Agency Lessons: polished pitching

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.
Conference season is upon us. For those of you in the query trenches, this means it's pitching time. Since I was recently at RT, I thought I'd share some tips from the pitches I took and witnessed. Yes, we do watch other people's pitches.

1. Don't memorize
Okay, so you should absolutely know what you are going to say before you arrive at an agent/editor table. If it helps you to write out your pitch and memorize it so you know you will have a fall-back, then do that. But for the love of all things holy, please do not sit down and rattle off three paragraphs of your memorized query letter.

First, you are wasting your opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about your book. I can read your query letter when you email it to me. Second, when you spit out a memorized pitch, no matter how pro you are, your voice takes on this really not good tone that eliminates all the passion I know you have for your story. Just don't do it.

2. Know your story
If I ask you what makes your main character unique, you need to know this. If I ask what your character wants more than anything and what's standing in his way, you should have the answer. If I say, this sounds a lot like XYZ, how is your story different, you better have a good idea.

We don't expect authors to have all the answers to the universe, but you need to know your story inside and out. A pitch session is you selling us on your book. If you can't tell me what makes your book special, I'm going to assume it's not.

3. Leave your cards at home
I know when you are just starting out, it can be tempting to go run and order a bunch of business cards. And if that makes you happy, go ahead and do it. But know that I don't need one when you pitch me. I promise, I will remember your story idea, but I'm not going to remember your name. So that card you gave me, by the end of the conference, I don't know where it came from. Which means I'll probably pitch it.

However, if you already have some books published, postcards or other types of media that have your books are awesome. If you aren't pitching as a debut, then it never hurts to pitch as a pro.
This is a really nice glossy print that I got from an author pitching me her newest project. This absolutely came home with me and is sitting on my desk so I remember to keep an eye out for her manuscript. If you don't have something like this, please don't go spend a bunch of money to have them made just for pitching. However, if you already have them, do bring them to your pitch sessions.

I get that pitching can be ridiculously nerve-wracking and for some, it's a full on panic inducing event. Hopefully, these tips can help. If you guys are interested, I can do another post next week to break down how to best utilize your pitch minutes. Let me know if you want to see that in the comments.