6 Keys to Pitching to an Agent at the Idaho Writers Conference

by | Jan 1, 2023 | Business of Writing, Conferences | 1 comment

See the video on YouTube!

As a writer, pitching your work to agents can seem like a daunting task. However, with proper preparation and a strong pitch, you can increase your chances of success. Along with the other guidelines we have provided on the page linked here, check out these six keys to pitching an agent.  

Research The Agents

Research the agent you will be pitching to before you come to the conference. Each agent has publishers they are associated with and genres the prefer to pitch.

It’s important to find agents who represent work similar to your own. Look for agents who have a track record of representing and selling books in your genre. You can look up detailed information on agents on several websites (including theirs), and see what they are looking for right now. 

While you may have a great pitch for a fantasy, an agent who represents mysteries and thrillers or women’s fiction may not be interested in hearing what you are offering. 

Write a Strong Pitch 

A pitch is a one- or two-sentence summary of your book designed to hook the reader (and the agent) and compels them to want to learn more. Your pitch should be clear and concise, and it should give the agent a sense of what your book is about and why it’s unique.

Think of this as your elevator pitch. You get on an elevator, and an agent asks you, “So what is your book about?” You have a couple of floors at most, 30 seconds to a minute, to get them to say the magic words, “Tell me more.”

This is perhaps the most important summary of the work you will ever write. It shows the agent that you have a clear grasp on your book and your story. An agent is looking for a good storyteller who is also a consummate professional at talking about their stories.

Prepare a Synopsis 

A synopsis is a brief summary of your book that gives an overview of the plot, characters, and themes. This will give the agent a sense of what your book is about and how it’s structured.

Remember, this is not your Amazon or back-of-the-book blurb. Those are for marketing your book later on. This summary includes the entire plot, including the ending. It does not include “teasers” or marketing-type copy. The agent wants to know that you have a complete story or concept in hand and that you can finish. 

This is another part of being a pro. Know how to summarize your work, and if you don’t, get help from fellow writers, friends, or even a professional who can help you write your first agent synopsis and teach you how it is done. 

Have a Polished Manuscript 

Agents want to see a well-written, edited manuscript. Take the time to revise and polish your work before pitching it. This will increase your chances of success and make a good impression on the agent.

Especially be sure that you have the first few chapters they may see at the conference polished and ready. Spelling errors, formatting, and odd fonts are a sure turn-off. Usually, agents will have submission guidelines on their website. Follow them, even for your first few chapters. If they do not, follow these common guidelines:

  • Have your manuscript in Microsoft Word Format
  • Double-space your manuscript and indent the first line by either .03” or .05”
  • Use Times New Roman, 12-point font or another common font like Arial or Calibri. 
  • Number your pages and put your name and title in the header just in case the agent prints it out. 
  • Use page breaks at chapter breaks. 

Remember to have the full manuscript polished and ready just in case an agent asks you to send the full. 

Practice your Pitch 

Practice makes perfect! It’s a good idea to practice your pitch in front of friends or colleagues to get feedback and make sure it’s effective. Get comfortable in talking to people out loud about your story. 

Sit in front of the mirror. Practice on video or audio and play it back. Have your friends ask you questions, hard ones, so you can practice your answers. Sometimes agents will ask those questions to see how you handle pressure and feedback. 

The more prepared you are, the better your pitch session will go.

Follow Submission Guidelines 

Each agent will have their own submission guidelines, so be sure to follow them carefully if they ask you to send the full manuscript. We mentioned this before, but it is important. In addition, be sure you act professionally at the conference. 

  • Give agents only what they ask for. Don’t hand over unsolicited manuscripts or material. 
  • Respect their time. Unless invited, do not approach the agents with questions about your work outside of your pitch session. 
  • Follow any instructions the agent gives you, and listen to any feedback they offer. Even if you don’t take all of their advice, at least look at why they might want you to look more closely at that part of your work. 

