As with any great endeavor in life, (a marriage proposal, a writer’s conference, a popcorn lineup at the movie theater), it’s best to have a plan.
My plan for Friday was simple but very stressful. I had to see and pitch to 3 agents and 1 editor.
As luck would have it, I thought there were 4 people there who might, just might, be interested in my historical novel. But the Surrey International Writers’ Conference only allows you to book 1 appointment. To see other people, you need to get in a line and see if there’s an opening or find a way to bump into them at a workshop they are running (or find the table they’re sitting at for lunch/dinner.)
Being me, and being Canadian, the latter choices are particularly hard. I hate bugging people. I know that sounds totally not like me given that I bug my friends constantly, but really I hate bugging strangers. I hate sitting down and interrupting their meal to say, hey, hi, please put down the spaghetti, I need you to listen to me talk about my novel. Badly.
But at some points in your life, you have to nut up. You have to find a way to push through the nerves and get the job done. Or, as the great philosopher Will Ferrel said, put on your big boy pants.
So, even before the first keynote speech of the morning ended, I had to get up and stumble out of the hall to go stand in line for another appointment. If I could get one, it would make my life a lot better since I wouldn’t have to pitch to anyone while they were in a toilet stall.
The stars aligned and I got myself one right off the bat. 10:20. Nervously, I waited, rehearsing what I would say or at least the points I hoped to highlight. Much like the speech I did at my wedding, I had to semi-wing-it. I have no ability to actually memorize anything, as best exemplified by my ability to sing the wrong lyrics to pretty much every song, nor am I good at pitching just off the cuff. So I hybrid rehearse.
Open with what the story is about. Mention character for the love of God. Look the person in the eye. Do not scratch my balls no matter how itchy they become. Talk about why I love this story. Remember to breathe. Talk slowly. Enunciate my words. Tell them about why it matters to my hero, Kurt Yager, that he find his sister. Mention the time crunch and the stakes if he doesn’t find her. Breathe.
But no matter how much I prepared, the moment I went over to talk to the agent, my heart pounded so quickly that if someone had pricked me with a needle, I would have shot blood 100 feet out like a fire hydrant releasing water. I honestly thought about running outside to get some fresh air, but it was too late.
I reached the table where the agent sat and held out my hand. God, was it sweaty? Would I remember my name? Would I be able to talk at all?
She shook my hand as I introduced myself and sat down.
And I began with a shaking voice.
By the end of my pitch, my entire body was soaked with sweat, but she seemed interested in the story. Genuinely interested. She asked to see 50 pages, said she loved the premise, the characters, the setting.
I nearly jumped out of my seat and hugged her.
But instead, I thanked her for her kind words, promised to get her those 50 pages as soon as I could, and left with her card.
Success! At least as much as I could hope for at this point in the writing process.
1 down, 3 to go.
I wasn’t sure my nerves could take it.
Here is a link to an article from Writer’s Digest on Pitching.
Here is a link to pitching from the Writing World.
Here is a link from SFU.
Here is a link from The Professor.
Lots of good stuff! Please check out the links.