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Old 01-23-2013, 08:41 PM   #1
Niiicola
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Query or conference pitch?

I'm finishing up a massive revision to my MS and thinking about sending out another batch of queries in the next month or so. But I'm also planning to attend a conference in two months where there will be a big pitch slam event with some of the agents I was hoping to query. So I'm wondering, is pitching in person really better than a regular old written query? Should I hold off until the conference? I'm kind of terrified that I'll make a giant mess of a live pitch, but if the odds are better that way, then I will suck it up and work on my presentation skills.
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Old 01-23-2013, 09:50 PM   #2
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I'm not sure, since I've never had much luck with queries. For me, I'd still rather focus on a query. Live pitches work great for some people, but not me. I have less time available and just as much competition at a public event, without the slim possibility of an agent taking another look at my query.

That said, a meeting at a conference can build a great foundation for a later query.

No reason you cannot focus on both: refine your query and practice a note-perfect pitch until you can do it in your sleep.
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Old 01-23-2013, 09:58 PM   #3
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I'm not sure, since I've never had much luck with queries. For me, I'd still rather focus on a query. Live pitches work great for some people, but not me. I have less time available and just as much competition at a public event, without the slim possibility of an agent taking another look at my query.

That said, a meeting at a conference can build a great foundation for a later query.

No reason you cannot focus on both: refine your query and practice a note-perfect pitch until you can do it in your sleep.
^ This. It's always good to be prepared and have a pitch ready in case you're asked what your book's about. A nice one sentence premise, and if you're asked "Tell me more" the rest of the pitch. And, as Filigree mentioned, this could form the basis for the query if the agent asks for pages--you'll be able to remind her you spoke and that she asked for pages.
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Old 01-23-2013, 09:59 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Niiicola View Post
I'm finishing up a massive revision to my MS and thinking about sending out another batch of queries in the next month or so. But I'm also planning to attend a conference in two months where there will be a big pitch slam event with some of the agents I was hoping to query. So I'm wondering, is pitching in person really better than a regular old written query? Should I hold off until the conference? I'm kind of terrified that I'll make a giant mess of a live pitch, but if the odds are better that way, then I will suck it up and work on my presentation skills.
It's a tough call. I'm not sure there is much of a better chance from an in-person pitch compared to an effective query. And with an effective query, they are likely to have pages right there to look at, compared to none at a pitch session. So, if you have a good query, I'm not sure you would be better off in person. Sure, some people make great personal connections when they meet agents at conferences, and some don't - and it can be as much luck and timing as your personal charisma. But even if your pitch goes well and the agent says send me a partial/full, it will still come down to the manuscript's strength. And some agents will still require a query-like pitch or synopsis with the requested material. So, you might as well polish up your query, get a good synopsis together, even if you decide to wait.

But, if you do decide to wait to pitch in person, then you might want to consider not querying at all until after the conference. Because what if you get an offer from an agent off a query before the conference? You won't be able to dash off queries to those agents you were waiting to query, and then you would have to decide on an offer without knowing whether those agents at the conference might have been interested.

~suki
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Old 01-24-2013, 07:37 PM   #5
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Hmm, there are pros and cons, and I wouldn't say an inperson pitch is hands-down better by any means. Things to consider:

1) If it's a huge speed-pitching thing, your odds of getting a good pitch/connection are lower. I've been to conferences with 90 minute speed pitch blocks, each person has 3 minutes, and I had to do FIVE BLOCKS. BY the end i was fried.

2) You may get a personalized reason for the rejection that could help. I've told people that a certain genre was a really tough sell and thus I was insanely selective with it (and thus passing), or that I had project X on my list with a very similar theme, etc, so then they know why I passed. With a query its a form rejection.

3) If you have to pay for the pitch/pitch block, consider instead paying for a critique. You'll get in depth feedback on 10 pages and if the agent loves it they request it anyway. Win-Win.
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Old 01-24-2013, 08:26 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Niiicola View Post
So I'm wondering, is pitching in person really better than a regular old written query? Should I hold off until the conference? .

I think a lot depends on the individual. Suppose you have two guys who write at about the same level, which results in a passable but pretty "meh" query, with a 2% request rate.

One of those guys is Robert Downey, funny, affable, a great talker and whip-smart.

The other is Larry The Cable Guy.

The one may do very well to pitch in person, because they may be a better schmoozer than query writer. The other may suffer immensely from his image, and a query lets him pitch in relative anonymity.

