3 Lessons from the NY Pitch Conference

I’ve been a workshop leader at the NY Pitch Conference for more than a decade. That means that four times a year (except during pandemics) I lead a group of writers in polishing pitches and then presenting them to editors and agents. It’s a thrilling job. I meet people from all over the world and hear their stories. It’s also a hair-raising job because I have to take a group of people who don’t know each other and guide them through an intense process of joy (when they get requests) and despair (when they don’t).

What I always find moving is how close the members of my group become. They support each other, hug each other when things go wrong, buy each other (and me) drinks. See picture below. Although writing is a solitary occupation, the community of writers is a very generous one.

Over the course of the four days, I go over a number of obvious things that pitches should include. Conflict. Protagonists. Cliff hangers, and so on. But I was thinking that there are some things that can really affect a pitch that most people don’t think about.

Make it interesting. A lot of times, people are so focused on getting across the details of their novels that they forget that the most important part of a pitch is to intrigue an editor into requesting to read your book. Try to focus on the really interesting parts of your novel, and if they don’t happen until page 235, that might be something to think about.

Remember setting. So many people (myself included) buy books because of where they’re set. That might be London. Or Alaska. Don’t forget about that when writing your pitch, and never say, “It could take place anywhere.” No! Make sure you’ve created a place for your story.

The writing counts. A lot of times writers will say to me that it isn’t fair that their whole novel is being based on one small page of text. The pitch. But the fact is you can tell so much about how someone writes by looking at a page. I can tell if you’re funny or serious. I can tell if your novel is organized or not. I can tell if you know what your story is about. So write it carefully! (No pressure. 🙂 )

Always the shortest person in the room.

So cheers from this December’s pitch conference!

Have you ever had to pitch a novel? Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

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