Pitching – The Job Interview

Song of the Day: Break Your Heart by Taio Cruz

If you popped in last week, you’ll know the do’s and don’ts of submitting masterpieces to coveted agents and editors. If you didn’t, scroll down. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

To give you a quick recap, Scott Eagan of the Greyhaus Literary Agency came to my “home” Romance Writers of America chapter, Northwest Houston RWA, gave us an eye-opening quirky presentation on submitting and pitching.

This week, I’ll share with you the scoop on pitching pointers à la Scott.

Treat a pitching appointment like it is a job interview because in all honesty, there is little difference. You walk into the appointment to sell yourself. Now for all you degenerates out there, and you know who you are, I don’t mean bribery or prostitution. This interview is about you and your resume. Resume = manuscript. Just as in an interview for employment, you are not there to chit chat and yuck it up. You have limited time. Use it wisely. Ask questions, take notes. Keep in mind I’m not referring to items like word counts, genres, and the like. You would know that from your research, right? And I don’t mean advances and royalties, either. That’s putting the cart before the horse and the horse just walked away. Questions that might arise may be more like how your book might fit into the current market.

By now you know that writing is a business. The cool thing about that is you can work at home in front of your computer wearing your PJs, not having showered in days, and entertain the cat with unkempt hair that rivals Edward Scissorhands. No so for a pitching session (or for anytime leaving the house). Dress accordingly. Business casual will be perfect. Sound professional. Act professional. Be intelligent. This falls in line with knowing the business and having confidence about yourself and your work. Let the agent or editor know you are ready to move to the big league.

When going on a job interview, you should know a little something about the company. The same applies to pitching. Do your research. Know what the agent / editor wants and what they like or dislike. Does the agent accept romantic suspense but not women’s fiction? Do they love historical tales but despise time travel? Are they partial to comedy? Do they represent all genres of romance but are only accepting young adult at the moment? Maybe they are really into vampire cowboys. Tailor your pitch to them. Scott put it best; one size does not fit all.

Be prepared. There are several points to this. Don’t pitch if your story is not complete, polished and ready to send immediately. Understand that there is a really good chance the agent / editor will ask questions. Know the answers. Be able to produce your manuscript. Consider keeping your book on a flash drive or stored in a secure web account. That way when you are at a conference and an agent / editor requests to see your manuscript, you can hustle back to your room, do your happy dance and fire off your magnum opus from your laptop. If you don’t have your materials with you, don’t fret. Just be sure to get them what they asked for as soon as possible.

Lastly, let’s talk about pitching no-no’s. Do not dress in costume. Please don’t dress up as a character in your book. That’s frightening. Don’t slide money across the table expecting favors. Avoid auditioning for a stand-up comic gig. Don’t shove a business card under their nose before your pitch session begins. Don’t apologize. And, if you know what’s good for you, don’t argue!

Next week: The Pitch! How to give them exactly what they want!

6 Responses to Pitching – The Job Interview

  1. Wonderful series, Jenn. These are keepers for an aspiring author.


    • jbrayweber says:

      Thank goodness someone out there is reading them. I was beginning to think I was keeping company with crickets. LOL!
      Thanks for the confidence, Rounder. You always have my back! 😀


  2. Stacey Purcell says:

    The crickets and I think this blog is excellent.
    The writing industry is schizophrenic at best. One moment you’re cocooned in a warm fuzzy blanket of support and mentoring and the next a hard reality slap comes stinging across your face.
    This is a business. It’s frankly a business that is mostly about the numbers and your feelings are just an annoying buzz. It’s time to check those fragile emotions at the door and be a grown up when presenting your material. Sigh….wish I could present in my flannels along with my woobie. 🙂


    • jbrayweber says:

      Boy, I can tell you just got back from a Donald Maass boot camp. LOL!
      Thanks, Stacey. You and your woobie ROCK!


  3. Erica Henry says:

    Good list of do’s and don’t. Can’t wait for next section.


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