Saturday, July 29, 2006

RWA—the Pitch Sessions

Well, I wasn't nearly as motivated this morning as I was yesterday. The late nights and early mornings are definitely wearing me out. I have a quick few minutes to check in while I drink my coffee and prepare for the rest of the day.

Yesterday Kim and I both had our pitch sessions, and finally someone figured out that agents and editors can be more effective and actually enjoy sessions a little more if they can see the outside world. Traditionally we're all locked into a drab conference room with no windows and badly circulated air. It's always either too hot or too cold. This year we had a beautiful location on the 10th-floor balcony with big floor-to-ceiling windows.

It's amazing what RWA can do for an author. Pitches given to me by RWA members are always some of the best pitches I hear. RWA members, even when it's a first-time pitch, have more knowledge of how to spend their 10 minutes wisely. They tend to know how to be concise, ask good, professional questions, and engage me. I heard some great pitches and I even had a few authors who chose to use their time not to pitch to me, but instead to ask some questions about me and the business. They already knew (from doing research) that their work fit what I was representing, so instead they wanted to get to know me a little, to learn whether or not we would be a good fit when the time came for them to choose an agent.

Kim and I both had two hours of pitch sessions, and strangely we both had the exact same experience. Pitch sessions fill up very quickly and there are always a number of people who either aren't able to get a pitch appointment at all or aren't able to get in to see their first choice person. However, there are also those who don't show up—whether they get too nervous, decide they aren't ready, or just decide I'm not the right person to pitch to. Strangely, Kim and I both had an appointment who didn't show up. When that happens, organizers will send in a fill-in, one of the very patient attendees who has chosen to wait outside the pitch sessions on the off-chance something just like this happens. And what's stranger still about this, both Kim and I requested a full from the fill-in appointment. Requesting a full rather than a partial is a very, very rare occurence, and the fact that we each did this and from a fill-in is bizarre.

Overall, though, I had some great pitches. I also learned something about what makes a successful pitch. Enthusiasm is contagious. After two hours of listening to people relay the plots of their stories, it starts to feel a little repetitious. It also starts to feel like some authors drone on and on without any real excitement. An excited and enthusiastic author can make all the difference in convincing us they have a product we too should be enthusiastic about.

Tune in either tomorrow or later this week. Kim and I are going to sit down and make a list of all of the industry news and gossip we've been hearing and share some of what we've learned.



Sally Jane Driscoll said...

Writing a terrific story and being able to sell that story orally are such different skills.

Have you ever been so turned off by a pitch that you didn't request the manuscript, only to have another agent pick up that writer and sell the book?

Is hearing a great pitch really more effective in terms of piquing your interest than reading a great query?

How often are you disappointed when the writing doesn't fulfill the promise of a great pitch?

Thanks, and have a safe journey home.



jolinn said...

I think...and I had a lot of time to think about it at the conference, that a great pitch and a blah pitch all sound the same if done in a monotone. And if your shoulders are up around your ears like you expect someone to smack you. If you relax and simply talk, and don't try to corner people, and be yourself...your real self, not the "writer" that you should be, you stand a darned good chance.