Pitch Tips from Agent Katharine Sands

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With only a few weeks left until this year’s Push to Publish conference, it’s time to start prepping for your perfect pitch. Many of you are facing the same difficult questions: How do I stand out from the crowd? How do I best represent my work? Literary agent Katharine Sands will be offering a one-day workshop the Friday before Push to Publish to help answer these questions (Click here to register for her workshop), as well as joining other agents and editors to participate in the Saturday conference’s “speed date” session. Below, Katharine offers some helpful tips on how to craft your pitch.

3 Key questions to ask an agent:

  1. Does my book idea feel fresh enough? If yes, what in particular do you like? If no, what seems too generic?
  2. What is my most interesting point? Which area needs the most work? What would make this stand out?
  3. What was the first red flag, or reason that would prevent you from wanting to read—and represent—me?

Your pitch will succeed if you:

  1. Use the pitch to deliver enough of the flavor of the book to whet the reader’s appetite for more.
  2. Show what we can learn from you about how to handle this life problem or challenge. Tell us: What do I do differently after I read your book, what could I not figure out without you? Show how much texture, how much scope there is to the subject. What are three quick tips or hints of the “practical and prescriptive” advice to come?
  3. Speak about a topic or nonfiction subject or memoir showcasing the groundbreaking, or new, focus you can encapsulate and state clearly.
  4. Keep calm and carry on even—if it appears the agent is getting glassy eyed, eyeing the bar, or squirming as if her buttock or her foot has fallen asleep.

Your pitch will fail if you:

  1. Don’t leave home with a “money shot,” a clear, core point about why this book will find readers.
  2. Ramble, or use many prefaces or qualifiers.
  3. Rely on reviews or references from gurus, editor feedback, or spousal support.
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