SCBWI's roving reporter, Alison Peters was a willing 'guinea-pig' at the pitching session. She also tells us what it was like...
PITCH AN IDEA THAT CAPTURES A PUBLISHER
Lisa Berryman- Publisher, Harper Collins
Brian Cook-Literary Agent, www.theauthorsagent.com.au
Some of the session's highlights
This session was a fantastic insight into the mind of a publisher or agent- what exactly they might be thinking while you are pitching your story.
A handful of us lucky ones had our names picked at random from those submitted and we gave it our all - in return the panel gave us the guff, straight - what worked, what didn’t.
It was an amazing learning opportunity and if you ever have the chance to submit something to a session like this at a conference I recommend you ignore your fear of public humiliation, bite the bullet, and take this as the solid gold opportunity it is. Yes, the truth can hurt, but not knowing how to get your work into the hands of publishers hurts a LOT more, for a LOT longer. Suck it up and trust yourself, and them.
This panel in particular respected us enough to be completely honest (eg That wasn’t a pitch, in fact, I don’t know what that was) - Mental not to self: Strangle that BFF who told you 'You ABSOLUTELY HAVE to do it in the first person from the protagonists perspective'. ) So a bit like skydiving in the dark but so very worthwhile. And safer.
Their responses made it perfectly clear what they need in a pitch- they want it to cut to the heart of what the story is about. (Jill Corcoran said, ‘If the you can’t sum up what it’s about in three sentences then you don’t know what it’s about.’)
They also want to know:
1. - the genre
2. - the target age
3. - the main character
4. - the main theme/s.
Many US agents write blog posts on pitching and Jill recommends doing your research on comparable books (referred to as comp books) to get your pitch as spot-on as possible. Jill has blogged on how to research comp books at:
Jill’s blog is a goldmine - check it out and follow Jill’s links to other agent and publisher blogs on almost any subject you need to know more about.