Practice for Pitching – Olive

Picture your next job interview. It’s for that job you always wanted—the one that will change your life.

You sit down in front of a stranger who asks you the very awkward first question: “so, tell me about yourself.”

If you’ve felt the bile rise up your delicate little throat right at that very moment—fear not, there is hope.

Personally, I’ve struggled with this question for years—for the question of who someone is as a person is vast and confusing. The same holds true when we writers attempt to boil our stories down to a  few short sentences of around fifty words or even a  query pitch of around 250 words.

I’ve also written about 160 characters before in my post Twitter Pitch Contests, AKA BRUTALITY and Twitter Pitch Contests (Take Two), #SFFpit, and What is #NA?.

In less than a month, I’m headed to DFWCon in Dallas, Texas. I’ve attended in-person writing events in the past, but nothing as big as this conference. DFWCon offers a chance to pitch to an agent—in person, and I wanted to try an actual, spoken pitch. We’ve been querying over email, but sometimes, it really does help to talk to somebody in the flesh.

In the Army, I called this going to stand on somebody’s desk (BRB going to stand on Major So-and-so’s desk). It totally worked. (Ed: In my job, we call it “go light a fire under someone’s ass.” – Aristen)

So, Aristen and I got on Google Video Chat to practice. As a guide, we used agent Eric Smith’s (@ericsmithrocks) article, “How to Nail an In-Person Pitch: Some Questions You Should Be Ready For.”

I hadn’t looked at the blog post Eric had written, so I’d have to come up with stuff on the fly. I’d yet to do any research on the topic, and Aristen caught me off guard and unprepared. She might have enjoyed it, I’m not sure… (Ed: “I did. Mwahahah.” -Aristen)

I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t articulate what the story was about out loud. I had a couple of starts, but it usually fell apart pretty quick.

The Awkward pauses.

The “oh, but I forgot that part.”

Our story is complicated and includes multiple subplots, diverse characters with backstories and motives…I get caught up in the lore, in the world building, even on  locations ans cultures within our world. But much of that isn’t important for a short pitch.

Here’s our “What’s your book about?” answer:

Two slaves—a celebrated dancer and a former goat hunter—must chose to use their magical powers to support those who seek to free the enslaved from their masters… or those who seek exterminate the masters.

Obviously, it would be more natural language. I don’t plan on memorizing it.

For further ideas to help you prepare, see these links:

Bottom line? Prepare and practice your pitch (preferably with another real live human). We’ll be doing it more than once, and will post more about our progress as time goes on…and as the countdown to DFWCon continues. (T-18 days!)

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