Author Life,  Book Planning,  Medium

The Ins and Outs of Book Pitch Events

Is pitching your novel — online or in-person — a worthwhile endeavor?

If you’ve written a novel, you’re probably familiar with something that all writers dread: the pitch. Summing up a novel you’ve spent countless hours revising, proofreading, and developing in a sentence or two logline is hard enough, but pitching said novel and logline to a literary agent or editor is terrifying. Sure, there could be an amazing outcome, but what if there isn’t? We all want to think of the best, but what happens if we fumble over our words, fudge the word count unintentionally, or forget our main character’s name?

Querying a literary agent is hard enough, but pitching can be even more nerve-wracking. Despite the terrifying prospect of pitching your hard work to a publishing industry professional, pitching events live on. There are loads of opportunities to pitch your novel to literary agents and editors — both online and offline. But is the stress of a pitch worth it? Will you end up victorious after laboring over your thirty-second spiel, or is it all a waste of time?

That’s what we’re here to find out.

What is a pitch event?

In my experience, there are two kinds of pitch events — those held in person (or online now that conferences are largely online) and those held on Twitter. Regardless of the type, a pitch event revolves around one thing: giving writers the chance to pitch their novels to professionals in the publishing industry — mainly literary agents, but also sometimes editors.

With a Twitter pitch event, authors are pitching with the 280 characters allowed in a tweet, and using hashtags for the event to get the attention of literary agents. With a face-to-face event, authors are following the guidelines put forth by whoever is putting on the event (most often a writing conference or sometimes a literary agency itself.)

What are the benefits of a pitch event?

The benefit seems pretty obvious — the ability to get your work in front of people who could actually help get it published. There are plenty of people who have participated in pitch events and received a request for a manuscript (that’s where I’m at) that led to an offer of representation (I’m not there…yet.)

Even if you don’t get a manuscript request, you can often receive really great feedback. I’m less familiar with Twitter pitch events, but I know when I pitched my novel at the Pike’s Peak Writers Conference, I got feedback on my pitch itself and how to structure my query letter. I was able to meet with two literary agents, and each agent handled the pitch differently. The first agent gave me valuable feedback on how to improve my pitch and my query letter, and also gave me helpful positive feedback on the different elements of my novel and whether they seemed to fit my genre or not. The second agent handled the pitch more like a verbal query letter, and she asked to see my full manuscript after the conference was over.

What are the drawbacks of a pitch event?

As already mentioned, pitching your book is hard! It’s difficult to summarize a book you’ve worked so hard on in only a few words or sentences, but it’s also necessary. Not only do pitch events require the ability to summarize your book in this way, but so does almost every other aspect of the publishing journey. Even when you are finally published (yay!) you’ll still need to have a blurb for your book cover and for events you might attend, though you’ll likely have hordes of people helping you write your blurbs and copy in future years after your first publication.

Another drawback, particularly with Twitter pitch events, is not being able to establish a rapport with the agent or agents you are pitching to. Obviously, this is virtually impossible with a short, concise, Twitter pitch, and it’s not even necessarily part of a traditional query, but it’s something that is of particular benefit with face-to-face pitch events. It’s nice to be able to chat with agents and editors briefly — even if it’s only a few seconds of small talk.

What do the experts have to say?

There seem to be quite a few contradictory opinions in the publishing world when it comes to pitching events. For example, I recently attended Daniel David Wallace’s Find Your Reader Summit where author Tesse Struve gave a presentation on how to stand out in a Twitter pitch event. She’s a success story from a pitch event — that’s how she found her agent — so she was preaching all about the benefits of pitch events.

Then, on the other hand, there are agents who give differing advice. I recently watched the video “How to Conquer a Literary Agent’s Slush Pile” from the BookEnds Literary Agency YouTube channel, where agents Jessica Faust and James McGowan don’t exactly say pitch events are bad but don’t necessarily say they’re a good option either. To these experienced agents, Twitter pitch events are a bit hit and miss. They require an agent being on Twitter all day to watch the various pitches come in, and for a lot of agents, that’s just not feasible. Their ultimate takeaway is that querying still reigns supreme when it comes to getting an agent — full stop.

Should you pitch in a pitch event?

Knowing what you now know about pitch events, are they right for you? My ultimate answer — at least for myself — is that pitch events are neither here nor there. I could take them or leave them. Yes, I had some success at a face-to-face (or rather, over Zoom) pitch event in April, but that still hasn’t resulted in my getting a literary agent. It did, though, result in some good advice as I structured my book pitch and query letter for future querying.

I believe that if you are ready to query agents and happen to be prepared at the same time as an upcoming pitch event, there’s no harm in participating. While a pitch event may not snag you your dream agent, it very well could garner interest in your book — and when is that ever a bad thing?

There’s a lot of contradictory advice on the Internet when it comes to writing. Not everything is black and white, and it would seem that pitching events fall into limbo in this regard. Some agents love them, some hate them. Some writers love them, some hate them. There are undoubtedly successful stories — and successful debut authors — coming out of every pitch event out there, so let that hopeful outcome spur your decisions when it comes to participating in pitch events. It may be painful to sum up your book in 280 characters or less, but if you’re successful you could be looking at having all the words in the world available to you for the rest of your writing career!

Previously published in Inspired Writer

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