Friday, March 2, 2012

The Mechanics of the Perfect Pitch

The Mechanics of the Perfect Pitch
By Brad R. Cook

“Write Time! Write Place! Write Now!” The Missouri Writers Guild’s Annual Conference is April 20-22 and Saturday, March 3, is St. Louis Writers Guild’s Workshop about Perfecting Your Pitch to Agents, Publishers, and Editors. To compliment that event, and get us all ready for the conference, I want to share what I learned about the Mechanics of the Perfect Pitch.

Are you ready for your Agent Pitch Session? No. Calm down, breathe, it’s going to be okay. Pitching is easy when you know what you’re doing.

In 2011, I had the opportunity to attend the Writer's Digest Conference in New York. WDC is famous for the Pitch Slam, a two-hour event held on Saturday where writers have two hours to pitch to as many agents as possible. It was the craziest thing I have ever been a part of, every three minutes a bell rang and you had to get up and head to a new line. In 2011, 55 agents and 650 writers filled the room. Most people I spoke with pitched three to seven times. The agents were tough; they didn’t accept everyone, only the people they considered as potential clients. Now the Pitch Slam is like the Super Bowl of pitching, there won't be anything like that at the MWG Conference, but the stakes are the same.

So what makes a great pitch? If you were at St. Louis Writers Guild’s November 2010 workshop with Chris Richman of Upstart Crow Literary, you would have heard about the various types of pitches. At that workshop, Chris helped everyone master the Elevator Pitch, a short 25 word sentence that describes the book. It’s often called a Log Line. At the MWG Conference you’ll have five or seven minutes (I can never remember which), but what do you do with them?

Here are a few tips I picked up, I hope they help.
1. Do mention — if the book is complete, the word count, genre, your main character, and the main plot—this is exactly what the agent will be listening for.
2. Don't use all your time — you want to spend time talking about your book, but you also want to give the agent a chance to ask questions.
3. Be positive — remember you're trying to sell yourself.
4. Practice, practice, practice — recite your pitch in the mirror, tell a friend, write it down. I even believe that if you’re not ready to publish go ahead and practice pitching in front of an agent anyway (just make sure you tell them when the book will be done)
5. It is the work that sells not the writer — focus on why the book is good, not yourself. Unless you’re writing non-fiction then it’s all about you and your platform.
6. Generalities and Clichés will kill a pitch — let them know why your work is different.
7. Don’t ramble or get bogged down in the details — be specific but be concise. This is where practicing will help.
8. Don’t giveaway the ending — make the agent read your book to learn that juicy tidbit.
9. Don’t get tied up with back story or why you wrote it — you can mention it but remember you only have a few minutes. Though this is one of those rules that changes for Non-fiction. Then why you wrote it is part of your platform.
10. Rejection isn’t about you, it’s about the writing or the industry — this is important for anyone who is submitting their work. Maybe the agent just picked up a similar book, or maybe they don’t represent that genre. The point is that the agent isn’t putting you down. They are just not the right agent for that material. If you are rejected, remember, there is always another agent. So get ready to pitch to them!

The goal is to hear those glorious words—“Send me a partial, I want to read that!”
Just remember, publishing is long road and this is just the first step.

The Missouri Writers Guild Annual Conference is a great resource for all writers. To learn more about this event please visit
there is still plenty of time to sign up.

I didn’t get a chance to attend WDC12 but I am hoping to get back there. I highly recommend writers conferences; they really are one of the best ways to learn about the publishing industry.

Good luck with your pitches!
The picture is of the WDC11 Pitch Slam, I don't think I'm in it.


  1. Just in case anyone's interested, the Pitch Workshop will be held at Kirkwood Community Center, 2nd floor, 111 S. Geyer Rd., Kirkwood, MO 63122
    Date: Saturday, March 3, 2012
    Time: 10 AM until noon

    I got my contract for ZERO TIME after pitching to L&L Dreamspell at a MWG conference. I'm a believer!

  2. Thanks for sharing Brad. And ack, I totally spaced out about the workshop!