Agency Lessons: Conference Pitching

Last week was light on posting due to an unexpected trip to the ER. Thankfully, all is well and I'm back this week with an Agency Lessons post all about pitching at conferences.
As crazy as it sounds, it's almost time for conference season. In fact, I'll take my first pitches of the year next month! One of the best parts of conferences is the opportunity to talk to agents, both in the formal pitch sessions and while you socialize at the bar. But while most writers spend ages working on their queries, there isn't as much advice out there on how to pitch in-person.

Writer's digest recently put out these tips for pitching at conferences. There are some great tips here, though I disagree with the advice that you have a year to send your requested manuscript. While there's not a printed rule book we're operating off of, I think this is bad advice. What sounds unique and marketable right now could be overdone and unsellable next year. Only pitch a book you are ready to send out within the week (to allow for integrating any feedback you receive at the conference). The only time it's okay to pitch an incomplete book is if an agent has specifically stated this is fine with them.

My best piece of advice is to be prepared to answer questions about your book. If memorizing a pitch makes you feel comfortable, go for it. But know that agents will need more than that to make a decision about your book. Here are some questions you might prep for:
a. what makes your main character unique?
b. what is his/her goal in the manuscript?
c. what is standing in the way of this goal?
d. what are the stakes if the goal isn't achieved?
e. who is the antagonist?
f. what are the antagonists redeeming qualities?
g. how is your book different from what's already on the market?
h. what are some books you would consider comparisons?

Most of these are the kinds of questions you would answer in query letter so they should be pretty basic. Some of them are more complicated. The purpose of  questions like these aren't to stump you. If you can tell me off the top of your head why I might want to root for your bad guy, I know you've put a lot of thought into your story and have multi-faceted characters. That's a good thing.

Other than that, just try your best to relax. Agents want you to do well. We want your book to be amazing (but not so amazing we have to fight off every other agent in the house to get our hands on your pages). Just kidding. We do want it to be that amazing. Before you step up to the table find your happy place. Hopefully, it's found inside your manuscript and then we can both visit there together.

For all of you off to pitch this season, good luck. For the veterans among us, please share your best pitching tips in the comments.