topcowofficial writer/editor Matt Hawkins posted this on Facebook. Reposting here because the advice is invaluable.
Some pitching advice:
1) understand that no one will be that excited to read your pitch. This is because we read so many bad ones that the expectation is that it won’t be good. If we’re excited after we read it that’s a good thing.
2) it may take a year for someone to read your pitch. Editors, writers, publishers, agents and managers are busy people. Proper follow up is once a month check in unless the person tells you differently. If they tell you check back in August and it’s May then check back in August. Best thing is to use the same email thread. When I see I told someone something already there’s a guilt factor to push it to the top of the list.
3) everything matters. Punctuation, grammar, spelling my name right…we get that you’re sending it out broad but what you need to get is that when reading these things we’re looking for a reason to say no. For this reason I encourage people NOT to use dialects in samples or pitches sent out.
4) keep it short. No one wants to read your 10,000 page story bible. Most places have submissions guidelines on what they want to see. These may differ from company to company. You should modify your pitches to target companies and give them what they’re asking for. Again, as mentioned above we’re looking for a reason to say no. The more you give, more likely find a reason.
5) know who’s reading it. If you send me your children’s super-hero romance story set in the Stone Age you clearly never researched what I’m interested in. Look at the companies that do material similar to what you’re pitching.
6) have a logline. If you can’t pitch your story idea in a couple sentences you’re not cut out for this business. You have to be able to pitch your idea in less than a minute or two tops. Why? Because you need to grab people’s interest. Think Tank is the story of a slacker genius who designs weapons for the military but doesn’t want to do it anymore…but they won’t let him quit because he’s too valuable. It’s okay to use other existing franchises to explain your concept.
7) understand that no you’re not the only one with that idea. It is so common to receive multiple very similar pitches. Why? Zeitgeist. You got the idea because you saw X movie, read Y book, saw Z internet meme and x+y+z = the high concept core of your idea. This is fine, btw. Just execute better.
8) less plot, more character. Convoluted plots are bad and don’t make your story smarter. Twists are great, but don’t overcomplicate. Every great existing movie out there can be pitched in less than a minute and you get the basic idea. Try pitching Alien then try Prometheus. Alien = simple plot, great characters and execution. Prometheus less so. When you pitch, pitch the character, who they are and why we care. That’s more important than your beat be beat plot.
9) be prepared to “hurry up and wait”. If someone responds asking you to tweak your pitch with some notes you get to do this. Just because you turn something back around in 24 hours the person reading it might take months to get back to you. Variety of reasons, low priority, busy, whatever. In this situation when someone engages you at all, ask them how you should follow up.
10) be courteous and understand that you don’t really matter to the person on the other end (yet). Hard pill to swallow, but humble goes a long way. If you get angry, that’s understandable. Happens to me every week. Go work out, walk around the block, yell in your car…whatever. Taking that out even partially on whoever is reading your thing just gives them a reason to ignore you.
11) pitch verbally to friends and family. If they get lost or ask questions that’s YOUR fault not theirs. Even if you answered the question they have already, it wasn’t clear enough. You should listen to these and adjust. If you feel like you did answer that question, answer it twice in two different ways If you see people tune out, remember where it is and try and adjust. Again, keep it short. Movie pitches are usually 10-15 minutes long. Don’t do voices in verbal pitches.
12) thank the people that “pass” on your project. Most people don’t respond at all, they’re giving you the courtesy of a no. It is okay to ask why, but if they don’t respond to that don’t follow up, let it go. If they give you a reason ask them if you can adjust and resubmit.
This is not a complete list just some things I think about