Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Conferences and baby pee. Tips on pitching.

Today we welcome back Idaho writer and blogger, Jessie Gunderson, who was a guest blogger for us earlier this year. Jessie kindly offered this cross post to share on Writing North Idaho, which was originally published on her blog, Blog Schmog. In the post she gives us her fun and informative thoughts and tips about pitching her work after attending the recent Inland Northwest Christian Writers Conference in Spokane where she met with editor Mick Silva of Waterbrook Press and agent JD DeWitt of The View Talent Agency. The photo in her post shows Jessie (right) and a friend at the conference.

Baby pee isn’t the best of perfumes when meeting with Mick Silva on editing and novel ideas. With a large wet spot on the front of my shirt, I had a difficult time being confident. Note to self; bring a change of clothes.

If you are four-foot eleven and have an innocent (some have said, childlike) face you shouldn’t be surprised when the agent nearly chokes on her pencil eraser after you tell her that, in your book the New York senator is accused of being a terrorist.

What I learned about pitching at the Inland Northwest Christian Writers Conference. Click the link to view next year’s schedule. Tracie Peterson is the keynote speaker. You won’t want to miss it!


1. Be Compelling

Surprise the agent with something she’s not often heard, but deliver it with passion not monotony.

During a small group agent session, I had to repeat my one sentence pitch twice. I surprised the agent but not in a good way. My pitch came across shy and unsure. I must have been twirling my hair like a school girl ready to recite Dick and Jane. Thankfully she was there to teach as well as procure a couple of authors so she helped me see my error.

“More conviction!” she coaxed.

No more pitching like I’m doing grade school recitations, especially if I am a suspense writer. Point well taken. I’m laughing at myself now.

2. Be Short

And I don’t mean in stature.

Be concise. Avoid including every character in your book or details about back story and subplots. Keep to the main point. Why should she care? Why is your story different?

As writers we are so close to our projects that it can be hard to see the sun for the sunrise. Tell about your main conflict and characters. Let the colors of your story speak for themselves but during the pitch, stick to the big picture. A great resource for coming up with your pitch and/or plotting a novel is Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method.

3. Be Specific

Please don’t forget to include what your book is about. I heard several pitches this weekend and yet some of them I couldn’t identify a single unique thing about the story.

One pitch went something like this…

“My story is compelling and full of adventure. The main character is one we can all relate to. She has convictions and a strong motivation. I don’t need editing at this point, just an agent to sell my story.”

Can anyone tell me what this story is about? It may be the story of the century but how can anyone know?

Do you have a conference faux pas or helpful tip to share?


Jessie Gunderson writes mainly inspirational fiction and poetry. She's currently hard at work at two important creative projects: (1) a political suspense novel, and (2) wrangling her five children ages 1 month to 9 years. She lives in Post Falls. Be sure to check out her great blog, Blog Schmog.


Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Thanks Jessie for sharing your tips on pitching. If we think about it long addition to pitching...compelling, short, and specific would probably be excellent rules for many things related to writing and the writing life.

Jessie Gunderson said...

Good point Nancy. I think I'll take my own advice and put the axe to a couple chapters. :)

Nancy Owens Barnes said...

And now that I think about it, kids also apply: compelling, short, and specific.

Jennifer Rova said...

I haven't learned much about pitching so I appreciated your blog. It gives me confidence to have specific tips on what to do and say. Thanks, busy mama.

Jan Cline said...

Sounds like you learned some valuable things at the conference. Im so glad. I know first hand you are talented enough to go far. (And I never smelled the pee on you all day!) Pitching can be very intimidating, but it can also be fun.