Until very recently the idea of pitching an agent or an editor face to face was among the most terrifying things that could ever happen to me. I got flustered when readers asked me what my book was about let alone when I had to tell an agent or editor what my book is about. Talk about a freak out inducing moment.
That all changed in October when I decided to go to the Georgia Romance Writer's Association Moonlight and Magnolias where several editors and agents were in attendance and you could pitch them your work. Feeling particularly brave, I signed up then instantly panicked. I survived and by the end of the day (where I'd pitched 8 agents and editors) I felt like I had a grasp on how to pitch without turning into a babbling mess.
Practice until you can recite your pitch in your sleep. I practiced pitching with anyone who would listen, other writers, coworkers, friends, roommates, strangers on the internet and more. Your pitch needs to be short and clear. Focus on the main plot and ignore the subplots for this. Time yourself and know exactly how long you'll have for your pitches.
Once you've shared your pitch, you're going to be asked follow up questions about your book and about you as a writer. Practice with others and see what questions come up. Some to be ready for are:
Is this a standalone or part of a series?
Who is the audience for this?
What are you reading?
What else have you written?
Are you published and where?
You also need to know your book inside and out. I was pitching a murder mystery and I had agents asking me who the murderer was and why. Condensing that into a few sentences was tough but I knew my book inside out and could do it without freezing. (The only question that took me off guard and froze me in my tracks was one asking me if I wrote fanfic.)
3. Pump Yourself Up
Before I left for the conference (okay the night before because I'm a procrastinator) I put together a playlist of confidence boosting music on my phone. I listened to that playlist almost the whole day while I waited for my turn to pitch. Also, stand like Wonder Woman (legs wide, hands on your hips) because it'll give you a boost of confidence. Dress your best, and do everything you can to feel at your best.
When I get really nervous I tend to shut down and turn totally silent. That's not what you want to do when you have seven minutes to talk to an agent or editor. Even when they say they're not interested in your project for whatever reason there's no reason to run for it or to sit in silence for another five minutes. Ask about publishing, ask about what an agent does, ask what they're reading for fun! I asked an editor who had said she didn't rep what I was looking for what she was reading and we had a great time talking about sci fi and fantasy books. It was a lot of fun.
5. Play Ball
You won't win anything if you don't even jump onto the field so don't be afraid to get out there. At the end of the day, these people are all human, they've had all kinds of nervous people pitching them and they're not going to be needlessly mean to you. Take a breath, strike a pose then walk in with confidence and pitch your book!