Friday, August 9, 2013

Conference Season is Here—Have You Practiced Your Pitch?

Many of us will be attending ACFW (American ChristianFiction Writers) in just 32 days. It’s an amazing conference, and one I look forward to each year. It’s a time to network, learn, and pitch our manuscripts to agents and editors.

Attending a writers conference can be a stressful undertaking—even for a seasoned writer. A lot of writers have gravitated toward our profession because we’re not comfortable with crowds, especially crowds of strangers.

That’s why I’m starting this series on preparing for a writers conference. It’s not to add to your stress—but to alleviate it. For me, when I know what to expect and am prepared, I’m less anxious. No one likes to feel like they're under the gun. I assume I’m not alone in this feeling.

So the first subject we’re going to tackle is the one that makes most writer’s stress levels spike off scale—pitching. Today I'm going to cover the basics. If you're attending ACFW in Indianapolis, be sure to sign up for the My Book Therapy Pitch and Polish Seminar the morning before the conference begins. Susie May Warren and her staff will help you come up with the right pitch for your project. 

Over the years I’ve had people tell me they’re not worried about pitching—they’re just going to learn. Nice thought, but not based in reality. I hate to break it to you, but if you’re standing in line or sitting beside someone and they ask you what you’re writing, if you answer them, you’ve just delivered a pitch. I could post pages of stories from writers who wished they’d been prepared for this unassuming little scenario.

The idea behind a pitch is to get the person you’re talking with to ask for more.

Simple concept, harder to execute. So here are some of the do’s and don’ts of pitching.

  • Set up an intriguing scenario.
  • Introduce your main character.
  • Give a hint about their situation and goal.
  • Tie in the disaster or obstacle to that goal.

  • Go over two sentences—try to keep it to one sentence.
  • Answer all the questions the listener might have.
  • Substitute cleverness for specifics.
  • Give away the ending. 

Now, here are some real life hooks or tag lines from popular movies. I’d love to read some of your favorites as well.  
  • "She brought a small town to its feet and a huge corporation to its knees." —Erin Brokovich
  • "To enter the mind of a killer she must challenge the mind of a madman." —Silence of the Lambs
  • "What if someone you never met, someone you never saw, someone you never knew was the only someone for you?" —Sleepless in Seattle 1993
  • “A businessman falls in love with a hooker he hires to be his date for the weekend” —Pretty Woman
  •  “When you can live forever, what do you live for?” —Twilight
  •  “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.” —Jaws 2
  •  “In space, no one can hear you scream.” —Alien 

Now it's your turn to chime in. Do you have any questions or is anyone brave enough to try their pitch out here?

I’ll get the ball rolling with the pitch for my New Adult Science Fiction, ALONE:
"A young woman has grown up expecting to die for her faith, but when her world is invaded she has to decide if she’s willing to live for it."

Post your pitches in the comments section below, and...
Don’t forget to join the conversation!



  1. Going back a number of years, my critique partners and I were ready to pitch at a conference. We decided to practice. Now, we live in different states, so we'd call each other at odd hours (no forewarning!) and when I answered the phone, I'd hear, "Tell me about your book." No hellos, no "Hey, it's me" - just "Tell me about your book."

    It was unnerving! I'd stammer and stutter and then laugh and hang up. Then of course, I'd wait until I was sure Gina was asleep, and call her with the same question. Jessica never seemed to sleep, so she was the most prepared.

    But we kept at it until finally, I could rattle off that 30 second elevator pitch without a single "uh". So I still advise new writers to grab a crit partner and do this exercise. It really works!

    1. This is a SUPER idea. Thanks so much for sharing it with us! Blessings, E

  2. Her life depends on the one man who let her down in the past.
    Great post, Edie!

    1. Pat, love this! I can hardly wait to see you at ACFW! Blessings, E

  3. Here's mine, Edie!

    While preparing for a dream wedding, the bride discovers weather isn’t the only obstacle to happily ever after.

    1. Jennifer, love the parallels in this! Thanks for sharing! Blessings, E

  4. But when pitching to an agent or editor, aren't we suppose to tell them the end? Especially if they ask?

    1. Mary, you are, but not right away. Make them want to know more by revealing a little at a time. I'll explain more in Tuesday's post! Blessings, E

  5. A music professor's heart is frozen and retreats to Glacier Park, but an unexpected pianist melts his heart and restores his song.

  6. Not sure if you're still doing these, but here's mine just in case!

    Being jobless and single can seem like the end of the world. But sometimes it’s just the beginning.