Monday, July 18, 2016

Notes from All Write Now Conference: Perfecting Your Pitch with Jill Marr

Sioux reads her winning pitch while Jill Marr listens

For the next few posts I'll share some notes and observations from the All Write Now! Conference last weekend at SEMO in Cape Girardeau, which was an amazing experience by the way.


The first event of the morning was "Perfecting Your Pitch" with literary agent Jill Marr.


During the session, Jill described what she considers to be the makings of a successful elevator pitch.

Jill stated the best elevator pitches can be done in about 60 seconds, so her first word of advice was for writers to keep it short and focused.

For fiction, the focus should be on your project, rather than yourself.

Here are some specific tips on pitches. Pitches should be:

* Concise (be brief)

* Clear (no acronyms or jargon)

* Correct (appropriate audience)

* Compelling (hook to ask for more)

* Conceptual (stick to high level, don’t give too much detail)

* Customize (be ready to improvise)

* Conversational (keep it flowing, not stiff)

Also, be sure to include: character, situation (inciting incident), objective (goal), opponent (antagonist), disaster (climax - blackest moment in time).

* For nonfiction, the focus is more on yourself. Why you are proposing this project? What is your personal story?  

When pitching, know your title and genre. Have two options in your head. Be prepared.

Jill has an issue with pitches starting off with a question; it usually doesn’t always work for her. 

After her talk, about a dozen brave souls volunteered to give their pitches to the entire audience. 

I was not one of those brave souls. Call me chicken, but I'm not one to volunteer to get up in public and read. But I did use what I learned during this session to polish my pitch for later that afternoon.

To encourage the audience to participate, Jill offered as a prize for the winner a ten-page critique.

My observation of those who gave pitches was that the best were concise, focused, and memorable.

The one selected as the winner was Sioux Roslawski’s. (Yay, Sioux!)

Sioux (pictured above) visited our critique group and shared her pitch last Tuesday, so I had a hint at what she was going to say.

When Sioux practiced her pitch to our group we blown away. Still, her pitch was fresh. To sum it up, I’d say Sioux’s manuscript is wickedly funny.

After this session I revised my own pitch so I'd be prepared to pitch my project later in the day.

And I'm happy to report that when I pitched my project to Jill she had positive comments. She loves my title and subject matter. She gave me her card and asked me to send the entire manuscript after I've polished it. She told me she'd rather have it polished than quick.

Hope this post is helpful to anyone who plans to pitch to an agent or an editor.

For my next post I'll share some notes from John Rudolph's session on publishing contracts.


22 comments:

  1. I'm so glad it went well. I wanted to go but couldn't make it work, so I'm looking forward to reading the next few blog posts!

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    1. Hi Mary,
      Wish you could've joined us. It was fun, but I learned a lot. Some really good speakers and friendly faces.

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  2. I, too, knew what Sioux was going to say in her pitch. She certainly captured the attention of the audience!

    I'm looking forward to seeing what John Rudolph had to say about contracts. I didn't pick that session because, well, I'm pretty far away from needing that info!

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    1. Hi Val,
      You are right!
      I'm pretty far away from the contract stage, but I was curious about what John had to say, and it was worth the time. Lots of good info

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  3. Wish I could have been there! Being in Madrid and traveling a lot I miss most of the conferences.

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    1. Hi Sean,
      I'm thinking being in Madrid isn't a bad thing. Hope you are enjoying living and writing in Europe.

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  4. Donna--Thanks for the link and the shout-out. And congratulations. That is quite a feather in your cap. Jill knows a winner when she sees one, and your book WILL be a winner.

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    1. Hi Sioux,
      Your pitch had everyone laughing, although I think I noticed a few of the males in the audience wincing.

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  5. Hi Donna! Pitching tips are always welcome for those of us who attend conferences and sign up for those tricky agent or editor pitch sessions. I'm doing it again at Colorado Gold in September.

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    1. Hi Patricia,
      Good luck with your pitch. I spoke with Tiffany from Five Star this weekend. She's a great lady!

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  6. What a fun and educational day. I wish all conferences were as valuable as this one. Congrats on your successful pitch!

    Pat
    Critter Alley

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    1. Thanks, Pat. It was fun and educational, and congratulations on your multiple successes.

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  7. Congratulations,Donna. Your book will grace book stores before you know it.

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  8. Congratulations,Donna. Your book will grace book stores before you know it.

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    1. Thanks, Linda. it would be nice if that happens.

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  9. Congrats to Sioux!

    And excellent on the positive feedback and request for your work, Donna!

    I still don't know how you're supposed to make pitches sound conversational. They always sound so forced when I attempt them.

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  10. Thx for the concise refresher, Donna! The conference was fun and useful - just how a conference should be. I'm so happy Jill is waiting for your manuscript! Don't rush it, but do try to get it to her while your name is fresh in her mind. You'll do great. ANd congrats to Sioux, Sarah and Jane, and all who won/earned recognition.

    Madeline, it gets easier if you pitch often. I think some stiffness and nervousness is always expected, but just be prepared to answer questions off the cuff. That's where a conversation begins. All the best to you, too.

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    1. And Pat, of course! I know others did well too, just can't process it all at this moment ...

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    2. You're right, Marcia. it was a fun and useful conference and lots of folks did very well, including you with your contest wins and book sales.

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  11. So happy the pitches went well! I'm excited for you!

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. It was a bit nerve wracking, but an overall positive experience.

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  12. Congratulations to Sioux Roslawski for her winning pitch. And congratulations to you, too, Donna, for the positive response from Jill. Write on. . .

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