This will show the agent that you are professional and serious about your writing. And remember, this is your only chance to make an impression with them and with other agents and editors they may know. Make it a good one. 

By following these steps, you can increase your chances of success when pitching to an agent. Good luck! And if you haven’t signed up to pitch an agent at our conference yet, follow the link here. 

How many authors embark on this “career” hoping they can make it a few years, make a few bucks, and then go do something else? How many writers, even if they do create stories as a side gig or a hobby, tell you, “I think I will try this for a while, and then I will probably quit.”

But how many writers do you know who have quit? They’ve been discouraged by a critique group, discovered how hard “making a living” at writing is, or been rejected by countless publishers or agents, only to decide this “writing thing” is not for their thing.

You know them. You might be one of them. They look sad and feel defeated about their writing. Maybe they weren’t ready for the kind of feedback they got, or they encountered a group of jealous, green writers who took great pleasure in tearing them down so they could feel better.

But you probably know the opposite of that. Writers who embarked on this journey got discouraged and found a group, a mentor, and those who encouraged them and told them this writing thing is not only possible but also worthwhile. They persevered and achieved some kind of success, whatever that looked like to them.

The Lifelong Author

That’s the goal of our Idaho Writers Guild conference next year. We want to introduce you to those mentors and groups, but we want to do more than that. We want to teach you how to be that support system for others. We want you to hear from professionals who will give you tools that will enable you to understand what you want and need from your writing and how to get it.

In short, we want to help you not only improve your writing life and your writing business now, but we want to teach you how to be an author for life.

  • You’ll learn to define success.
  • You’ll learn how to determine how your writing career fits with your personality.
  • You’ll learn how to run your writing like a business without having to become an accountant, attorney, or tax specialist.
  • We’ll show you healthy habits that can keep your body healthy too, from eating right to taking time to exercise to the type of desk and chair you should look for.
  • And we’ll talk about ways to constantly improve your writing craft, and even use the latest technology to make you a better, faster writer who can have fun at the same time.

We’ll do all this because we want you to be a lifelong author. Because I want to be a lifelong author. Because I cannot imagine spending the rest of my life doing anything else.

Workshop Day, 2024

On April 11, 2024, we’re setting up a workshop that will speak to how to discover who you are as an author, determine your why for writing, find your definition of success, and set realistic goals to achieve those goals.

Stay tuned, as we’ll be announcing the speakers for the workshops and details on the subjects we’ll cover soon. This workshop will not only set the tone for the conference but for your blueprint to becoming a lifelong author because you need to know your why and your definition of success as soon as possible before you embark or go any further in your career.

All Star

An All-Star Cast of Presenters

Following that, on April 12th and 13th, we will have an all-star cast of presenters. The best in the industry will be here to talk to you about both the craft and the business of writing. We’ll cover topics from how to take your fiction to the next level to how to structure your business for success from the start.

We’ll talk about good writing habits, good life habits, and how to have both a passion that consumes you and a life that includes hobbies, time off, and even room for other people in your life.

In short, our presenters will walk you through everything from the many paths to publication to the many formats a story takes in today’s modern marketplace (and how you can make the best of them in your career), creating various streams of revenue to support yourself financially, and more.

This is a conference you won’t want to miss, and your friends will not want to miss out on either.  For now, save the date on your calendar. Early bird tickets will go on sale soon!

Want to Be a Part of the Lifelong Author Conference?

We’re looking for help because it takes a lot to put a conference together and make sure it runs smoothly. For now, we are looking for both general and specific volunteers (you can find the roles by visiting this page) who will help us during the conference.

We are also looking for presenters. If you have something to share related to being a lifelong author, we’d love to hear from you. You can find the details of what we are looking for by clicking on the button below and then submitting your ideas to the conference committee. We’ll be in touch soon!

We’re also looking for some more year-round volunteers to help with various aspects of running the Idaho Writers Guild. Find more information by following the button below. We’d love to welcome you as part of the team.

We hope to see all of you in April and at our various events throughout the year!

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