Psyching myself up to sit across from an acquisitions editor to pitch my proposal for the first time gave me heart palpitations. My Fitbit thought I was working out the whole time. I can giggle now; but at the beginning, I can remember how much my own nervousness completely consumed me.
Why are these appointments so nerve-wracking? Perhaps, the possibility of failure starts the chain reaction of tiny freakouts. Or maybe it’s the fear of being rejected. Either way, one surefire way to feel a little bit more confident in getting ready for a one-on-one appointment with an agent, editor, or mentor-author is to be prepared.
Before I share some tips and tricks for making the most of your 15-minute conference appointment, let’s take a second to understand what these appointments are for. You don’t want to spend your limited time in front of an industry professional babbling the whole time or spraying them with the bullet fire of eight million questions. The point of this meeting is to present yourself as an author, pitch your proposal idea, and gain valuable feedback. Ultimately, you want to make a positive impression as a professional–showcasing your deep and abiding understanding of your readers, their needs, and sharing how your book meets them in their need.
Here are a handful of tips to prepare well for these pitch appointments.
First, map the time. You only have 15 minutes. It goes fast. Plan out the progression of your pitch. The first two to five minutes should be a presentation of yourself as an author. In this segment, share who you are, a brief version of your testimony, and why you believe you are the person to write about your book’s topic. The next five minutes should be a pitch of your proposal, and the final five minutes should be used for questions or feedback.
Next, have a sharp knowledge of your reader and be able to communicate this with whoever you’re meeting with. When I prepare to write a book, the first step I complete is a full reader analysis. Who are my readers? What are they like? What are they looking for? What is their greatest challenge? Most importantly, why are they looking for me to tell them the answer to their problems or challenges? I go as far as to name my readers’ avatars. I can’t overstress the importance of showing agents or editors that you deeply understand who your readers are and what they need.
Lastly, make sure you are asking key questions and inviting feedback. Do not miss the opportunity to receive live feedback from whoever you pitch to. If you spill your guts for 14.5 minutes, you risk getting passed over because the agent or editor didn’t have a chance to ask clarifying questions or give feedback that could improve your proposal. At the end of presenting your book idea, ask, “What questions or feedback do you have for me?”
Remember, the goal of these appointments is to pitch and get feedback for improvement. You want to make the most of your 15-minute appointments by planning your time well, preparing your understanding of the reader, and asking for quality feedback. The last quick tip I’ll share is to make sure to get your next steps from the appointment. You can ask questions like “What are my next steps?” or “How do I move forward with this project?” If you feel like the pitch went well, be bold. Ask the important question: “Would you be interested in seeing a full proposal?”
You can do this. Do your homework, prepare well, and use these appointments as an opportunity to learn.