Agent Pitch Prep Tip: Make Dossiers

agent_megibowConference seasons is here again! Some of you may be headed to the RT Convention coming up shortly and participating in their Pitch-a-Palooza, or taking advantage of the pitch appointments at the RWA conference, or those at regional conferences. Whichever you’re doing, it’s best to be prepared. I’ve now pitched seven times at three different conferences and I thought I’d share one of my tips: Make a dossier on each agent!

This serves several purposes:

  • Ensures you’ve researched the agent
  • Helps you get to know them a little before you meet them
  • Helps make you feel like you’re prepared
  • Provides you with info to help break the ice
  • Gives you something to review quickly while you’re waiting for the appointment to start

This last is super-important if you’re pitching to more than one. You can quickly review and remind yourself that yep, this is the one that likes The Hobbit, or this is the one that loves dorky heroes. Whatever it is that you have in common that will help cement that agent in your mind before you go in.

Things to include:

  • Photo
  • Agent Name (Duh)
  • Name of Agency
  • Location of their office
  • Who their agency represents (only list those authors you know or are familiar with)
  • Who they represent (again, just the ones you’re familiar with)
  • Books they like (Obviously only ones that you like too or that might be comps for your work)
  • Other Items of Note (anything else about what they’re looking for, personality quirks you have in common, anything else that’s relevant to your project. I knew one agent hated having pitches that started with the author handing her a business card, so I made sure to note that)

Things I didn’t list, but that could be good to add:

  • Questions to ask
  • Possible icebreaker topics

I took these sheets and made a folder with each one, complete with a label printed for the tab.

agent_kye_casella

What if you don’t find much?

Some agents keep a low profile on the web (like mine!). But still it helps to put whatever you can find. To the right is all I could glean on my agent before I pitched to her. But it really helped to review this and know what she looked like. Be careful what you do find on the web–QueryTracker accidentally had Vicky Dreiling listed as being represented by her and it turned out that was incorrect. Double-check what you find with another source.

Anyway, I think my ice-breaker was going to be about her looking for quirky characters, but it turned out I didn’t need one. We were interrupted right when I sat down because I’d dropped my little stuffed Yoda that I had attached to my conference bag as a mascot and quick way to identify it amongst other bags. We had a laugh over it and she said “I love Yoda!” and off we went.

After the pitch

Afterward, I wrote down what they wanted on the sheet and their contact info. If they gave me a business card, I attached it. It also came in handy to keep any relevant info that transpired afterward in that folder or written on the sheet (like date partial full sent, reply, etc).

What about you? Have you used something like this and did you find it helpful? If you haven’t, would doing this help you? Can you think of other things to add that might be good to keep track of?

Polishing my Pitch for the FF&P Fantasy on the Bayou Conference this weekend

funny pictures-RAWR! Iz I doin it rite? RAWWWR!!!I’ve had a nervous stomach since last Wednesday when I realized this conference was only a little over a week away. Now it’s only a couple of days. Eeep!

Been hitting the Chamomile Tea pretty hard to calm the ole stomach….

Reason I’m nervous? Not only is it my first writer’s conference, but I’ll be pitching to three agents. Never done it before. For the non-writers who might be reading this, I basically have about 8 minutes to verbally infuse that agent with a hot, burning need to read my manuscript. Can I say ‘Eeep’ again?

They say you should memorize about 3 to 4 sentences to pitch and that the agent will ask questions. Is that about right?

So I thought I’d indulge myself by running several by y’all. They say it also needs to sound conversational… So here it goes, FWIW:

A) MUST LOVE BREECHES is a completed 98,000 word time-travel romance. When a thoroughly modern American girl finds herself stranded in 1834 London, she must find a way home while navigating the pitfalls of London society, resisting her attraction to a hunky lord, and ultimately having to decide when her true home lies. 

or:

B) MUST LOVE BREECHES is a completed 98,000 word time-travel romance. It’s about a quirky modern American who has finally met the man of her dreams. There’s only one problem–he lives in 1834. She has sworn off ever doing the follow-the-boyfriend move again. But when she’s accidentally transported to 1834 London, she has a hard time resisting the hunky lord known as the Vicious Viscount. She wants to find the silver case that transported her through time so she can return to her carefully crafted life in the present, but when he asks her to pose as his fiancée for his own scheme of revenge, she ultimately has to decide when her true home lies. One of the fun things about it, besides the yummy hero, is that she is befriended by Ada Byron, Lord Byron’s daughter, and meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the Difference Engine. I’ve tried for a light, humorous touch, while also exploring aspects of 1830s London that’s not typical: the scientific.

I know mentioning other characters in a pitch is usually bad, but the thing is, Ada Byron Lovelace is a major secondary character. She is one of the “high concept” things about the book. Whenever I mention she’s in it to someone who asks me what my book is about, they perk up with that bit. Also, it’s timely–Steve Job’s biographer’s next subject will be her. Folks into steampunk love Lovelace and Babbage.

I’ve tried to get my goal, motivation and conflict in each, my theme, and (B) also includes the Act One turning point.

I see (A) as my elevator/cocktail bar pitch and (B) as my actual pitch? Will I have enough time for B?

Some resources I found, if you’re faced with doing a verbal pitch session soon:

I’ve done my research on the agents, now I just need to nail down my pitch and memorize it. I’m also going into it with the attitude that the agent will know I’m nervous, it’s to be expected. Hopefully that will make me less nervous. I’m going to go in positive…

How about you? Do you have any advice? Are you going to the conference? Do you have any funny pitch stories to share?