• Sarah Leonard

10 Steps to Mastering Pitch Slam

Updated: Jun 25, 2019


You’ve finished writing your baby. It's grown up, graduated middle school, survived high school (barely), and now it’s time to apply for colleges. Aka. Get an agent. A great way to do this is by attending a pitch slam! Pitch slam is basically speeding dating with agents. You sit down with one for an allotted time and pitch your book! If they love it, they’ll request to see more! If they don’t, you get to try with another agent in the room! Based on my personal experience at the Writer’s Digest Conference and gained knowledge from lectures there, here are 10 steps to nailing pitch slam.

1. Format your pitch correctly

When you sit down, you’ll want to start by introducing yourself. Then, go straight into your pitch. Make sure to mention your book title, word count, and genre. This is important info for the agent. Then, go into the story. Make sure you show that you have a strong plot and well-developed characters. What are their motivations? What are the stakes? What gets you excited about your story? And keep it under 90 seconds for Writer’s Digest, because that’s all you’ll get. But also, don’t memorize your pitch and say it word for word. You want to sound conversational, not robotic.

2. Research who you’ll be pitching

You want to make sure that whoever you’re pitching will be a good fit. They should represent your genre and the types of books you write. Agents hate that person who pitches their romance novel when they don’t represent that genre.

3. Know where the agents you want to pitch to will be sitting

This will help you best navigate the room! What worked for me was going to my top agent pick first then scouting out the shortest lines for the other agents I wanted. This helped me reach as many as I could within the one hour I was given. But this technique may not work for you. You may want to save your top favorite for maybe second or third so you can get your nerves out with the first agent. Basically, just know your preferences beforehand.

4. Get in line an hour beforehand

At Writer’s Digest, a giant line formed an hour and a half before we were supposed to go in. Waiting that long sounds like a pain, but it can be very helpful if you utilize that time well. Practice your pitch with other writers. Get that feedback! I practiced mine beforehand, and it really helped my nerves. I also got some helpful tips from someone who had done a slam before.

5. Keep your pitch short

For Writer’s Digest, we had 90 seconds to pitch our novels, and the agents had 90 seconds to respond and ask questions. Your pitch is basically your spoken query, so stick to the important points, because you won’t have that long to sell your book.

6. Be prepared for any question the agent may ask

I was asked questions ranging from writing experience and background to confusing plot points I mentioned in my pitch. Know your book and achievements back-to-front. Another thing to know is that some agents may ask what the ending of your book is. Be prepared to give that answer.

7. Be professional

The agent isn’t only investing in your book. They’re investing in you. An agent will notice if you’re that person huffing in line or yelling at them for rejecting your idea. If they say no, say thank you for your time and move to the next agent. Don’t try and convince them otherwise. They know what they want. Be grateful they’re not being dishonest and saying they loved your work when they didn’t. You don’t want to work with someone who isn’t crazy about your book.

8. Don’t pitch unfinished work

Take it from someone who has rewritten their book nine times. Things may change in your story. You want to be sure of what you’re pitching, and the best way to do that is by having your book fully written. Also, you don’t want to be the guy who gets a request for a full manuscript and has to explain why they can’t send it.

9. Bring…

a. A notepad. If an agent requests pages, you’ll want to write down what they wanted you to send and how.

b. A water bottle. You may get thirsty with all that talking.

c. Business cards. These aren’t for the agents, although they’re nice to have in case an agent asks for one (unlikely). These are for when you are standing in line waiting to pitch next. Hand them to other writers! Make those connections!

10. Don’t be nervous!

I laughed when someone gave me this advice, but it’s true. There’s no need to be scared. Yes, your childhood dreams and livelihood and bookish legacy all depend on this person, but no need to WORSHIP them. All joking aside, agents are people too. They aren’t there to crush your dreams or tear you to shreds. In fact, they want to help you even if your work isn’t the right fit for them. I got advice from agents that helped me with the rest of pitch slam. They don’t bite, and your career doesn’t depend on this one event. If you don’t walk out with requests, you can at least walk out knowing more on how to pitch well.

I hope this advice helps! If you have any more questions about pitch slam, message me or comment below. Until next time, Nooksters!

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