Pitching 101

Countdown Week #10

Pitching 101, blueridgeconference.com

by Bethany Jett, @BetJett

At the Blue Ridge Conference, you’re guaranteed two fifteen-minute appointments with the agents and editors of your choice…probably the scariest fifteen minutes of your writers conference experience.

It was for me.

We want to help you prepare as best as humanly possible so you’ll feel confident when you slide your one sheet across the table (we’re going over those in detail next week!). The faculty know how big of a deal these appointments are…several have sat on both sides of the table. So let’s jump in and answer some commonly asked questions.

What is a fifteen-minute appointment?

The fifteen-minute appointment is your time to try to either sell your manuscript to a publisher or magazine editor or convince an agent to represent you. Essentially, it’s a business interview and what I consider your most professional aspect of the conference.

No pressure.

Sure, these appointments are nerve-wracking, but let’s look at the positive side here. You have personalized one-on-one face time with an industry professional. That’s awesome!!! Most people will only send in their proposals via email, yet you are putting your face, your enthusiasm, and building rapport with a decision-maker. You’re already one step ahead because you’ve invested your time and money to attend the conference! GO you!

What do I do at a pitch session? 

Typically, pitch sessions are utilized for pitching your book or magazine ideas to editors and agents. If you’re not pitching a book idea, don’t worry. The faculty members are often willing to give career advice and many of the authors love to help you hone your pitch or brainstorm ideas with you.

We encourage you to meet with the faculty. Ask questions. Get feedback.

What is an elevator pitch? 

Your elevator pitch is what you tell someone when they ask you what you write. If an agent got into an elevator with you, can you pitch your idea before the elevator stops and they walk away?

I’ve had people literally spend ten minutes telling me their book’s plot. Don’t be that person. Keep it short, keep it intriguing!

Here are some tips:

  • Make it about 45-seconds long.
  • Think three-to-four sentences max.
  • Shorten what you would write for your back cover copy.
  • Less is more.

How do I sign up?

During the conference, you’ll have a designated time to sign up for your appointments. Last year after the first evening’s main session, the faculty were introduced and then led out of the main auditorium to the pitching room. When the main session ended, everyone was invited to schedule their appointments.

The faculty are seated at tables in alphabetical order with their sign-up sheets in front of them. You can pick any of the open time slots, just be sure to make a note of who you’re meeting and the time!

What if I want to meet with more than two people? 

It’s our policy to guarantee two appointments for every attendee, so the first evening we ask that you only sign up for two appointments. If you have more than two people you want to meet with, don’t worry! Once everyone has had an opportunity to schedule their two appointments, we’ll “open it up” and you can schedule with the rest of the people on your list. Additionally, you can sit with the faculty members of your choice during meals and you can hang out or meet during free time.

Why are the appointments only fifteen minutes?

Fifteen minutes can either fly by or feel like a snail crawl, so have in mind what you want to discuss so you can take advantage of the entire time. While it may feel like fifteen minutes aren’t enough time, a well-practiced pitch should only take about a minute to deliver. If the conversation is flowing, you can plan to meet together again, usually at a meal or even in the lobbies or common areas.

If your pitch session doesn’t seem to be going well, you don’t have to stay the entire fifteen minutes. People will constantly be coming and going out of the pitch room, so no one will notice if your appointment ends early.

What if my 15-minute appointment is during the middle of a workshop? 

No problem! The faculty are well aware that your pitch sessions will occur at all different times of the day. If you have an appointment during class, try to sit towards the back of the room so you can leave easily.  We all want you to have a great experience, so don’t skip workshops just because it feels rude to leave. I promise, no one’s feelings are hurt!

How will I know when my fifteen minutes are over? 

It’s always awkward to walk over to a table when it’s your turn for an appointment and there is someone in the chair, still talking. When it’s your turn, we suggest walking over to your appointment area and quietly standing a respectful “ATM” distance behind the chair of the attendee.

This allows you to gracefully make your presence known and alerts the faculty member that you’ve arrived.

The most important thing to remember is to be prepared and be yourself. We are praying for you and are here to help. If you want to practice your elevator pitch, feel free to share it in the Facebook group and ask for help or a critique.

Question: Got a fun ‘pitching’ memory to share or any tips? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Bethany Jett holding eyes of hope

Bethany Jett is an award-winning author, speaker, ghostwriter, and founder of JETTsetter Ink, a consulting and editing company. An avid learner, Bethany is working on her Master of Arts in Marketing: New Media and Communication.

Bethany is a military wife and all-boys-mama who is addicted to suspense novels and all things girly. She writes on living a brilliant life at BethanyJett.com. Connect with her on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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