Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

April 2020 Meeting: Author Adrianna Cuevas

Tips and Tricks for Pitching Agents and Editors was this month’s Zoom meeting topic, in anticipation of our chapter’s upcoming (virtual) annual conference

“If I can do it, you certainly can!” said Adrianna Cuevas, debut author of middle grade novel THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ (coming July, 2020, FSG/Macmillan). A former Spanish/ESOL teacher and first generation Cuban-American, Adrianna utilized her own background to write about her book’s main character. Talking about the main character of your book is how to begin your pitch.

Pitch Tips:

  • 1. The Pitch Beginning: The Protagonist and Situation
    • Tell about your protagonist (In Nestor’s case, he’s a military kid who must relocate often, but who has a secret talent–he can talk to animals.)
    • Explain the situation and inciting incident (For Nestor, who has finally been able to settle in a longterm home, the town’s animals start disappearing and Nestor’s grandmother becomes the target of a tule vieja/witch hunt.)
  • 2. The Pitch Middle: The Stakes
    • Tell what’s at stake for your character and the choices involved (At the risk of people finding out who he really is and that he can talk to animals, Nestor must find a way to protect and vindicate his grandmother.)
  • 3. The Pitch Ending: What’s Unique
    • Express what’s unique about your story and how it connects to you–tell what makes you and the story stand out (Adrianna drew upon her experiences: being Cuban-American, her husband’s deployment to Afghanistan, and with folklore from Panama, having lived there.)

Pitch Tricks:

  • 1. Remember that agents and editors are human–make it a conversation (usual time is 3 minutes overall); build in time for questions (the actual pitch should be only about 1 minute)
  • 2. Be professional–you are presenting both your book and yourself; supply your contact information
  • 3. Be brief–communicate the essence of your character and the hook
  • 3. Practice as much as you possibly can
  • 4. Use Twitter pitch events to create a succinct summary of your story–Go to Beth Phelans’ DVPIT for online practice
  • 5. Lean on support from others–who’s your biggest cheerleader? (Adrianna explained how she is shy and did not know anyone at first–her mom gave her the support she needed to go for it)
  • 6. The personal connection of a live pitch can make all the difference in attaining your goals