Pitch conference lessons

Reposted from: April 14, 2106 [adrianaloveswriting.wordpress.com]

Last week, I attended my first writers’ conference—2016 Desert Dreams, sponsored by Desert Rose RWA. My goal was to pitch my historical novel to as many agents and editors as possible.

Was I terrified at that prospect? Definitely. But there was no need. It was a fantastic experience. Here’s some of what I learned:

Pitching caexcellence aristotlen be fun. I lucked out, because the conference agenda included (1) a helpful workshop, led by an executive editor, on pitching, and (2) practice sessions that took the edge off the fear. By the time my first appointment rolled around, I had my 30-word elevator pitch, along with two minutes of distilled info about my novel. Even more important, I’d found my passion again. Practicing my pitch, and seeing the light go on in someone else’s eyes, helped me flip the switch. Jitters morphed into enthusiasm. By the end of the conference, I’d even pitched to an editor during happy hour—totally off-the-cuff, as I didn’t know she was interested in historical fiction. (Yes, a glass of wine helped, but we also had an intense conversation about the time period, so nerves took a back seat.)

FYI: You don’t need to use your agent/editor appointment to pitch your work. For example, I entered a contest associated with this conference, and one of my assigned agents critiqued my contest entry. She mentioned in her comments that she’d be interested in seeing more if I made some changes, so I used my pitch appointment to ask her for detailed feedback. I’m using that info to revise my MS.

Don’t be afraid of agents and editors: They’re good people. Without exception, the editors and agents I met were kind, funny, helpful, and interesting. The author-agent-editor relationship is important. These folks want to get to know you. They’re also generous with their experience and knowledge. Take advantage of their expertise.  I learned the most from workshops run by agents and editors and took pages of notes on querying, pitching, proposals, contracts, the agent-author relationship, and publishing trends.

Keep in mind that these men and women are busy professionals who wouldn’t attend a conference unless they were looking for new clients. (Think warm market, people.) When you meet, be honest about where you are in the process. If you’re not ready to submit sample chapters, tell them that—and ask how they’d like to be reminded of how you met. When you follow up with sample chapters, send your best work and make sure the entire MS is ready if it’s requested. Many agents and editors get hundreds of queries a week. Yours must stand out, and in a good way. (Be patient and respectful, not cray-cray.)

Finally…Never give up.  What’s the difference between an unpublished author and a published one? The published author didn’t give up.  I heard this message dozens of times, especially from published authors who spoke at the conference. They gave us hope. There is no such thing as failure, since every perceived blunder is a step towards success.

I went into the conference thinking: Oh my God, what if I fail?  No, no, no. That’s not the right attitude. The right attitude is: What can I learn? You can’t learn unless you put yourself out there, and improvement isn’t possible in a vacuum.

Did I leave the conference happy? Yes. Five agents and editors said they’d take sample chapters and synopses. That means I’ve got a bunch of work to do and a good two months of revisions and additional beta reads. It’s time to burn the mid-morning, mid-day, and midnight oil. What fun! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Have you pitched at a writers conference? Did you attend 2016 Desert Dreams? If you have a moment, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

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