My First Writers Conference Part 4: Pitch Slam Dunk (Well, sort of. Mostly I just wanted to use that pun)

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In my last post, I went over some Pitch Slam Pointers that I gathered from my own experience, which I shall now detail here.

I didn’t get in line early enough. I went to the Keynote speech, I went to lunch, and I socialized with other writers and practiced my pitch some more. Honestly, I don’t regret it. I met a couple great ladies named Sarah Long and Kristina Ludwig and got to hear about their awesome projects. I really enjoyed the Keynote speech by James Ford, and picked up his book Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and had it signed. I enjoyed the lunch provided by the conference and Wolfgang Puck.

But I was dismayed to see how long the line was to get into the Pitch Slam room when I finally arrived.

By the time the doors opened, and I made it into the room, most of the  lines in front of each agent’s table were already about 7 people deep.

And this was my moment of choice. I saw that Mary Kole’s line actually wasn’t very long yet, and I was certain it would fill up quickly. But even though the bulk of my nerves had subsided, I wasn’t ready to go to her and possibly have her tell me my paranormal novel wasn’t going to have a chance in an over-saturated market, so I went to the agent at the bottom of my most coveted agent lists. Why? Because I decided I should at least get some agent-practice out of the way.

I won’t go so far as to say it was a waste of time, but it was a letdown. I waited 20 minutes to speak to this agent, and no sooner had I delivered my pitch (with confidence and gusto!) that said agent said “Oh, I don’t do paranormal.”

What?!  The agent’s bio said no such thing, and I felt deceived and frustrated. But on the upside, the agent seemed interested in my background as a comic book writer and artist, and said if I ever felt inclined to adapt Winter Wilder into a graphic novel, to give them a call, and the agent handed me a business card.

Honestly, I have no intention of making a graphic novel adaptation at the moment (that’s a whole other ball game), but it was promising that he liked my concept enough to hand me his card.

By now, Mary Kole’s line was, predictably, approximately a million people long, as was the line of my other top-choice. Having learned my lesson with agent #1, I decided to wait in line for my top-choice agent and not waste valuable time with agents who I felt less excited about.

It was agonizing though. The line was 15 people deep, and at 3 minutes a person, that worked out to at least 45 minutes. The entire Pitch Slam was only 90 minutes long, and I had already spent a good chunk of time waiting for that first agent.

I kept glancing at my watch (Well, my phone. Which is basically my watch), and counting and re-counting the people in line ahead of me, while studying the body language of the agent I was in line to see.

Time crawled by and I began to worry I wouldn’t even have time to see another agent after this. Should I jump ship and ditch the line? Go to a shorter line?

No, I stuck to my plan. And I’m glad I did.

I was getting a little nervous, because the agent in question didn’t seem to be handing out many cards, and I could tell she was a tough sell. But I didn’t let that deter me. (Confidence! Gusto!)

To my utter relief, the agent seemed interested in my story, asked me some questions about the plot, and I was rewarded with her business card at the end of the 3 minutes with an invitation to send her a query letter and the first two chapters of my manuscript. I know this is no guarantee of anything but…. inside, I still felt like Charlie with a Golden Ticket to the Chocolate Factory and wanted to break into song right then and there.

But I had to stay focused. There was still 30 minutes left in the session and I had to get into another line, ASAP.

Only, I was thwarted. While I had been speaking with the agent, staff had begun handing out “Last in Line” cards to people in the other lines, so I wasn’t able to see any more agents after all.

It was incredibly frustrating to only have seen 2 agents, (other people I talked to seemed to squeeze in 3 or 4), and it was frustrating to have gone to the wrong agent to begin with. But, overall, I consider it a success. Because I got to speak to one of my top-choice agents and I got her card! That alone is a win.

And most of all, I learned a lot from the experience and I now know how I’ll handle it next time I attend a Pitch Slam.

This article was written by Tania