PITCHING YOUR WORK: THE TWELVE STEPS TO SUCCESS

I’ve got some alarming news, I’m afraid.

You know how one of the main appeals of being a writer is sitting peacefully alone at your desk – possibly with a cat, but certainly no other humans for company? How, as a writer, you get to think through everything your characters say; turning over each question, exclamation and retaliation in your mind until it sounds just right? And (in the dream scenario) you get to keep doing this for months and months until, finally, you have single-handedly penned a full-on novel?

Well, all that solitude is about to vanish. When it’s time to start looking for an agent and ultimately a publisher, you’ll need to get other people involved. Lots of them.

Before you panic, though, this is definitely a good thing. It may seem daunting to begin with, but it’s the beginning of the next chapter – if you will – of your writing journey: sending your book out into the world.

At this point, it’s essential to be ready to pitch your work to a potential agent or publisher. This means you’ll have to talk about it in a concise, structured way, so they can quickly see the outline of your book as clearly as you can. When talking to someone you think might be interested in your novel, avoid the hard sell. Instead, your aim should be to pique their interest and have them ask to read more.

A couple of weeks ago, Lucy English guided us through the key points to remember when sharing (and, hopefully, selling) your work. Here are her top twelve tips. There is also a handy infographic at the bottom that sume ups the ideas in this post!

Ask yourself: is this the right event? Just because somebody is a literary agent or works for a publisher, it doesn’t mean that they want to hear all about your latest project. Make sure that whoever you are pitching to is ready and willing to talk. For example, a dinner party might not be the right place.Do your homework. If you are going to an event where there are plenty of agents make sure you know what kind of material they are interested in. You will waste time pitching a Romantic piece of fiction to an agent who specialises in crime writing. Try and find out who will be there and what they specialise in. Be an avid reader of the Writers’ Handbook or the Writers and Artists Yearbook. Read publishing magazines and Writers magazines to find out more information. Follow agents’ twitter feeds. Compile a list of who you want to talk to.

Do your homework. If you are going to an event where there are plenty of agents make sure you know what kind of material they are interested in. You will waste time pitching a Romantic piece of fiction to an agent who specialises in crime writing. Try and find out who will be there and what they specialise in. Be an avid reader of the Writers’ Handbook or the Writers and Artists Yearbook. Read publishing magazines and Writers magazines to find out more information. Follow agents’ twitter feeds. Compile a list of who you want to talk to.Make it short. Learn how to describe your work in a concise manner and with enough information to make the other person want more. These are the essential pieces of information; what sort of book is it? (Literary, crime,

Make it short. Learn how to describe your work in a concise manner and with enough information to make the other person want more. These are the essential pieces of information; what sort of book is it? (Literary, crime, Sci Fi, teenage etc). Where is it set? Who is the main protagonist? What is the key feature of the storyline? What is unique and different about your projectKnow how your writing ‘fits in’. Agents and publishers are running businesses. They want a book that will sell. You may write in the most beautiful way and have the most interesting storyline but if your book is not what they are looking for they may not be interested in it. What is currently selling? Does your project fall into the same category as any

Know how your writing ‘fits in’.  Agents and publishers are running businesses. They want a book that will sell. You may write in the most beautiful way and have the most interesting storyline but if your book is not what they are looking for they may not be interested in it. What is currently selling? Does your project fall into the same category as any best selling, or recently acclaimed book. Is there a writer that you admire? Does your work resemble theirs in any way?Look the part. You are lucky. There is no established dress code for writers and what you wear can reflect your personality. However, if you are going to pitch make sure you look approachable and look like the sort of person it would be good to work with. Scruffy clothes suggest

Look the part. You are lucky. There is no established dress code for writers and what you wear can reflect your personality. However, if you are going to pitch make sure you look approachable and look like the sort of person it would be good to work with. Scruffy clothes suggest disorder. Crazy dress sense suggests, um, craziness. Does your preferred choice of clothes need spicing up or down. Ask a friend.Be prepared to talk. OK, you have done all your homework and you know exactly what kind of book you have written and you look smart and clean, but if you don’t approach anybody your hard work will be wasted. It is difficult and excruciating to introduce yourself to people you don’t know. Just remember that they might feel as awkward as you. Smile. Make eye contact and look approachable. Try to start the conversation. They will be delighted if you know who are they are.

Be prepared to talk. OK, you have done all your homework and you know exactly what kind of book you have written and you look smart and clean, but if you don’t approach anybody your hard work will be wasted. It is difficult and excruciating to introduce yourself to people you don’t know. Just remember that they might feel as awkward as you. Smile. Make eye contact and look approachable. Try to start the conversation. They will be delighted if you know who are they are.

Don’t talk for too long. You want them to be interested and to want more. You are not telling them your entire life history. Give yourself about three minutes to get across the essentials of your project. If they are interested they will ask questions. If they are not interested don’t try to persuade them. Don’t feel rejected or hurt or angry. Find somebody else to talk to. This isn’t the place to air your views about the government or everything you learned when researching this book. If you find yourself doing this. Stop. Ask questions. And listen.

Be positive. We are a nation of grumblers. A pitching event isn’t the place to moan about what you didn’t like about the MA course and how your kids/partner/cat prevented you from writing. Be positive about what you have written and don’t share all your anxieties about how you think the middle section is bit weak etc. If you don’t have faith in your book why should anybody else?

Be honest. If you think you can finish the book by June/Christmas/Next spring, say so. Publishers and agents work to tight deadlines. If you give yourself a deadline you can’t achieve you will upset plenty of people. Be realistic. Talk about your next project after this one. Show that you have plenty of ideas.Take contact details and give out yours. Why not have a card printed with your contact details on it? Make sure you take the names and numbers of people who showed an interest in your work. If you haven’t heard from them in a few weeks write and ask if they are still interested. Keep track of who you have contacted and what their response was.

Take contact details and give out yours. Why not have a card printed with your contact details on it? Make sure you take the names and numbers of people who showed an interest in your work. If you haven’t heard from them in a few weeks write and ask if they are still interested. Keep track of who you have contacted and what their response was.

Pay attention to your online profile. If an agent is interested in you then they will look you up online. If your Facebook page is full of you being daft at parties perhaps you need to create another more professional one. A professional writer will eventually need a website, Facebook, Twitter pages and a blog. Investigate how other writers have managed their online presence. Start following the Twitter feeds of agents and publishers who might be interested in your work. Why not check out Jess’s blog post on Eleanor St Clair’s tips for winning on social?

Keep writing. It may be that your current project isn’t the one that gets published. It may be that your next one, or the one after that, is the one that gets published. No agent wants a ‘one book’ writer. Don’t feel rejected. Keep trying new people. Go to more events. Remember that Harry Potter was rejected initially and The Help was turned down by sixty publishers. Keep writing.