So, how are you in person? I suspect pitch sessions suit some people very well, and others very poorly. But I don't think you can say a pitch session is "better" or "worse" as a blanket statement.
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Old 01-24-2013, 10:25 PM   #7
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Thanks for the responses, everybody!

Mandy, I think it is one of those speed-pitching things, as the info page says you have 90 seconds to pitch. It sounds overwhelming for everybody involved, and especially for the agents! I have no idea how you guys make it through something like that.

Just wondering, what's the advantage of doing something like that, as an agent? If you're getting a ton of queries anyway, I mean. Is it more about attending the conference in general to network, etc?

Quicklime: I'm pretty sure I could do a decent job of pitching in person. But if it came down to one or the other -- talking or writing -- I'd probably go with writing, especially since they're not even seeing my pages, as suki mentioned. So I think I might have my answer there
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Old 01-24-2013, 11:49 PM   #8
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Okay, I'm curious. (And this is not directed at the OP, but more as a general question.)

This is not the first time that I've seen it suggested that pitching in person gives a writer "better odds," however you want to define that, than just querying the traditional way (query letter, synopsis, and/or first pages).

I can understand that for an individual writer who might be terrible at writing queries/synopsis, but who also happens to be an amazing public speaker and have awesome people skills, this might be true.

But generally, assuming that ones pitching-in-person skills are equal to ones querying-and/or-synopsis-ing skills, are the "odds" really "better" for one or the other?
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Old 01-25-2013, 12:06 AM   #9
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Little Ming -- I don't think the odds are better, but in my experience attending several conferences where I got to pitch, the editors and agents seemed to routinely ask for more material (except in cases such as Mandy mentions, when they knew right away the work wasn't a good fit for them).

All this means is that you can send your submission with 'Requested Material' on the cover/subject line. For some agents and editors, that will mean nothing and you will go on their slush pile as usual. But for some, it will put you in a higher priority pile to be read.

I have met a couple of authors who submitted to an agent and were rejected, then later met that agent at a conference and struck up a conversation and were asked to submit again (resulting in signing with that agent). So you never know.

For me personally, the look in an editor or agent's eyes when I have pitched to them at conferences sometimes gives me all I need to know about what I might need to do to improve my pitch/query!
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Old 01-25-2013, 01:25 PM   #10
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As has already been said, most pitch sessions will result in nothing, or in a request to submit, which might mean that your work is pulled out of the slush pile more quickly than it would have been otherwise--but it doesn't guarantee representation.

Such conferences are fun to attend, and help dispel that feeling of isolation which many writers feel: but you're probably better off spending your money on editorial reports.

Most people find their agents by querying, not by pitching.
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Old 01-28-2013, 10:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Niiicola View Post
Thanks for the responses, everybody!


Just wondering, what's the advantage of doing something like that, as an agent? If you're getting a ton of queries anyway, I mean. Is it more about attending the conference in general to network, etc?
The conference coordinators usually require agents to participate in pitch sessions, so we all do it automatically. I think sometimes I do meet people/hear about projects I would not have if it were just queries.

That said I haven't yet signed any one from a conference pitch, but I know of folks who have.
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Old 01-29-2013, 05:01 AM   #12
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Why put yourself through the stress of a 90-second pitch session? And how can an agent really know much about your book and your writing ability in that time frame? It's a next to impossible situation. If you have stuff to strut, do it in your query letter and sample manuscript.
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Old 01-29-2013, 06:04 AM   #13
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So I'm wondering, is pitching in person really better than a regular old written query? Should I hold off until the conference?
How long would your pitch session be?

If you have a decent amount of time (at least five minutes, but ten minutes is better), then a pitch session is the way to go, because the agent can ask you questions to clarify anything, and then ask for you to send pages, which means you bypass the slushpile.

ETA: 90 seconds???

Unless you're a good talker and have a dynamite presentation, don't bother. Take time to write a really good query letter instead.
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Old 01-29-2013, 06:11 AM   #14
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But generally, assuming that ones pitching-in-person skills are equal to ones querying-and/or-synopsis-ing skills, are the "odds" really "better" for one or the other?
I'm a reserved person. Not a great talker. Certainly not a saleperson type. Hate public speaking.

But over the years, I've done pitch sessions (10 minutes, not 90 seconds) with several agents and a couple of editors. Every one of them asked for pages.

All I did was describe my book very briefly, and then let the agent ask questions about it.
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