SiWC pitch reflections

As some of you know, I was at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SiWC) last weekend hearing pitches and I even managed to slip into a couple workshops. Here is some feedback for how writers can get the most out of their one-on-one time with agents and editors:

Bring a pen and paper – take notes!

Rarely did I see anyone writing down my instructions for sending me material directly, or writing down how much material I asked them to send.

Take all of the allotted time to pitch and ask questions.

We’re there for the entire time, so take advantage. Use the time to build a memorable connection.

Bring the first page or the first chapter of your work.

I might be alone in this, but our pitch sessions were 10 minutes and in order to get a good idea if we are a fit I’ll need to see writing anyway, so why not bring some? (Granted other conferences have pitch sessions that are much shorter, and might not have time.)

Have your elevator pitch ready.

If it takes you 10 minutes to ramble through your synopsis you’re wasting both of our time. Use the elevator pitch to get my attention then expand on the plot points and get ready to answer my questions about characters, motivations etc.

Need to learn how to pitch? Read on…

Don’t let any speakers or workshops deter you from attending your pitch session.

During a workshop you might think, ‘Wow, I’m not ready yet…’ But if you’ve booked a pitch session go anyway! Practice your pitch, ask questions, let us know what your concerns might be and we can help you feel at ease.

Relax. It will be over soon.

I know it’s unnatural for writers to be expected to come out of their shells one weekend a year, while they spend the rest of the year tucked away at their computers. Take a deep breath, it’s okay if you’re nervous. But agents and editors are just normal people and you’ll see that once you meet us.

If you were at the conference: it was a great one, wasn’t it!

If you weren’t: you missed out, but I hope to see you next year!

Q: What advice can you give to writers attending a conference?

Image via NPR

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

11 thoughts on “SiWC pitch reflections

  1. Having pitched a few times, the agents couldn’t have been nicer, more understanding, or helpful. They know how stressful it is and want to see you shine. If you give them the opportunity, they’ll help you out.


  2. I wish I could have attended! I think it’s important to research the agents at the conference and keep a cheat sheet handy. Going into a pitch session with an idea of who you’re talking to is SO important…and it can help you tailor your pitch to the agent you’re talking to!


  3. My pitching tip is to leave for the session at least five minutes earlier than necessary and use the extra time to settle yourself. Nothing contributes more to a case of nerves than rushing into an interview. I find it’s helpful to prepare a brief ‘one sheet’ to use as part of my introduction, too… and have a business card to exchange with the agent or editor. While I don’t take visible notes during the interview, immediately afterwards I jot down any instructions on the back of the agent’s card.

    As hard as it can be for me to push out of my introvert shell, it’s worth the effort. I always come away from the Surrey Conference on a high, rejuvenated and excited about my writing. This year was no exception (and I enjoyed meeting you there).


  4. Plan your conference ahead of time with what workshops you want to attend, but have a backup to each session in case you meet someone who recommends a particular presenter. I attended the Romance Writers of America conference one year even though I don’t write romance novels. The presenters were terrific and I learned about character development and pacing of plots–so stepping outside my women’s fiction and mystery realms was very helpful.

    Oh–and email each presenter post-conference and tell them what and why you enjoyed their session. I received a response from every writer I emailed, which I thought was kind and generous of them!


What do you think? I love hearing from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: