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

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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. 

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