I attended the Books Alive! Washington Writers Conference the other week as a panelist, but I also listened to different panels and picked up some good information. The panel that I enjoyed the most was the agents panel. Three agents spoke about what they want to see in a submission or hear in a pitch that can be made in about five minutes. Here are some of the things that I gleaned.
- Start you pitch with a hook. Give them one or two sentences that will entice the agent to want to know more about the project (this works equally well for articles and books).
- Move into a short description of the project. Again, keep it short. Imagine you are writing the jacket copy for your book.
- A short bio about yourself. Why are you the person who should be writing this?
- What’s your platform? Do you use Twitter and Facebook? Do you have a web site? Maybe you are a columnist or magazine editor who has a following? What are the ways that your name is already getting out to the public.
- Where does your book fit into the market and how large is the market? What shelf in a bookstore would someone find your book?
- What’s your next project? You can’t rest on your laurels. Build on the success of your previous projects.
- What are some comparable titles to your book? Be realistic here. Don’t just go for the big name books. List books that have similar content and scope. If you try to pass yourself off as the next J. K. Rowling or James Patterson, it will come across as hype.
So that’s what I took away from that panel. Someone else might have gotten something different from it. I’ve heard a lot of these things before so it is a pretty good bet that it’s what most agents want to see, but you should always check the agent’s web site just to be sure that you are sending what that person wants.