So I had my first two face-to-face pitches with editors and agents at Nationals this year. Like ever.
Writers are supposed to have a 30-second pitch, a way to sum up their book in a sentence — an elevator pitch, if you will, that the writer could conceivably give during a short elevator ride. The pitch should have a great “hook,” and the conflict should be implied in the sentence.
Authors write, practice, agonize over, and memorize their pitches. There are even entire workshops on how to write them. The authors then bring their pitch to these national writing events, where they get a chance to meet agents and editors and deliver the pitch face to face. It sounds so terrifying — why do it at all, right? I mean, why not just mail the query in and avoid all the awkwardness?
The answer is that there are advantages to doing the pitch live: One is that, when meeting face to face, the agents and editors almost always ask for something, either a partial or a full, so you’re almost guaranteed to climb to the top of the slush pile with the agent/editor of your choice. The other is that you can make a much faster connection than on email.
At RWA, all this takes place in two ballrooms: the agents and editors are waiting in one room, with the authors in another. The agents and editors sit at little round tables with black tablecloths, like some kind of speed dating event, with tall card holders in the center with their names on them. The authors file in from the waiting room; a buzzer goes off for the previous set of authors, who all stand from their tables and file out; and the new authors sit down. Everyone starts talking immediately and the room rises to a low roar. You have 10 minutes total to pitch.
Since I’d never done this before, I didn’t really know what I was getting into, or what I was really doing, but I followed all my appointment times, and getting there early, and marching around to the other ballroom, and eventually I plopped down in front of an editor who I’d signed up to meet.
Of course, right when I sat down, my mouth went completely dry. I could hardly think of my own name in the moment, let alone my characters’ names! I don’t usually get so nervous, so this all took me by surprise, but I looked down at my paper (which I had THANKFULLY brought) and read the first line of my “conversation” — saying the name of my book and that it was a contemporary and that it finaled in the Golden Heart. Luckily, from there I was fine, though I did feel like I was talking around cotton the whole time. So much for trying to feel relaxed! My nerves completely took over. That was weird.
The second pitch (to an agent this time) went a little better, but I don’t fully recall what I said there either! Sheesh. But anyway, they both must have gone okay, because I got two requests to send the book in. And both the agent and editor seemed particularly interested in the fact that I was writing a series about three sisters, so they asked for blurbs on the other books. Yay!
Now I have to get to work sending everything in as quickly as possible, post-conference.
Whew! That was nerve-wracking. But I did it (despite the fact I ALMOST cancelled due to nerves!). I’m so glad I did it, and am moving forward. …
Onward, right? One fear at a time. …