Pitching at a Conference

I’m going to be having a few guest bloggers on here over the next few weeks and first up today is the lovely Monique McDonell, author of Mr Right and other Mongrels.  This wonderfully light hearted chicklit is creeping up the chicklit charts on Amazon so make sure you check it out! Monique recently attended the Romantic Writers Conference on the Gold Coast and has some tips for us on pitching at conferences based on her experiences. Thanks so much, Mon for sharing your ideas. Over to you!

Pitching at a Conference  – Monique McDonell

Writing conferences provide writers with many opportunities and one of the most valuable is the chance to pitch to an agent or a publisher.

Pitching, for the uninitiated, is like doing a very quick job interview. Well, I think conference pitching is a cross between speed-dating and a job interview actually.

A conference pitch session is usually 5 minutes which is a lot shorter than any decent job interview. I think if your job interview only lasts five minutes it is safe to say you didn’t get the job. I believe speed dating is usually less time at the table closer to 2-3 minutes.

Why do people pitch? The reason is simple. There are very few ways to sit down with an agent or a publisher and tell them about your book. Many publishers won’t read manuscripts that aren’t submitted to them by an agent and many agents have closed books. This is a golden opportunity for a writer.

At a pitch you have an objective. You want them to ask to see your manuscript. Some agents/authors ask for a partial (manuscript) some ask for a full. You want to be asked for a full. If you’re asked for partial that’s great but it’s more like you’ve been asked out for coffee than dinner and you want dinner! Either way though, you dance out of there happy and full of hope (See why it’s like dating?)

Just like in a job interview you want the interviewee to like what you have to offer. You want to appear competent and knowledgeable. You hope the time you’ve spent developing your skills will shine through and you will be selected. You understand it’s a pragmatic business like interaction. They may not choose you and it may have nothing at all to do with you or your ability. (They’re looking for rural women’s fiction and you are pitching romantic suspense for example. They’re list is full in your area. They just published someone similar to you.)

However, I think it crosses over into the dating realm again because so much of your heart and soul goes into a book. You love your novel. You want it to be loved. You want the person across from the table to “get you” and want to know more about this great love. You want it to be a shared passion and so the rejection feels personal and so does any success.

That’s what pitching looks like and feels like. Each time you do it I think it gets less scary. I would say I’m still not great at it and my nerves are evident each time but I keep going back and people keep reading my work which of course is the objective.

Here are a few tips for pitching from my own experience and from asking other writers who pitched at this year’s Romance Writers of Australia Conference where there were opportunities to pitch to a wide variety of people representing publishers including Penguin, Harper Collins, Hachette, Allen & Unwin, Simon & Schuster, Harlequin and St Martin’s Press.

  1. Do your research to make sure you are pitching to someone who is looking for what you write eg don’t pitch them YA or Speculative Fiction if don’t publish those.
  2. Do make notes but don’t read them verbatim if you can possibly help it.
  3. Try to let your personality show – these days publishers are looking at the author and the book as a package.
  4. Prepare answers to the sorts of standard questions they will ask you eg Which authors is this book similar to/ are similar to you? What do you like to read? What makes your book unique? Do you have any other books planned?
  5. Relax. This is easier said than done but the publisher or agent wants to hear about your book (that’s why they’re there) and they want you to succeed so try and give your story a chance to shine.

You can find out more about Monique McDonnell on her blog http://moniquemcdonell.weebly.com/blog.html 

And you can find her book Mr Right and Other Mongrels at:



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