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Oktoberfest 2023

Pitch Speed Dating

Experience a literary twist on speed dating as writers get the chance to pitch their books directly to agents. In this dynamic and fast-paced event, writers have precious minutes to captivate agents with their book ideas. It's a unique opportunity to showcase creativity, passion, and storytelling prowess, all while forging potential connections that could kickstart your writing career. 

The agents participating in this event represent PB, MG, or YA books. Please do your homework ahead of time so you can get an idea of which agents present are the best fit for your book. 

This special session is available for attendees ONLY. You must be a registered conference attendee to sign up for Pitch Speed Dating.

How to Sign Up

If you are planning to participate, please include the Pitch Speed Dating Add-on when registering for the conference. There is no additional fee to participate.

However we do expect you to show up fully prepared! 

How to Participate

During Speed Dating, agents will first introduce themselves, and then sit at tables. 

Attendees will then line up in front of a table for a chance to pitch their first agent. -Each pitch lasts a TOTAL of 3 minutes. This includes both your pitch AND the agent’s feedback, so plan to use this time wisely. You will not have extra time. 

After you have completed your first pitch encounter, you will then get in line for another agent.

You can meet with as many agents as you can fit into the 60-minute time period. 

Agents Participating

Do your homework! Please research the agents participating ahead of time to help determine who may be the best fit for pitching your book. You’ll want to review what types of books they represent and what they are currently seeking. 

Find the agent’s bios as well as links to their websites and manuscript wishlists on the faculty page. 

Laurie McLean — Agent & Founding Partner, Fuse Literary

Seeking MG & YA

Stefanie Molina — Agent, Ladderbird Literary Agency

Seeking PB, MG, & YA

Andy Ross — Agent, Andy Ross Agency

Seeking YA

Jennifer March Soloway — Senior Agent, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Seeking PB, MG, & YA

For helpful tips on pitching to agents at a conference, please see this article from Jane Friedman.

Program subject to change without notice.

Conference Pitching Tips

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Dean Gloster

How to Pitch at a Conference By Dean Gloster, Co-Regional Advisor, SCBWI S.F. North & East Bay

How to Pitch at a Conference

Writers are often not great at pitching: If we thought we could describe the heart of something in two sentences, we wouldn’t have spent the months and years to turn it into a book. Also, writers sometimes start in the wrong place, because we’ve grappled so deeply with the material. A pitch is not the place to describe the amazing magic system or the protagonist’s generational trauma.

           But relax. When you pitch agents at a conference (as there is an opportunity for those who’ve signed up here), it’s a chance to hone a couple of sentences about your book, to practice how to pitch, and then have a conversation with an industry professional about something you love: Your book, why you wrote it, and where you are in the process. (And, sometimes, how that fits in the market today and matches with what the agent is looking for.)

           What the pitch is:

           A pitch (short for “elevator pitch”—what you’d tell someone if you only rode two floors with them on an elevator) is a compelling summary that conveys something about the book and leaves the listener both informed and intrigued, wanting more. It’s similar (or sometimes identical) to the hook or logline you use in your query. Often, that starts with a single sentence that tells us something positive and intriguing about the protagonist and then conveys the heart of the external plot (struggle, quest, desire, goal, conflict) while either spelling out or at least hinting at the stakes—what terrible thing will happen if that protagonist doesn’t succeed.


One formula that works well for MG and YA:

           One formula for the first sentence that often works: [adjective(s)] [age] [protagonist] [description of central goal/quest/struggle/conflict] [and if stakes are not clear, the stakes—or else terrible outcome.]

           So, for my debut YA novel Dessert First, that one-sentence pitch was something like: “Smart, funny 16-year-old Kat Monroe is having the worst year of her life, with conflicts at school and difficulties with her former best friend/crush, when her younger brother Beep gets a relapse of his blood cancer—and she’s the match for a bone-marrow transplant.”

           That’s not a great pitch, but it does provide a look at what was in the book: It’s a sibling cancer story with life-or-death stakes that has some humor in it. The protagonists’ age tells us where it fits—YA—and the description makes it clear it’s contemporary realistic. When I pitched in person at two writers’ conferences, it promptly got me partial and full requests and ultimately an agent (and the book sold.)

           If you want to go on from that first sentence, a second sentence can describe the protagonist’s internal journey. And take a breath. Let the agent ask questions.

           Where your pitch starts can vary depending on what’s especially appealing about your manuscript: In a blog post, Janice Hardy describes five different places to open, including protagonist, core conflict, and key setting. http://blog.janicehardy.com/2014/03/5-ways-to-hook-your-readers.html?spref=tw

           There are lots of resources online about writing a hook in a query, which is essentially a pitch: One nice meta-analysis of three different ways to start a hook (depending on what’s most compelling in your manuscript) is Lara Willard’s analysis of three categories of hooks that worked especially well on Query Shark, with links to those underlying queries. https://larawillard.com/2014/12/17/queries-that-work-from-query-shark/

           But the important things to remember are: 1) describe your book briefly, in a way that conveys character, conflict/quest/goal, and implies stakes; and 2) have a conversation with an industry professional about your book, giving you a chance to answer their questions and learn something from them.

           And don’t stress out unnecessarily. This isn’t your only chance to pitch an agent. There are many hundreds of agents who represent writers for children and young adults, and our SCBWI chapter will have an online pitch event in Spring 2024 with more opportunities.