The Value of the Verbal Pitch
Last week in Secrets of a Great Pitch I gave you some tips about talking to agents and editors at writers’ conferences. A few people raised a good question: Why pitch verbally at all, when it’s the writing that matters?
Yes, the writing matters most. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be gained from a face-to-face meeting.
A verbal pitch is the equivalent of a written query, but with some advantages. Your verbal pitch (just like a query) can tell me whether or not I like the idea of your book enough to want to see the writing. But the face-to-face connection also allows you to express yourself not only with words but facial expressions and gestures. It allows a conversation to develop, in which the agent can ask questions and probe for more information if needed. If you get lost in your pitch or you’re not being clear, the agent can redirect you or help you get focused. There’s also the possibility that you’ll “click” with the agent and she’ll really want to work with you, secretly hoping your manuscript is awesome so she can rep you.
None of this is possible with a simple email query. The verbal pitch is usually more memorable than a query too. Both the query and the verbal pitch serve as an introduction to you and your project, leading the agent or editor to make a decision about whether they want to read some of the manuscript.
The in-person meeting also allows agents and editors to see how you present yourself. As a published author, you’ll need to be able to talk to people about your book. You may be interviewed, you might do book signings, you’ll probably have some events in which you’ll need to interact and discuss your book. Taking into account that you’re probably nervous at the pitch meeting, agents and editors can still get a good feel for the “public persona” you’ll have as an author. It probably won’t be a deciding factor in whether to request your manuscript, but it’s one piece of information contributing to the whole picture of “you.”
Some agents and editors find it helpful if you have the first pages of your manuscript available during the pitch meeting. We can take a glance, read a few paragraphs, and between that and the verbal pitch, we’ll know if we want to see more.
Some agents/editors ask almost everyone to send their manuscript after the conference. This is an acknowledgment that it really is about the writing. Writers are nervous when they pitch and might not be presenting their book in the best light, so by requesting pages from everyone, an agent ensures she doesn’t miss something. She wants to make the most of her conference attendance.
Some of you asked last week whether meetings at conferences were worthwhile and wondered whether anything ever came of them. Well from my perspective, they’re definitely valuable. I have several clients whom I wouldn’t be working with except for conferences, including Richard Mabry and Karen Witemeyer, both in the middle of 3-book contracts. So yes, things do happen because of those face-to-face meetings.
Q4U: Which do you think is more effective, the face-to-face pitch or the email query? Which do you prefer?
Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent