Pitch to Impress: How to stand out from the convention crowd



By R. J. Cavender

I've had some great experiences pitching and having projects pitched to me since first arriving on the convention scene in 2005. In the last year alone I've taken pitches at World Horror Convention-Austin, The Bram Stoker Awards in Long Island, and KillerCon Convention in Las Vegas. Pitching a project is not the mysterious dark art most make it out to be, but it is your one chance to make a strong impression with an agent or publisher. I’ll be taking pitch sessions for Cutting Block Press and The Editorial Department at The World Horror Convention (Salt Lake City, UT), and am always on the lookout for the next big thing in the horror/suspense genre. Introductory Critiques, Manuscript Evaluations, and Query Submissions Packet Evaluations are a great way to make sure your work is pitch-ready, but the face-to-face pitch is up to you.

Here are a few cautionary Do's and Don’ts I’ve learned over the last few years, making it from one side of the pitch table to the other. Whether you've already booked your convention registration, or are just considering attending a writing conference, these tips will help you present the best possible pitch, and give your project a chance to stand out from the convention noise.


Early on, I jumped into a few pitch sessions half-cocked, and really had no idea who I was talking to. I made a complete fool of myself. There’s no greater waste of time for an author, agent, or editor than just barking up the wrong tree. So, it’s important when planning a pitch session to KNOW WHO YOU ARE PITCHING. Do a little research and find out the sort of authors and projects they represent, and then consider if you have something that fits into that structure. Don’t think for a moment that you can sway an editor or agent with your one-in-a-million idea if they don’t represent that sort of work. If it’s not what they do, it’s simply not what they do.


Pitch your idea and be direct about your story concept and expectations. Have faith in your story and writing— sell the idea.


Be yourself, but be the best yourself that you’ve got. Be well-groomed, be on time, and have a pen and notebook present. Be ready to go. Have a business card. Have a flash drive with your story. I sometimes ask for the first five pages of a story at a pitch session and have even asked an author or two to read their opening pages. Be ready for anything, or at least know where the nearest Kinko’s or business center in the hotel is.


Spend some time with your pitch and be prepared enough to say and do everything that you’d like within the allotted time. Have a two-minute, five-minute, and ten-minute pitch in mind for the story. You should never theoretically run out of things to talk about concerning your project, so be able to condense it into a two-minute pitch or talk about it all night if need be. Be prepared to answer any and every question about your story and its characters. You never know what a long conversation about your story might lead to.


Follow up if that’s what is expected of you. Find out what will make it easiest on the agent/editor in that situation. If you’re asked to send follow-up chapters of your work, do so as soon as you can. I've received follow-up emails from authors before I even make it home from a convention, and that’s certainly a way to stay in an editor or agent’s mind. Just refer back to #1 on this list and make sure that you’re following up on a lead that’s a substantial one.

In closing, I’d like to say that pitch sessions are bar-none one the best ways to get some face-time with people who can help your writing career. Have fun with the pitch session, but also treat it like you would a job interview. A face-to-face meeting beats out an impersonal query letter any day, so consider also how you’d feel working with the people you meet. I’ve started many longtime friendships and working situations with people I’ve met at conventions and in pitch sessions. It’s a realistic next step that any author can take to further their career.

Writing might be a mostly solitary craft, but getting a book published takes networking and a team. So, it couldn’t hurt to plan your next vacation to correspond with a writer’s convention. A weekend of panels, readings, and conversations with like-minded people can do wonders to recharge the creative batteries. I always leave conventions with a stack of new business cards, an armload of books, and lots of new projects to follow up on. I bet you will too.

For more on pitching, see Building Your Author's Platform: Creating the Perfect Pitch.


RJ Cavender's Horror Library IV (co-edited with Boyd E. Harris) is currently nominated for a Black Quill Award from Dark Scribe Magazine in the Best Dark Genre Anthology category. He specializes in horror, suspense and mystery genres. If you would like to work with RJ, please use our Editor Availability Inquiry Form.

From The Editorial Department http://www.editorialdepartment.com/blogs/pitch-to-impress-how-to-stand-out-from-the-convention-crowd.html

Used with permission.