The dictionary gives several meanings for the word pitch. When a ball is thrown to a batter in a baseball game, it is a pitch. When a singer or an instrument sounds a note, that is a pitch. When baby Moses was placed in the ark, his mother covered it with pitch, a water-proofing agent. But writers know about another kind of pitch. When we sit across the table from an editor and tell her about our project, hoping to convince her to accept a proposal from us, we are pitching our writing project.
Making sure your pitch is perfect requires certain elements.
Solid preparation must come before any meeting. Make sure you have a thorough knowledge of basic proposal elements. If you know the editor’s preference for proposal style, be sure to follow it when you write yours. We all know to edit our writing, but make sure to edit your proposal. Go over it multiple times yourself, then spring for a professional edit if this is your first attempt. The professional help I sought completely revolutionized my first proposal and served as a master class on the subject. It was worth far more than the money I paid. When you are satisfied with the final draft, print it and place it in a professional-looking, plain folder. The editor probably won’t take the proposal at your appointment; you’ll send it later. But it should look good for the meeting.
If you don’t have time to write a full proposal, a One Sheet proposal will suffice. It should also look professional and contain the pertinent points. Whichever type proposal you employ, be sure to do your research on each editor and the publication guidelines for the house they represent. Make sure what you offer is something they might want.
Preparation of your writing is essential, but for a perfect pitch, so is preparation of your first impression. Dress in a manner consistent with the conference. Most prefer corporate casual clothes. What you wear doesn’t have to be new or expensive, but it should be in good taste. Pay attention to body language. Your posture advertises what you think about yourself. Project an air of confidence by sitting erect. Make eye contact with the editor. Smile. Finally, demonstrate enthusiasm for your project. It is, after all, your best effort. Your writing needs you for a cheerleader. But be realistic. Your writing does not need a caricature to promote it.
At your appointment, present a one-sentence summary of your project – a short sentence. Know your target audience: who they are, what they want/need, and how your project will meet that want or need. Tell the editor why their house is best suited for your project. And be sure to demonstrate familiarity with their publisher’s guidelines as you converse with the editor.
Remember, the editor is a real person, just like you. Treat him with kindness and courtesy. Don’t waste her time with a project that doesn’t fit the needs of the house she represents.