Saturday, February 6, 2016

Preparing to Pitch at a Writing Workshop

Six long years it has taken to write this book. This novel. This Fantasy. This Southern Literary Speculative Fantasy.

I’m going with Southern Fantasy for now.

On February 20th, I (finally, finally, FINALLY!) get to pitch Blessed Are the Peace Makers at the Atlanta Writing Workshop, where I am confirmed with two agents and wait-listed for another.

Scattering Seeds aka Pitching Literary Agents

All three agents represent the Fantasy genre and all three sound awesome. Is one of them looking for me and for Peace Makers? Will one of them love William and Awen’s story as much as I?

In order to find out, it’s important I be prepared when the pitch-date rolls around. To this end, I searched our Relentless Writers Blog for helpful tips, then googled to find more on pitching at a conference.

These are the articles that helped the most:

"Rule #6: Have your manuscript finished, edited, and polished before querying.
Reason: Although a lot of agents will do edits before shopping your manuscript, their time is limited. They are not going to be willing to do extensive edits on a project, so if you send out a manuscript before it is finished, you are essentially setting yourself up for rejection."

I learned not to bring manuscript pages, to keep my pitch under 90 seconds (fiction) and that it’s okay to bring notes, but not to read from them (oh, and to be brilliant when sitting next to an agent at lunch, but not to pitch them there.)
“Writers need to understand that agents attend conferences with the same high hopes that writers do. Writers want to find an agent who will represent them, and agents want to find clients who have a book they can get excited about. The agent/author relationship is that of a partnership where each party has the same goal in mind; to sell the book to a publishing house. 
Jon Sternfeld, with the Irene Goodman Agency said, ‘I wish writers would see the agents more as an equal—when there's too much desperation in the writer's eyes, agents tend to de-value them. If a writer is confident, I know that they don't need me so much as we need each other.’”
Am I there yet? Am I ready to pitch? Not quite. There are things I have left to do in the next two weeks:
 1)      Complete the last pass (3rd Draft) of Blessed Are the Peace Makers;
2)      Hone my query letter and memorize it for my pitch;
3)      Write (and memorize) a few more one-line blurbs for chance-meetings of other agents (and interested writers) during the day-long workshop;
4)      Practice, practice, practice my pitch and one-liners;
5)      Do deeper research on the three agents I will be pitching – so far I’ve only found the standard bio on each of them (maybe because they are newer agents);
6)      Plan my outfit so that I look professional and feel great;
7)      Resolve to reap the other benefits of attending the workshop, whether I receive an agent request or not, courtesy of Author, Merissa McCain.
There you have it. Good luck on YOUR next pitch.
~ Olivia J. Herrell aka O.J. Barré

P.S. Or just skip the pitch altogether and go Agent, Janet Reid's route: Pitch Sessions Are the Spawn of Satan. Wish I'd read this before spending so much time and money. 


  1. I've pitched at 3 conferences, and for me the key - in addition to all the things you mention - is to have a up-tempo song queued on my phone, to listen to over the last few minutes while I'm waiting in line to go in and pitch. It's gotta be something that'll get my body moving and my confidence up.
    It also helps to make sure you turn the music OFF when you're walking into the pitch room, so your pocket isn't singing to the crowd.
    All the best in Atlanta, Olivia!

  2. What a great idea, Liv! Thanks! After reading the article by Janet Reid (the last link in the PS above) I'm curious. Did any of your conference pitches land you an agent or editor?