending out more.
Thanks, Diane, for being such a great guest speaker and for all the work you do to help writers over at Pitch University. I’m looking forward to hearing the agents’ feedback on this month’s Pitchfest. And thanks, as always, to Mary Lindsey for hosting us and to all our great authors who so generously share their experience and expertise at these meetings.