Oh, and another one: be sensitive to the glazing over of the eyes of an agent being pitched to. I saw her eyes glaze over from the other side of the room. This was a woman who needed rescuing, I thought. I was right.
Actually, authors need to be sensitive to the glazing over of eyes even when not pitching to agents, at parties or not. Yes, we must be passionate and even obsessed about our book, but we also need to display good behaviour and common sense. Put it another way: it will gain you nothing if you bore the pants off someone. After all, you'll probably do it to your readers, too.
While I'm here, it's worth reminding you of something I've said before: writers, even published ones, need to have several pitch stages prepared:
- The really, really short core pitch, so short that no one's eyes could glaze over, so intriguing that the attention is caught, so compelling that the agent / other listener asks for more. This pitch is about ten seconds long. Or less.
- The next layer, in which you add a couple more details when there has been no sign of glazed eyes and every sign of wanting more.
- The next layer - do be careful here: are you sure the eyes aren't glazing over? Perhaps this is a very polite person who is disguising the fact that she's desperate to escape.If you get to the end of the third layer, you have been talking for ONE MINUTE. This is a very long time. (Unless this is a formal pitch, in which you have been allocated a certain amount of time.)
- In which you answer questions put by your listener. If no questions, shut up.
- The full-blown "I've been invited to this festival/library/conference and I actually have been told to talk about my book a LOT." one.
- Shorter is better than longer. Practise your Stage 1 pitch till it's needle-sharp. And I think ten seconds is perfectly adequate.
- Don't do it when the agent is trying to have fun.
I think she's probably right now having an e-fit photo drawn up and sent round all her agent friends.