Editors, Agents, and Pitching

Know what to pitch—and to whom

Your RWNZ 2019 Conference Pitching Opportunities

Weekend conference attendees who’ve registered, paid and indicated on their booking form they’d like a pitch appointment will be contacted by our Pitch Co-Ordinator (via the email address supplied with your booking).  Appointments are on a first come, first served basis and whilst we will strive to meet your pitching choices, due to the demand and timing we cannot guarantee you will see all your choices. So get in quickly with your conference booking!

I’ve never pitched before, what do I do?

After the details of the pitching line-up (below) there is a guide with links to help you with your preparation. RWNZ recommends reading Kristin Nelson Agent’s blogs on pitching. The key thing to remember is these great people are wanting to love your book as much as you do. Read more about pitching here….

How do I book pitches?

You book your pitch at time of registration. If you want to change your pitching options please email the pitch coordinator to let them know.

The Pitching Line-Up

  • Agent – Nalini Akolekar – Vice-President Spencerhill Associates
  • Editor – Monique Patterson – Editorial Director and Executive Editor at St. Martin’s Press
  • Editor – May Chen –  Executive Editor at Morrow/Avon, HarperCollins Publishers
  • Editor  – Nic Caws – Harlequin London
  • Editor – Jo MacKay Harlequin Australia

Nalini Akolekar, Vice-President Spencerhill Associates.

Nalini Akolekar joined Spencerhill Associates after a lengthy editorial career and several years in advertising sales. Being an agent has provided the perfect opportunity to combine her editorial instincts with her sales, marketing, and business experience.

Nalini currently represents several bestselling authors, and has placed books with a wide range of publishers, from the Big Five to Amazon, Harlequin, indies and E-first. Nalini specializes in romance and women’s fiction in the adult market, but she also loves thrillers, horror and true crime. “I like to develop strong relationships with my clients. I see the author/agent relationship as a true collaboration.”

Pitch Wish List:

On pitches I am interested in all of the subgenres of romance and would love to see something that has multicultural elements. I am not acquiring YA or Inspirational, but am happy to take pitches that I would then pass on to other agents at Spencerhill. In addition to Romance I’m interested in women’s fiction, thrillers and memoir.

Monique Patterson – St. Martin’s Press

Monique Patterson is an Editorial Director and Executive Editor at St. Martin’s Press. She has published countless New York Times bestselling and award-winning authors. Some of her authors include #1 New York Times bestseller, Lora Leigh (Dagger’s Edge), award-winning author, L. Penelope (Song of Blood and Stone), #1 New York Times bestsellers PC and Kristin Cast (Moon Chosen, Sun Warrior & The Dysasters), co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Khan-Cullors and award-winning author asha bandele (When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir), New York Times bestselling husband and wife writing duo, Ashley and JaQuavis (The Cartel series) and award-winning author, Sarah Bird (Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen).

Pitch Wish List:

Historical romance
Contemporary romance
Historical women’s fiction
Cowboy romance (American)

May Chen – Morrow/Avon

May Chen is an Executive Editor at Morrow/Avon, HarperCollins Publishers. Since the tender age of 11 she’s been reading romance novels of all shapes and sizes: paranormal, historical, erotic, contemporary. When not swooning over the works of her bestselling authors—which include Maya Banks, Loretta Chase, Linda Howard, Sophie Jordan and Jill Shalvis—she is looking for the Next Big Book, and likes to watch bad reality tv, snuggle with her French Bulldog and eat Cheetos.

Pitch Wish List:

I’m interested in contemporary romances, contemporary or historical women’s fiction, and historical romances. No paranormals, no sci-fi / fantasy.

Nic Caws – Harlequin London (representing Modern, Historical, Medical, Romance and Dare)

Nic Caws is an Editor for Harlequin Series, working in the London office. She came to Harlequin in 2013, after completing her B.A. in English Literature, and promptly fell headlong into a love affair with category romance. Nic has been lucky enough to work closely with authors across the Modern, Historical, Medical, Romance and Dare lines, but is on hand to answer any questions about all Harlequin Series. She’s looking to acquire unique, gripping voices, with fresh twists and perspectives on popular themes. When she doesn’t have her nose buried in a book, she can be found seeking her next theatre fix, listening to podcasts, or enthusiastically baking!

Pitch Wish List:

Nic is looking for manuscripts suitable for Harlequin’s Modern/Presents, Romance, Medical, Historical and Dare lines.

