5 Things I Learned Pitching An Agent Via Zoom
On January 30, 2021, I took the plunge and pitched live to a literary agent for the first time! It was a huge rush and I’m so glad I did it.
For about a year, I’ve been thinking about going to writing conferences and pitching an agent, but a few things stopped me:
- Money: Most of the writing conferences I looked at were a few hundred dollars, not including travel.
- Time: I was concerned about trying to move around my work and life plans to get to a conference several hours from me.
- Fear: Let’s be honest, the first two reasons are excuses (though logical) for my fear of pitching live and getting rejected face-to-face.
In comes the pandemic, and suddenly there are no in-person conferences anymore (don’t get me started on how devastated I am that I’ll never experience BookCon). However, this opened the door for my hang-ups to be lifted. The online pitch events were vastly more affordable than in-person conferences, there wasn’t a huge time commitment needed to attend, and I had a lot less fear of speaking to someone on a computer screen versus face-to-face.
Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers put on a great event, and I highly recommend their other events and workshops! For their 2021 PitchFest event, four agents and four editors had about 12 pitch slots each. All the participants stayed in the “main room” of Zoom, enjoying special guest presentations and mini-pitch workshops while they waited to be placed in their breakout room with their chosen agent/editor.
The event came and went and I ended up getting a full request! That’s not the only good thing to come out of my pitch event, though. Below, I’ve gathered the top five things I learned from pitching an agent via Zoom.
1) Agents are Human.
One of the first things the prep workshop (led by Anita Mumm) told the participants is that agents are human. Through cold querying and Twitter-lurking, pre-published authors—me included—tend to develop this otherworldly view of literary agents: they’re untouchable beings whose attention is rarer than water in a drought.
Agents are cool humans whose love for books rivals your own. They have hobbies, just like you, they love dogs or cats (or both!), they have favorite fandoms, favorite TV shows and movies, and some even make #MSWL Pinterest boards, just like you do for your stories’ aesthetics.
Pitching via Zoom was the first time I physically talked to an agent, and it demystified everything. Both the agent and the editor I spoke to were so kind and, as the title of this section suggests, approachable, humans.
2) Tech Brings Us Together.
After a year of Zoom-centric meetings, I think we can all agree seeing someone in their home office space, hearing their dogs bark, or reminding them “you’re on mute” has brought us together in a way we couldn’t conceive before the pandemic.
3) Being Nervous is Normal.
In fact, of the 70 or so people who were also pitching an agent, I don’t think a single one of us was 100% confident. Some were more nervous than others, but the way the event was designed made it so easy to seek a bit of counsel and comfort. We were able to hear stories from people who already pitched, run through our pitch for others, ask questions about the publishing industry as a whole, and feel part of a supportive community, all before jumping into the 1-on-1 pitch.
It was also weirdly comforting to know that the professionals knew we were nervous. While introducing themselves at the beginning of the event, each one expressed their excitement to meet us and had encouraging words to say. They did everything they could to put us at ease.
During my actual pitches (I pitched an editor and an agent), both women were incredibly warm and kind, asked questions, and made me feel very comfortable.
4) 10 Minutes is Nothing.
A quick background on pitching: you can either use a one- or two-sentence logline to give the gist of your project or an expanded, query-like pitch. I used a logline (see below) to allow more time for questions and conversation, and I only got one or two questions in before my time was up. By the time you introduce yourself, say your pitch, add more details, like comparative titles or target audience, and ask for questions, half your time is already up. After a question or two (you’d be surprised how easy and natural conversation comes), your time is about done. Congratulations, you just pitched an agent!
I’ve completed a 119,000-word adult accessible sci-fi novel entitled The Last McNary. It’s written from dual points of view, one of which is diverse with lesbian representation. The story follows Bridie, a homeless 25-year-old, who battles demonic ghosts, uncovers her forgotten past, and accidentally incites an underground rebellion amid her desperate attempt to save the life of a young girl she wasn’t supposed to meet.
5) It’s Okay If You Don’t Get A Request.
I pitched to an agent and an editor and, while the agent requested my full manuscript, the editor flat-out rejected me (in the nicest possible way, mind you). And I was totally fine with it.
I may have been really excited about getting a full request so the rejection didn’t sting that hard, but it was still a rejection. The editor offered some feedback and let me know if I ever rewrite the book for a younger audience, she’d be interested!
As I continue to say in my blog posts here, rejection isn’t a personal attack. It’s an avenue to find where you best fit. I’m glad the editor was honest that she and her publishing house weren’t currently looking for what I had! I mean, logically, what were the other possible results of the pitch if she isn’t looking to represent what I have? She could have requested something and then rejected me a few weeks later, but would that have been better?
This way, I got my answer and used a bit of the extra time to ask questions before thanking her for her time and parting cordially. It’s okay if you don’t get a request for a few reasons:
- You want a passionate champion for your book
- Live pitching is just one of many ways to catch a literary agent’s attention
- Your entire life isn’t riding on this one yes or no
The great (and sometimes exhausting) part of publishing is that hard work and dedication wins out. Maybe an agent won’t request for this manuscript, or your next one, or your next. Maybe it’ll take 11 manuscripts to find representation. But use every “no” to your advantage to learn more, improve your writing, and find creative, unique ways to tell your stories.
Do you need someone to practice pitching an agent with? Are you struggling to figure out where to start when writing your pitch? I’m happy to help as a peer any time, just reach out to me at @iamgirlofwords on Instagram.
Good luck, future bestseller! You’ve got this.