Thursday, July 22, 2010


By Deb Werksman

Since we're all gearing up for RWA in Orlando next week, I thought today's blog could give you an editor's perspective on what makes a great in-person pitch.

Here are the qualities of the very best pitches I've ever heard:

The author knows what the book is and tells me right away so I can listen for what I know is important in that subgenre.

The pitch is about as long as it might take to read the book's back cover copy out loud. It's not a long plot summary, but it does give away the ending so I come away with a complete sense of the book.

I can hear 2-3 sentences to sell the project with. I come away knowing exactly how I'm going to position the book for my sales/marketing/PR/design departments.

Grab me with something I haven't heard before and you'll have me eating out of your hand!

Let your voice shine through! If I can get a sense of the writing from the pitch, that's fantastic!

The author clearly checked my submission guidelines in advance and knows what I publish (and what I don't) so this is a pitch for something I might actually be interested in!

It is totally fine with me if you have questions for me, in fact I love it as it allows us to have a great conversation most of the time. You don't need to have it all figured out. Intelligent questions are great in a pitch session.

The author appears professional and talks to me in a professional manner (you'd be surprised :-).

I didn't say anything at all about performance--I don't care if you're nervous, I don't care if you read off of index cards or have the pitch typed out ahead of time. I know that pitching in person is nerve-wracking, and that you want to do your very best. As long as you don't come across kooky, you're ahead of the game.


PS A word about etiquette.
I do not mind being pitched on the fly if you run into me in the elevator, on line for coffee, or in the ladies room (as long as I'm not actually in a stall at the time). I'm told I'm unique in this regard, but I know there are many more authors who want to pitch to me than there are time slots, so if you serendipitously run into me, go for it! I mean it!

All best,

Deb Werksman
Sourcebooks, Inc.
(203) 333-9399


  1. You're the greatest, Deb! Look forward to seeing you at Nationals!!! :)

  2. Deb, I share Terry's opinion. Your are the greatest and nicest, if you don't mind being stopped for a pitch by writers who were not lucky enough to get an appointment with you at pitch time. I'll see you in the workshops or the corridors. Have a safe trip and thanks for the advice.

  3. LOL! When one of the restrooms is standing room only, we'll know where to find you!

  4. And comments like that (we can pitch to you in the bathroom) is just one more example of why you're awesome, ma'am! Wish I were going. Have fun at Nationals!

  5. Deb, I so appreciate your willingness to be open and approachable. We are quite fortunate to have you as our editor. See you in a week!

  6. Great advice, Deb! I've never pitched in person before. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like it. I'd definitely have to use the index card method. When I get nervous, my brain takes a vacation.

  7. I can remember pitching as an unpublished author. I was nervous for days ahead and rehearsed endlessly. Wish I'd known then that editors are just people like everyone else. Maybe I wouldn't have been so nervous. But I still dread pitching. I had to pitch a new project to my agents last week, and I made up some note cards so I didn't flub it. I'm a much better writer than speaker.

  8. Hi Deb~

    You are a very approachable editor and you're easy to pitch to. I never had a problem pitching to you. I have had disastrous pitches to other editors though. One was nightmarish. I finally just apologized to the nice Avon editor and she patted my hand and said "It wasn't that bad." She was a horrible liar. It was a freaking train wreck. Luckily I already had an offer from you. LOL

  9. Deb,

    I loved it that you got your point across about the pitch and made it fun for us to read, too!

    See you in Orlando!


  10. Deb, I wish I'd had that advice when I started. In fact, it helps now, too. But I agree with Cheryl. You may never get out of the restroom!

  11. Thank you - I was beginning to feel those butterflies in my stomach and now the pitch I have scheduled in Orlando doesn't seem quite so scary.

    Great advice! You make pitching sound so easy. :)

  12. Great post, Deb! Thank you so much for sharing.

  13. Deb,
    Sorry about the late comment, my computer was down for a while last week--eek! But had to comment on this when I saw it.

    What a great blog! You are always so full of great information to help writers. And it is so nice to hear you are personable too.

    I was telling a writing friend of mine about getting a notification from you on having received my ms (from the pitch contest last month) and she was impressed that you took the time to notify me with an email. Sometimes it is the little things that make someone great.

    To know you take the time to help out is what makes you the top in your business. Following your guidelines in pitching either personally or via internet is very helpful to those of us who may never have had the opportunity, especially for those of us who may suffer from nervousness upon first meeting.

    Hope you have a great time in Orlando. May your bathroom lines be short (or you get some wonderful pitches) and the dinners, entertainment and friends be fun and enjoyable.