I just got back from Dallas a few hours ago, after having an amazing time at the DFW Writer’s Conference. I’m feeling a little like a zombie from the lack of sleep and the information overload in my brain, but also incredibly inspired and motivated. I’ll talk more about that inspiration and motivation in my next post, but first want to talk about pitching an agent.
I was initially unsure about whether to request a pitch session at the conference. It was my first conference, I wasn’t sure I was ready to pitch, and wondered if maybe I should use my first conference just to listen and learn. On the advice of a writing friend who has pitched before, I decided to just go for it.
I am so glad I did!
I was assigned a ten minute appointment with my first choice agent for early on Saturday morning, the first day of the conference. I was relieved about that, because I figured once it was over, I could just relax and enjoy the conference without the dreaded pitch hanging over me.
I prepared a pitch last week and got some feedback on it and overall felt pretty good about it, but for various reasons never practiced it out loud before I left for the conference.
By the time I got to Dallas Friday night and got checked into my hotel, it was nearly 8 pm. I had dinner and then went back to my room to practice for the first time. I read it out loud, and ended up making a few wording changes so it flowed better. Once I’d settled on my wording, I wrote the pitch onto a few 3 x 5 note cards. Then I just started reading it over and over again while I paced my hotel room. Great way to spend a Friday night, huh?
I did that until I basically felt like I had it memorized, and then put it away and tried to relax a bit before turning in for the night.
The next morning, I recited the pitch in the shower before getting ready to head down to the conference center.
Everyone assembled in the ballroom at the Hurst Conference Center for the opening of the conference, and I spotted my assigned agent sitting a few tables over (thanks to those bright pink DFW Con name tags the agents wore). Everyone says that agents are people, too, and sure enough she looked pleasant and friendly, though I was still pretty nervous about meeting her.
After the opening remarks, I had time for one workshop before my agent appointment and did my best to concentrate. When that was over, I headed over to the pitch waiting area and checked in. I then waited at a table with other writers and we tried to stay positive and boost each others’ confidence.
It’s important to remember that agents go to conferences because they are looking for clients. They want to find someone to represent. When they’re sitting in their offices reading hundreds of queries a day, they may be looking for reasons to say no just to get through that slush pile quicker, but I truly believe things are different when they give up a weekend and travel halfway across the country to meet aspiring writers. I think they want a reason to request material from authors. They want to hear something interesting and maybe meet a future client.
After all, writers can exist without agents, but agents can’t exist without writers.
When it was time for my pitch, the group was led into the ballroom and instructed to find our assigned agent. I’m glad I spotted her earlier, so I knew what she was wearing and could go right to her table without scanning the room reading name cards.
I approached her and addressed her by her first name, introduced myself and tried to make a little small talk, asking her how she liked Texas so far, since I knew it was her first trip there.
The small talk didn’t last long, because after all, we only had ten minutes and neither one of us was there because Dallas is a great city (though it is!). She asked me what I wrote, and I told her women’s fiction, and then she asked what my book was about and I launched into my pitch. I had my note cards, and probably looked at them more than I needed to, but I was glad I had them as a crutch so I didn’t suddenly draw a black and forget what my book was about.
I got a sense from her reactions that she was intrigued, and after I finished my pitch, she asked me a few follow-up questions about the book and then told me she thought it sounded interesting and requested my synopsis and manuscript and gave me her card.
Yay! That’s a great feeling.
With that out of the way, she asked me what I authors I liked to read. I mentioned Jodi Picoult as one of my favorites (though I found out I was pronouncing her name wrong, LOL) and we discussed her books and spent the rest of the session just chatting, with a few other questions about my writing tossed in. I think we both got caught up in the conversation because we almost didn’t hear the gong announcing the time was up.
I thanked her and made my way out of the room, relieved and excited. It was over, and she wanted to see my MS! That’s as good as it could have gone.
I talked to other writers at the conference who had similar positive experiences, with agents requesting material, and others who felt they just didn’t connect with the agent and things didn’t go well.
It really is a subjective thing what people like (the query gong show at the conference sure confirmed that), and I’m so happy my session went well.
I think pitching to agents is a valuable experience, and a way to push you past that slush pile. It opens the door to having a dialogue with an agent about your work in a setting when they aren’t looking to reject you. I’m glad I made the decision to just go ahead and do it this year, even though I am now having a little freak out that my MS is not ready to send.
If anyone out there is attending a conference and unsure about pitching- just do it! I think you’ll be glad you did.
Next: DFW Con Part 2: The timber line (Thank you, Jodi Thomas), and going all-in as a writer.