Wednesday, March 02, 2011

I came. I listened. I pitched.

You can pick this up from Rainy Day Books
I posted about a month ago about pitching your book live with tips on presentation. Well, Monday night the Book Doctors, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, came to Kansas City with Pitchapalooza. Think American Idol meets hopeful writers, but without nasty, sarcastic Simon. It's open to the public and anyone can put their name in to pitch to the panel. Only 25 lucky writers are drawn to pitch their book in front of everyone. It was a really fun event, and I was awestruck by how many writers there are in my area. I also learned a few things about the oral pitch that I'm going to share.

Pitchapalooza allows you one minute to share your book idea. I know some conferences expect you to give a one-liner. Always make sure you know how much time you have and what is expected if you have a chance to pitch, which leads me to the first thing I learned.

Practice and time your pitch! There were a number of participants who got up there and just started talking abstractly about their books. Many had interesting ideas, but didn't put their minute to use effectively. Others talked lightening fast to get as much plot as possible into their pitch, often getting cut off when time ran out.  Read your pitch out loud several times while timing it so you know if you need to cut or add.

On that subject, use your whole minute.  Several promising pitches cut off after 30 seconds, leaving me wanting more!

Write it out.  I had my pitch memorized but for this type of presentation, note cards function as a lifeline.  Use them to keep track of where you are in the pitch, but don't just read off them.  Glance at them and then look up and make eye contact with the panel.  If you get so nervous you freeze up, your note cards will save you.  Also you're presenting an idea not performing.  Using notecards conveys that.

Do your research.  I was a bit surprised by the number of people who didn't know what to expect or came without a prepared pitch.  Why?  Because there is fabulous info on how to write your pitch on the Book Doctors website!  I used their info combined with info from the Querytracker blog on writing a query to build my pitch.  You may naturally be able to sell your book in casual conversation, but it never hurts to have a strong written and rehearsed pitch going in.

Remember everyone is nervous.  The people waiting to see if their name will be called.  The people on deck to pitch, and especially the people pitching.  When I gave my pitch, they complimented me on my composure and I laughed and said how nervous I was.  I was sure they could hear the tremble in my voice or the slight shake of the notecards.  Apparently not.  You can be nervous and still give a good pitch.

My awesome critique partner
came to cheer me on!
Stick around to the end.  A number of people ducked out early and they missed out on a Q&A with David as well as a book signing.  And maybe most importantly?  A chance to meet other writers.  I met so many awesome local writers, including a teen author who is going to beta for me.  Talk about networking.

Plus, you never know, you might just win.  I know, because I did!  My pitch won the contest, and I'm still shocked. It was surreal, humbling, exciting.  Writing can be so isolating and it was a huge boost to my confidence to get great feedback, plus I get to talk with David and Arielle about my book and get their expert help.

If you have an opportunity to attend a pitch session like this, do it!  The feedback is invaluable and you get to meet your kind of people.  To see if pitchapalooza is coming to a city near you, check out their calendar here.


  1. What a great opportunity for writers--a dress rehearsal with support from some successful people in the field.

    I can't imagine leaving before end. Good for you for sticking around and getting the feedback.

  2. Oh I love this!!! I'm organizing the Agents and Editors at our Maryland Writer's Conference this April and we are having live one-on-one pitch sessions. I did it last year and was totally unprepared. This is a very useful post.

  3. Wow, Jenn, this is so cool. I'm glad you got to pitch and that you freaking *won* - rock on!

  4. Congratulations! And thanks for passing on these tips.

  5. Great tips. Thanks. Congratulations on your win.

  6. Yes, all good tips to help writers develop a necessary skill!