I first heard about the DFW Writer’s Conference about a month ago when I went to an AIR time event to hear Sarah Riehm (local playwright, author and friend of a friend) speak about her career and works. She mentioned going to the conference at the start of her career and how it had opened doors and she’d found a critique group through it. She also mentioned that finding an agent is much harder than getting published, though I’m not sure where she got that statistic…However, when I investigated the conference and saw that I could get a face-to-face opportunity to pitch to an actual, real, live agent, I was sold!
But first things first, what to wear, who to print my business cards, and oh yeah, pitch preparation. I did tons of research and the advice seemed to be to go to the face-to-face meeting with an elevator pitch (short, pithy, just a few sentences) and then wait for questions from the agent. This was a dialogue, not a speech. In everyone’s dream scenario (most people would deny this, but I’m being honest here), the agent has to compose herself as she is just blown away by the brilliance of your story and delivery, is impressed with your writing ability, and wants to sign you on the spot (though there are reasons you should never do this…). This NEVER happens…except when it does.
The more likely scenario is for the agent to say something like, “I’m interested, send me your query letter and the first 10 pages,” OR “Sounds great, but not for me.” Agents have to become masters of the easy let down. The one I pitched to was so convincing in her generous no, I was sure she was going to change her mind. I even considered writing something she represents just so she could say yes.
Here was my biggest pitching problem: the research I did on the agents at the conference somehow didn’t match up with their real-world interests. Maybe I was doing the research too late at night, maybe I wasn’t clear on my genre initially, maybe I was too hurried to pick my top three choices. All of the above is probably true. And no matter how kind and truly lovely my new writer friends were about my failed pitches, I fantastically bombed. And I could see it coming.
My pitch session was early in the day and I knew going into it that my first choice agent didn’t represent my genre. In my defense, genres are slippery suckers and my book could fit into a couple. But never mind, cause she did pass on my book, but with such grace. Agents are gracious souls…except maybe when they have a gong in front of them.
I felt such fondness for all the agents I met, even the egomaniac who was roaring, literally, throughout his class. They really do want you to do well, not only cause that’s how they get paid, but because maybe they like good stories? I especially admired and appreciated the graciousness of the two agents I pitched to on Saturday night when I wasn’t excited about my pitch/book/life anymore but by golly I was still gonna
spew out share my idea with them even though one didn’t even represent my genre – AGAIN!! – and the other one was just trying to have a chill with a beer and I was all, “Hi! I wanted to meet you! Can I pitch to you? (NO pleasantries or anything! No – Hey, so how about those queries at the gong show? HAHA! No, so who/what are the most exciting writers/books to you at the moment? Argh… my Momma taught me better than this people…).
That final agent, God bless her, tossed a dog a bone. She said, after the world’s longest pause, “Okay…you can query me.” She didn’t say she was interested (I noticed this), but she did give me permission to do what I could have already – which is to send her an email with my query letter and first 10 or so pages of my novel…though I guess I get to say this is a requested query since I twisted her arm with my bloodshot eyes (SOOOOO tired, I was) and my desperate/monotone pitch.
Some of you might say, Oh, I’m sure it wasn’t that bad! (It was, you’re wrong) Or, well at least you got a request! And yes, that is true, but I’ve discovered I hate face-to-face pitches. There’s a reason I use writing to express myself. I’m going to wholeheartedly embrace the email pitch for a while…after I re-work my novel’s ending. But more on my conference editing session next time…