Well, at the moment, I’m sitting in the hotel lobby bar with a Cosmo on the little table to my left, along with some delicious chips (my nemesis) that look and taste like they’re homemade. On the appetizer menu is something called “Crispy Cornmeal Crusted Calamari,” which I think I’m going to try just because I can’t quite visualize calamari in cornmeal. (It’ll probably be about $100 for a few pieces, the main issue with having a conference in New York City. But it is so totally cool and fun, you just need to save some extra money for this sort of thing when you guys all come next year … 🙂 …) And after the pitch sessions were completed a short while ago, I felt like I deserved a reward. We all deserve a reward–and I see a lot of familiar faces sitting around me who are waving, smiling weakly, and clearly reaping their own rewards as well!
Okay, here’s what happened this afternoon. We were all (the number swelled to well over 500 this afternoon, with lots of new people registering just for the pitch sessions today) in the ballroom, and about 50 agents were positioned at tables around the room’s perimeter. Across the table from each agent was a single chair, and lined up in front of each agent’s place–with a lot of the lines snaking around and merging together in a crowded mass in the center of the ballroom that grew hotter and stuffier by the minute–were dozens of us waiting our turn to have three measly minutes with the agent. We were free to see as many agents as we could work into the two hours, but when we finished with one pitch, we had to go to the end of the line for our next choice. The wait in line for the more popular agents could be as much as thirty minutes or more, so I lined up for the the first pitch at the agent I thought was the best match for Separation of Faith (not wanting to risk running out of time).
By the end of the Pitch Slam, I had pitched to four agents. One wants me to send him a copy of the book plus detail about all of my promotional activities since the book came out and those planned for the next six months. Another agent wants the first three chapters and the promotional detail. Fortunately, just this past week, I asked iUniverse for the Word version of the final printed book so I can enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest (which, by the way, opens for submissions tomorrow night–Sunday–at midnight). iUniverse was kind enough to send the Word manuscript right away, so I’ll easily be able to send the three chapters to Agent #2. Then, one agent didn’t want to see the book at all. Said “it’s company policy not to look at any DIY books in any form.” I suggested to her that, for future conferences, she might want to put that in the printed description of what she is and isn’t looking for, especially since I had been standing in her line for almost half an hour before I got my turn with her.
Now, of course, you may have already surmised that I’m saving the best part of this story for last. 🙂 One agent, a woman who owns her own literary agency, was the first one I pitched to, and based on the description of what she was looking for, she was the closest match. By design, I had a copy of the novel with me, more as proof that I really did have a book than anything else. And the two agents who want me to send them something acknowledged seeing the book on the table but didn’t want to look at it. However, after I’d completed my pitch with the first agent, she said, “That’s the book, right?” And I said yes. Then she asked if I had an extra copy to give to her, at which point I happily told her that she could have the one right there. THEN … she said (and I’m paraphrasing), “I love the story idea, so now it’s all about the writing. Are you going to be here tomorrow?” I said yes, because I am going to be here–but I think I would have changed my plans if I’d originally been going to cut the conference short. “Great!” she said. “So, I’ll let you know tomorrow. How’s that for fast feedback?” And then she smiled–and so did I, big time.
On every occasion when I’ve attended a conference over the last ten years where there’s been a big pitch event, there’s always been one story of someone signing with an agent or editor as a result of the pitch/conference before the conference is over. Only one story, though, per conference, and the attendance at these things ranges from several hundred like this one up to 2500. So the odds are like getting discovered as a movie star while walking through a drugstore. But I have to tell you that I’ve never felt quite as strongly that something could possibly be possible as I do right now. And we’ll know soon enough, aka tomorrow (Sunday). Worst case, she loved the story enough to take the book, and if she says no, I’m confident she’ll tell me why, which will help me as I press forward.
Another thing I need to tell you that is that the one point making the singular difference today as I pitched this special self-published novel is the fact that the book earned the Editor’s Choice designation from iUniverse. Everyone (except that one agent who wouldn’t even talk about the book) knew what the Editor’s Choice accomplishment signified–and the knowledge that the editorial quality of the book has already been established as “high” immediately set the novel apart from the majority of self-published books and, I believe wholeheartedly, made the difference between their asking to see the book versus saying “no thanks.”
So, all of those posts in this blog about the importance of editing and creating a quality product that will compete with mainstream are worth reviewing for all of us. Those were lessons not easily learned, but the significance–and perhaps the payoff–became clearer than ever to me today.
Tomorrow morning we start off at 9:00 a.m. again with a session on how to manage all the social media elements that have become so critical to our individual successes on our Journeys. Fortunately, I’m now getting used to this auxiliary keyboard on my new iPad so I’ll hopefully be able to type fast enough to capture every single detail of that important topic for all of us.
Right now I’m going to sign off here, then go check the conference Twitter scene (#wdc11) for a few minutes. Then I’m going to turn in really early. My room has a gigantic TV with a sleep timer that I can set to go off, on the slim chance that I won’t be able to keep my eyes open. 🙂 Talk to you in the morning. –Cheri