Jo Mackay – Harlequin Australia (representing Mira, Escape and HQ)

Jo Mackay heads the local fiction lists for Mira and HQ at Harlequin Books (a division of HarperCollins Publishers). A passionate advocate for her authors, Jo firmly believes good writing can change lives. She loves strong characters, historical novels, mysteries, family sagas, pacey woman-centred fiction, psychological thrillers, romance set in close-knit communities and any story she can’t put down after the first page.

Jo has worked in publishing for more than 20 years. Originally from the UK, she began her career as a journalist in London before training as a book editor. Since then she has worked in Australia for several trade publishing houses in senior editorial roles, including six years as a Commissioning Editor at ABC Books and three years as an Associate Publisher at HarperCollins Publisher. She has worked at Harlequin Books since 2014.

Pitch Wish List:

Jo is looking for mysteries, family sagas, contemporary women-centred fiction, psychological thrillers, historical, and any story she can’t put down after the first page for our print imprints, Mira and HQ. Also taking pitches for Escape, our digital-first imprint.

Pitch Preparation

A pitch is like a particularly short and pleasant job interview and as such needs approaching in the same way.  Firstly, research the people you are pitching to.  What books have they recently published?  Who do they represent?  How does your book fit in with their current stable?  Check them out on Twitter, Facebook and their websites for answers.  Google is your friend.

You then need to be able to sell your book. You need to convey what the story is about, how it fits with them/their line and what makes it special and sets it apart from other competing works of fiction.  Think of the back cover blurb – exciting, emotive and brief. It should cover your main characters, their conflicts and the plot.  Take in prompt cards to help you, but make sure you’ve practiced your opener to the cat, baby or any other writers you can bribe with a coffee or reciprocal arrangement. It will make it easier to present if you’re nervous on the day.  Make sure you’ve also got a blurb on what sells you, so if you are asked about yourself you know the best things to say.  A professional, but friendly approach to the pitch will have you well on your way.

Here’s some advice from Kristin Nelson (Nelson Literary Agency)

When writing your pitch paragraph, all you need to do is examine the first 20 or 50 pages of your manuscript. Then zero in on the main catalyst that starts the story forward—the main conflict from which all else in the novel evolves. It’s the catalyst kernel of your story that forms your pitch.

What you need to remember is that your pitch paragraph needs to read like the back cover copy of a novel. Notice that when you read the back cover of a book, it just gives a hint or a teaser of the story and that it also usually focuses on a crucial early event in the novel. That gets the ball rolling.

And the back cover copy of a book never reveals the ending—and neither should your pitch paragraph. After all, if I want to read the entire novel, I don’t want to know the ending beforehand.

So what I suggest is that you go to your local library or bookstore and browse the section that holds the novels comparable to yours (i.e. if you are writing a thriller, look at thriller novels. If you are writing a paranormal romance, read the back covers of other paranormal romances. If you write literary fiction, read the back cover copy of literary works and so on).

You want your pitch paragraph to mirror that same sort of rhythm and content of those back cover examples. After all, that copy was written by experts and analysing how the experts create enticing copy can only help you to write yours.

There are great guides online from other writers. 

Paula Roe: Pitch 

Jane Friedman: The Basic Pitch Formula

Jami Gold: Pitch Preparation

Or Google away. Please note that RWNZ conduct pitches slightly differently to those sometimes held in the States so don’t panic if other pitching advice mentions things that sound left field.

Pitch Etiquette

If you need to change anything or the pitch coordinator has made a mistake, let them know as soon as possible. RWNZ wants to maintain our professional reputation with the agents and editors and so wishes to minimise changes at the conference itself, but changes are better than just not showing up.

Please be very respectful of the amount of time you have to pitch. There is not time between the pitch sessions for anyone to run late.

Please arrive for your pitch appointment time 5 minutes early and leave your session as unobtrusively as possible. A chair closer to the exit might be a good idea for that particular session.

Don’t get too nervous. All of the editors and agents at the conference are LOVELY and will be used to meeting first-time pitchers.  Think of it as an opportunity to have an enthusiastic conversation about your book with a like-minded individual. It’s a long way to New Zealand and they are coming because they WANT to find the brightest and the best new manuscripts here. You are bypassing the slush pile. It’s all good!

Follow through after the conference. If you are asked to send something, that’s great! Make sure you undertake all agreed actions in a timely manner.