Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ditch the Pitch Appointment?

Have you ever been to a pitch appointment at a writers’ conference? Were you disappointed when the agent or editor mentioned you needed a completed manuscript before they’d take your book idea seriously? Well, agent Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency recently blogged about the possibility of eliminating this situation. She feels if there’s an alternative to the original pitch appointment, something made for writers who haven’t finished their book yet, both writers and agents (or editors) can walk away with integrity. The way the system is presently set up, the agent or editor must act like the villain by rejecting the writer before they read a word he/she has written. Talk about making rejection feel personal.

The alternatives Kristin Nelson and readers of her blog (Pub Rants) have come up with are:

1) Practice pitch session where any writer with an unfinished project may pitch to an agent/editor for feedback (and practice) knowing no sample pages will be requested.
2) Social event with agent/editor where 6 participants meet the agent/editor off-site at a restaurant or lounge for a Q & A roundtable discussion.
3) Coffee Klatch where 5-6 participants have coffee with an agent/editor. This is similar to #2 only it’s on-site.
4) Small roundtable query workshop or opening pages critique, which would be a lot of prep work for the agent/editor.

I believe #1 is a win/win situation because there’s no pressure on the writer to succeed and the agent/editor doesn’t have to worry about rejecting anyone solely because the work isn’t complete. Also, wouldn’t having this as an option open up spaces at pitch appointments for writers who have finished their manuscript? I would hope so.

What do you think? Which alternative would you prefer? Or do you have your own idea?


  1. Number one seems helpful, but I'd still be a wreck.

  2. Oddly enough, I've been involved with all of those. Sometimes as a writer doing the pitching, but also as the Executive Director of the Writers' League of Texas which puts on a big conference called "Agents & Editors."

    I don't think there's anything wrong with going into a pitch session and letting the agent know you haven't completed the book, then proceed to ask them questions. As long as they know you're not trying to pitch an unfinished project, my experience has been that they're willing to sit and talk with you about themselves, answer thoughtful questions and have a conversation with you.

    Either once or twice the League also tried off-site dinners. Attendees could sign up to go off-site to eat with an agent or one of the speakers. They had to pay for their meal (the League paid for the speaker or agent). But then everyone could sit and talk in a casual location.

    Most conferences also have other opportunities like ice breakers and lunches where the agents and editors are in attendance.

    If you're ready to pitch, then the pitch session sounds best. If not, then I'd probably go for the coffee klatch or catch them in the bar (you find a lot of agents in the bar, maybe not at the host hotel, but nearby). And don't take that negatively. Like anyone else, they need a moment to relax and get off the stage.

  3. Excuse that last post. I didn't realize until after I'd hit publish that I'd gone on and on! Sheesh.

  4. I'd rather have a finished novel to pitch but if I were to pitch a prospective idea I like #1

    I've pitched at a conference before to a number of agents. The first one bombed badly the rest requested partials. It was nerve racking!

  5. Only pitched to one agent, and it wasn't really a pitch because after I signed up I realized that they only request fulls. So I went in to the appt. and told him straight up, sorry, I didn't know. Well, he was super nice, offered to read my first pages and gave me some tips. I'll never forget what a kind agent he was.
    My pitch appt. was a positive experience, thank goodness.

  6. Rebecca: Yeah, I'd be a wreck, too, but better to feel that way during a practice run than the real thing.

    Helen: Always love to read what you have to say. No need to cut your words short. ;)

    T.Anne: I've never been to a conference much less pitched before an agent. Congrats on getting partials requested.

    Jessica: That was really nice of him. I'm glad he took the time to help you instead of simply brushing you off.

    Lynnette Labelle