Perfect Pitch

With the RWA National conference just down the road, some of you may be quaking at the idea of pitching your manuscripts to agents or editors. But I say, no worries. Just follow the method I successfully used at over twenty national and regional conferences. With a nod of acknowledgement to the great Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, here’s my advice on creating a perfect ten sentence (or less) pitch.

First, relax. If agents and editors are taking appointments at a national conference, they’re looking for manuscripts to publish. When you’re introduced, present them with your business card with the name of your book, its genre, and word count on the back. (Normally, there will only be enough time to pitch one book per session.)

Second, relax and prepare by jotting down your thoughts on a 3×5 card—or on a phone or iPad. I usually preferred to wing it, only referring to my notes as needed. But I’ve heard editors say it’s fine for presenters to read their pitch, if it will improve the confidence and coherence level.

The main points to include in your presentation:

-The name of your book, the genre, the setting, and the completed length. If it’s part of a series, mention that, too.

-Your high concept or one or two-line description of your story. This one can be hard to pin down, but it should showcase what makes your book unique and special. Snakes on a plane. Dinosaurs run amok in a theme park. Young girl blown into a magical land battles witches and monkeys as she tries to get home.

-Provide a two or three-word description of your heroine (her dominant impression, i.e.: royal rebel, gutsy librarian) followed by her goal, motivation, and conflict. Example: A confused teenager must find a way to leave a magical kingdom in order to get home to her ailing aunt. A wicked witch prevents her departure.

-Then, a two or three-word description of your hero (his dominant impression) followed by his goal, motivation, and conflict. Example: An innocent fugitive tries to find a one-armed man in order to avoid prosecution for the murder of his wife. A determined federal marshal relentlessly pursues him across the country.

-If your book is a mystery, suspense, or fantasy, you may need a sentence or two about your antagonist or make-believe world, but be judicious. DO NOT present a lengthy cast of characters or unnecessary descriptions of them.

-Present one sentence each about the black moment and the ultimate resolution. (The hot-air balloon accidentally lifts off, leaving a heartbroken Dorothy behind. A good witch helps her realize she already possesses the power to return home.)

-Confirm how the story ends. (Self-contained happily-ever-after? Happy-for-now? A cliff-hanger for a serial?)

If there’s time remaining, the agent or editor may have questions for you. Be prepared with a few questions you may want to ask them or some personal information that may be relate to your book. (It’s set on a ranch in Wyoming and you’re a veterinarian in that state? Pertinent. The heroine has twins and you have twins? Relevant. The hero has red hair and so does your husband? Pointless.)

Important tip: If they have requested material (as they should), make sure to get the contact information on correctly submitting the material.

When the buzzer sounds, smile, shake hands, thank them for their time, and it’s over.

As simple as that. Good luck with your presentation!

Look for Jacie’s latest release, FACE THE MUSIC, available on all e-platforms.

Bio: Jacie Floyd writes contemporary romance, romantic comedy, and emotionally-rich stories about strong women and bold men. While polishing her craft as an unpublished author, she was honored to be named a six-time Golden Heart Finalist and two-time Golden Heart winner by RWA. She has self-published seven books and a novella since 2014. Her eighth book, FACE THE MUSIC, from the Good Riders series, debuted in May.

She loves hearing from readers and writers and invites you to contact her at,,, or


13 responses to “Perfect Pitch”

  1. Great suggestions, Jackie and if our readers heed your advice they will have no problems getting requests.

    The only thing I would add is voice. Agents and editors will be hearing the same story over and over a hundred times in just a few hours. Make the pitch your own. Use the right words that will excite the agent or editor and make them ask questions. You want them to remember your story, and you, after the sessions are over.


    • Jacie Floyd says:

      Excellent advice, Autumn! Thanks for posting!

      I’d also probably add that the pitch-er should dress and act ‘professionally,’ whatever that means to the author and their brand. Personally, I would never wear jeans to an appointment, but I can see how someone could get away with it if they write YA or New Adult. Dress in the way that will leave the appropriate impression.


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  2. Vivi Andrews says:

    This is excellent advice, Jacie! My best advice for pitching is to take a deep breath and remember that the person you are pitching to wants to find the next great author as badly as you want to be found. Just relax and be yourself. Ideally, it will be a long relationship and the best way to kick it off is with sincerity.


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    • Jacie Floyd says:

      Yes, Vivi, I completely agree about relaxing and being natural, but a lot of otherwise rational people freeze at the notion of pitching. In that case, preparation is the next best thing.


  3. Elizabeth Langston says:

    Such a great post–and so timely, Jacie!

    I’ll add this too…

    Be prepared for the editor or agent to ask: what else do you have? Even if you don’t have another book completed, you can pitch the idea. “I have a work-in-progress set in colonial America…”

    And I second the part about having a few questions ready, just to get to know the person. They may have been deluged with people who want something from them. Kindness is memorable.
    “Did you get a chance to visit any of the parks?”
    “what have you read recently that you loved?”
    “Have you seen Wonder Woman?”


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    • Jacie Floyd says:

      Good advice, Elizabeth!

      And I’d add two other possible topics. If you’ve contacted them in the past and had a good experience, you can remind them of that. Or speak to why you selected them/their company/or agency to pitch to.

      Ninety per cent of the time, I’ve found agents and editors to be very nice, welcoming, and enthusiastic. On those rare occasions when they aren’t those things, I try to chalk it up to the fact that everyone has bad days and I’m not going to click with every person I meet. That’s one of the reasons why these personal meetings can be so important. Use it as a learning experience, no matter what happens.


  4. This advice is gold, Jacie! My tip, especially for Golden Heart finalists who have been querying online: If you’ve found an agent who seems like a really, really good fit and she’s already rejected your manuscript but has asked you to submit your next project…meet with her anyway! This is a great chance to get to know each other, and you will absolutely stand out as THE AUTHOR AT A PITCH SESSION WHO DIDN’T PITCH A BOOK. I did this with my agent ten years ago, and she says it’s hands-down one of the most memorable pitch sessions she’s ever had.


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    • Jacie Floyd says:

      Brilliant idea, Shelley! I never tried that, but I can see the benefits.

      It’s probably a nice little break for them and puts the writer in the ranks of the stand-outs!


  5. Elisa Beatty says:

    Great advice, Jacie! For those who haven’t pitched before: the editors and agents taking pitches are all very nice people, and EAGER to find good stories. They’re good at putting people at ease, and have seen it ALL in terms of nervousness, so there’s nothing to be scared of. And they almost always request at RWA, so do t worry yourself over that.


    • Jacie Floyd says:

      All true, Elisa. Thanks for allaying concerns. And for most people, that’s how it will go. But I’m always amazed at the number of people who get the jitters as their appointment time nears. So, planning ahead is a good idea.

      Being able to encapsulate your story in a few sentences is a valuable tool for the entire conference, not just for the appointments. How many times have you been waiting in line or riding in an elevator, or seated at lunch when someone says: So, what’s your book about?


  6. Darynda Jones says:

    Great tips, Jacie! Pitching is so nerve-wracking. I must say, I accomplished something most writers don’t. I managed to put an editor to sleep during my pitch. YEP! I sat there pouring my heart out and she nodded off. Looking back, it’s hilarious, but at the time, I didn’t know what to do so I continued my pitch, I just lowered my voice so I wouldn’t disturb her nap.


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