Preparing for a pitch

So, yesterday I found out that I have the opportunity to pitch my story to Diana V of Silhouette Desire. She chose 8 people all together. I'm not terribly worried about the pitching part. I know my story inside and out. The conflict, the themes, the characters. I've pitched before (in person) and know a little what to expect. Mostly what I've found is that the person being pitched too is often as nervous as I am. And there's never enough time.

Today I'm stealing from Michael Hague's 3 minute pitch. He has 9 secrets to the succesesful pitch.

1) Establish a connection. Talk about the books they've edited. Share something about your own writing. I make an attempt to read something I know the editor/agent has been involved with before I make a pitch. You won't believe how fast that breaks the ice.

2) Share your passion. Why does your story absolutely have to be told?

3) Don't try to tell the story. Usually I write down a 2 paragraph blurb that I read from. I could have the blurb completely memorized and when I get into the situation where I need to describe the story, I go completely blank. At National last year, I participated in a group pitch. By the time my turn came up, they'd already announced 1 minute left. I read my blurb, the editor asked a question, I answered, and she told me to send the full. Now, I fully expect to have to do more than that usually, but I gave her enough to demonstrate I knew my book and my target audience.

4) Elicit emotion. AKA emphasize conflict. Editors will say over and over that there wasn't enough conflict in a story. When I read contest entries, that's most of the problem I see. Obviously there's always something keeping the hero and heroine apart, but we're not always good at pinpointing what that is. If there's an insurmountable obstacle facing your character, chances are, someone will want to read your story to find out if they overcome it.

5) Emphasize the pivotal moments. This is the character's growth arc.

6) Think like an editor. What is she/he looking for? This is particularly easy with Harlequin/Silhouette because the editors have done podcasts that tell you exactly what they want to see in each particular line. Then hit those points. If you know they like books featuring secret babies, and you happen to have written one, play to that.

7) Ask them if they want to read it. Michael Hague suggests saying: “So would you like me to send you a copy, or do you have some questions about the story?” It gives them an opportunity to choose and keeps you from looking too pushy.

8) Never tell your entire story.

9) Practice. Always smart. Having notes to refer to about your conflict, turning points, etc also helps.

His last secret is great. How to begin. There's always that awkward moment after you've sat down and made your introductions before you start. This is a great segway: “Let me begin by telling you how I came up with this story.”

I don't think in this ever more competitive market that we can ever be overprepared. Yet I'm amazed that people haven't done their research when they start writing for a line. You need to know what the word count is, the sort of things currently being published, what's the flavor of the books? I firmly believe just like writers have a voice, editors respond to certain types of voices.

What about you? Have you done a pitch before? How did it go? What did you take away from the experience?

Today's goal: Polishing Meddling
Yesterday's achievement: I got picked to do the Desire pitch
What I'm grateful for: See above
Quote: "Every time you phone an agent or production company to discuss your story or script, you must be prepared to answer the question, “What’s your movie about?” Your response will often make the difference between getting rejected and getting your material read." -Michael Hague