Pitch Practice with Beth Yarnall

Late Friday evening, the first day of the conference, Author Beth Yarnell held a very detailed pitch practice for everyone who signed up to pitch on Saturday. She found out how few of us had ever pitched before, so instead of doing an overview, she chose to do a deep dive. I am so glad she did.

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The first thing is to have a finished and edited manuscript that you are pitching. This is where the “Just write a good story” comes in. The next thing is to have researched the person to whom you are pitching. Okay, I panicked. I had originally put as my first choice someone I know from Romance Writers of America. But that wasn’t who I ended up with. I frantically pulled out my phone and Googled the editor. Two things she can’t get through her workday without are coffee and the office bulldog. Score! We already have a lot in common.

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If you have a synopsis, make it about 5 pages. Include information about the other books in the series. Have a business card with your real name and pen name. Uh oh. I have beautiful cards made up for Roxanna Haley, but I am pitching a book written under D.L. Hungerford! Beth said not to worry and just don’t use those cards for this pitch.

It’s alright to read off a paper. You will have only 8 minutes. However, lots of writers don’t show up for the pitches, so think about sticking around to pitch a few more times. I was pretty sure if I lived through my 8 minutes, I’d need a martini and a lot of sleep.

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Keep things simple. Do not show a lot of photographs of how you imagine your book to be. The basic information is Title, Genre, Word Count, Status (mine is a completed first draft, polishing with beta reader feedback) and if you have it, a high concept or elevator pitch. This is one sentence that gives the editor or agent a bright glimpse of your novel concept. For instance, my novel is about an ex-con who was framed for embezzlement and wants to find out what really happened. He meets a widow who has survivor guilt and stuffs herself with sweets she makes herself. My concept was Jason Bourne meets Betty Crocker.

No doubt, you will be successful and the agent or editor will ask to see your work. Yay! Don’t lose the card he or she gives you so you can send it in. Write your cover letter that says you met with her at [place] and it was a pleasure to speak with her about my book. Attached you will find my contemporary thriller, Crazy for Trying, the first in my Surrey Ridge series, all set in a fictional California coastal town.

Then polish your halo. I am a member of RWA and won a chapter writing contest in 1994. I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, me.

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Now the waiting begins. Usually, six months will pass before you can even think about hearing back. You can follow up then and maybe add, if you must reject my work, I would very much appreciate your feedback.

Take a week to a month, no longer. Send it in. 7 out of 10 writers who are asked to submit do not. I can see why. I have had so much of life get in the way since the conference, but I have not lost sight of the goal. The beautiful woman I pitched to assured me I could take as long as needed to get the story where I am happy with it. Right now, everything else is clearing up and I am putting the pedal to the metal, or the keys to the board. I will get the story together and be a published author in no time. Deep breath.

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As I kind of said, the editor liked my concept and asked me to send it in whenever I finish. I sleep with her card under my pillow. Not really, but it is in a very safe place. The moral of this story is that Beth Yarnall rocks and knows what she is talking about when it comes to pitches. Probably a lot more things, too. And you should never miss an opportunity to pitch your work. You are a writer! Own it and share it!

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.

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