Thursday, July 8, 2010

How to Pitch an Agent

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by C. Patrick Schulze 

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

You know what's more difficult than writing a NOVEL? Selling your novel to an AGENT. It's one of the more daunting aspects we writers face.

By nature we writers live in world more solitary than most. We sit alone and clack on a keyboard for hours on end. And welcome the opportunity. It's this aspect of our collective personalities that tend to ensure our strengths lie in areas other than finding an agent to represent us.

However, there's not as much to landing an agent as you might think. All you have to do is sell them on your book. And all that takes is ninety seconds. You can do anything for ninety seconds, right? In four words I'll tell you how you do that.

Fill the agent's needs.

Not enough? Okay. Allow me to outline the agents needs for you. This get a bit deep, so hang on. They need good authors to represent.

Now that I've done the hard part for you, how might you fulfill their needs?

One secret, after you've written that high quality novel of course, is your book pitch. It's that ninety second synopsis of your novel.

Keep in mind a pitch has only one function. To make and agents think, That's interesting.

To convince anyone something is "interesting," you've got to be able to tell them about it. In our world of writing, we explain our books and novels with a book pitch.

With an effective pitch, I'll bet you're eighty percent or more on your way to publication.

So, how to put our ninety seconds of fame to good use? Here's a simple way to do that.

Think of your pitch as your verbal sales brochure. If you've ever studied brochures, you know they say very little but feel very good. That tells us our verbal brochure, our pitch, should be infused with an emotional tug of some sort.

Remember our old friend, CONFLICT? Yep. He comes into play here, too. The secret to your book pitch is conflict.

That is to say, if you want to pitch an agent, just give them a short summary of your PLOT. Mention first what the protagonist desires, why he wants it what keeps him from it. If you get nothing else in, it's okay. It is nice if you give them word count, genre, target audience, etc. If you don't have the time, they'll ask if they're interested.

Now for a couple of other things to keep in mind.

First and foremost, nothing happens until you make it happen. Go to the writers' conferences and set appointments with agents. Pay a reasonable fee if you must.

Keep your pitch itself short. Think three sentences and ninety seconds, tops.

Can you read your pitch to them? Sure. It answers their questions whether you recite or read it. Tell them before you pull out your cue cards, though.

Be sure to point out any connection you have with the agent, no matter how small and to let them know why you chose to speak with them.

If you're not sure how to write your pitch, begin your first sentence with the word, "when" and your second sentence with the word, "can." That'll usually put you on the right track.

Of course, you know this is a business meeting, so treat it as such. Be polite, professional and considerate.

And for my final recommendation, always remember, my friends, fortune favors the bold.

By the way, I've got a joke for you.

How do you pitch an agent?
Why, you wind up and toss 'em.

Until we meet again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the now-at-the-editors novel, "Born to be Brothers"


  1. Pitches are frightening. I'm going to a conference in a few weeks and "the pitch" is lurking! Your post is timed well. I like that you liken the pitch to a verbal brochure. Great analogy. It's hard as a writer to be vocal (at least for me!) and it requires pushing myself beyond my comfort zone to approach someone. But if it may help me go to the next level with a manuscript, that's my motivation to take the plunge. Thanks Patrick!


  2. C. Patrick SchulzeJuly 8, 2010 at 5:51 PM

    My pleasure, Marissa. Best of luck at the conference. Let me know how it goes for you?