Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pointers from the Pros: Agent Katharine Sands Talks Pitching

"Pointers from the Pros" gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.

**I'm bringing over some of my series posts from my old blog, so this is a blast-from-the-past post for those of you who have been with me since Wordpress.**

I spoke at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference in beautiful St. Simons Island, Ga., in June 2010 and took copious notes at the sessions.  Although I couldn't go to all the faboo classes, I'm sharing some tips from some of the ones I was lucky enough to attend.

Here is what the 2010 Agent in Residence, Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency's Katharine Sands,* had to say about what she calls "pitchcraft" (the writing you do about your writing) in her first session of "How Not to Get an Agent."
  • Everything is the result of some kind of pitch, from what you wear to the kind of shampoo you use.
  • Something must take place in the reading of the pitch---a question must develop in the reader's mind (this is "pop" or "alchemy") or agents won't read on.
  • The decisions you make about the way you pitch will travel:  Agent uses your pitch to interest an editor, editor uses your pitch to discuss marketing with publishing houses, etc.
  • Your pitch needs to answer the question: "Why does the world need this book?"
  • You are more AND less interesting than you come to realize in terms of pitching (more: the more one learns of you, the more one gets to know you---less: what beginners usually share first is what the publishing industry doesn’t want to know).
  • They don’t want to know about your writing process.
  • Don't pitch more than one project at a time in the query (shows you're an amateur/you lack focus).
  • Don't discuss movie/sequel ideas in the query.
  • Place---Where are you taking the reader?
  • Person---Who's the star of the story?
  • Pivot---What's the crisis/event that starts the story in motion?
  • If you don’t see these elements in your pitch, agents won’t either.
  • Include voice & tone.
  • Ask yourself: Where is there a gap in the market?  What’s fresh?  The minute your intro is fresh, you have your POP.
  • Specify that you’ve written a manuscript, not a book---because what you've written is not a book yet.
  • Some agents don’t like questions in a query.  She doesn’t necessarily agree---says they can be very effective.
  • She says you can put a blurb in a query letter, if you have one---anything that sets you apart.
  • She recommends you query widely so you don't miss out on an opportunity for the right person to fall in love with your writing.
Sands's takeaway tip on pitching - from HAMLET: "Readiness is all."



  1. Since I'm Pitch-imperfect, this was such a great post for me!

  2. She makes it seem "doable" :) The more practice I get, the better I feel about it, but this is a great break-down of the elements needed. I also like to think about what story premises "hooked" me and I try to copy them. Thanks, Ricki. great info.

  3. It's totally doable! Yes, this was a fab couple of sessions!

  4. I'm following you here now! Yay :)