I’m in sunny if slightly chilly (in my opinion) LA about to start my BEA experience. And since tomorrow I’ll be listening to folks pitch me their masterpieces, I figured there was no better time or place to talk about our last installment of pitches.

Now tomorrow I’ll be participating in the Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam. It’s advertised as a type of speed dating for authors with agents and editors. The authors will have three minutes to pitch each of us and get our response. I’ll tell you after I experience it tomorrow, but I suspect that three minutes is not going to be very much time at all. Normally at a conference you have 15-30 minute intervals to meet with the editor/agent of your choice. However, in all honesty, three minutes is about all you have to get our attention. I, and other editors, have been known to ask people if they are perhaps working on anything else when the book they are pitching me doesn’t interest me. And 15 minutes can be a very long time if the author only does non-fiction, something I don’t acquire. So, for the great pitch contest I promised, we’re going to work with pitches that take about 3 minutes. Now since this is going to be a written contest, we’re going to assume that 500 words is equivalent to 3 minutes of talking. And also since a pitch is really a dialog between the author and editor/agent, I’m going to post some questions that you should answer. This won’t be a true pitch, just like making up answers for interview questions you read online isn’t a real interview, but I think it will simulate it close enough. So, pretend you really are about to pitch me. After all, I’ll be requesting the winners’ manuscripts just like I would at a real pitch session. You’ve got the same things at stake. And keep in mind the stuff we’ve discussed before. This may be a longer format pitch, but it should still have the hooks, the main points, and the conciseness of the early pitches we worked on. Finally, I asked my friend and pitch expert extraordinaire, Chuck for some friendly advice for you pitch practicers. Here’s what he said:

  1. Don’t pitch unless your novel or proposal is done. If the agent is interested, it will lead to an awkward admission that your work is not done, or you say nothing and simply go home to hastily put the rest of the work together.
  2. Don’t pitch a series. Pitch one book. Trust me – the talk of a series will come naturally down the road. Be patient.
  3. Stick to the main story. If you can avoid character names, don’t mention them. If you can avoid telling us what race of being they are, great. The more names and occupations and races of beings and character backstory tidbits you throw in, the more convoluted it becomes. There will be a time to flesh out the details, but the pitch is not it.

All of it is excellent advice and applicable to this competition. And now for the competition itself . . .

The Buried Editor’s Perfect Pitch Competition
How this works:

  1. Submit only one pitch.
  2. Pitches must be a children’s picture book, chapter book, midgrade or YA novel. No nonfiction, no adult, no exceptions.
  3. Pitches may not exceed 500 words. You can go under but not over. 500 words is a lot of words. Try to go under.
  4. You must answer all of the following questions. Pretend they came up naturally in the course of our conversation about your book.
    • Do you see this book as part of a series?
    • What marketing (or promotional or cross-promotional) potential do you see for this book?
    • Have you had anything else published?
    • What do you think your main competition for this book would be? (OK, this one doesn’t always come up in a pitch session but you should ALWAYS know the answer to this one.)
    • What else are you working on? (Do not take more than 50 words to answer this one.)

How to enter:

  • Email your submission to pitchcontest@gmail.com by June 6. On June 7, I will no longer accept submissions and may delete the account. Don’t email me questions or anything but your pitch. Post questions in the comment section of the blog.
  • Title your email with whatever age you’ve written for. Ex. Picture Book Pitch or YA Pitch
  • Include your pitch and the answers to all the questions in the body of the email. Don’t include anything else. I don’t need a bio or a synopsis or three chapters. We’re practicing pitches not queries. I only want to see pitches.
  • I know this one will seem obvious, but email me from an email address that works. I need to be able to get in touch with you, especially if you are a winner.

The winner(s) will be asked to submit their full manuscript to me by July 1. So, don’t pitch anything that isn’t done. Since I am actively acquiring and sincerely looking, I will request as many manuscripts as I am interested in. There could be no winners; there could be dozens. We’ll just have to wait and see. But the Grand Prize Winner with the best pitch will have their pitch posted here and analyzed for the betterment of all (pending the pitcher’s approval). That way we can all see why a certain pitch worked and hopefully improve all of our pitches for next time.

Any questions? Post them here. If I’ve been unclear about something, you’re probably not the only person who has a question.

Get those pitches tuned up. I’m looking forward to seeing them.

© Copyright 2006-2011 Madeline Smoot. All rights reserved.
May be excerpted and duplicated for educational purposes.
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