Last Saturday, I took a leap of faith and pitched my book to a renowned literary agent. To prep for this 10-minute face-to-face stress test, I spent the better part of Friday polishing my pitch.
What’s a pitch, you ask? Good question. It’s a sixty word (give or take) description of an entire book designed to knock the socks off of a potential agent or editor. If they like it and think it’s a story they can sell, they’ll ask for more. If not, you’ll have a lot of time to kill before your 10 minutes are up so bring a deck of cards, just in case.
While I had a draft of mine rattling around in my brain for days, I hadn’t actually committed it to paper until I attended an aptly named “Preparing Your Pitch” session the day before. When the moderator invited the writers in attendance to anonymously submit their pitches so she could quickly critique each and every one, I jumped on the opportunity. About thirty minutes later, it was my turn.
“Not bad,” she said. “I don’t like the word ‘transformed’. It’s too vague.” And, with that, she moved onto the next one.
Not bad…? She may as well have come down off the podium, walked over to me, kissed the top of my head and said, “Well done, dear.”
I was elated that my first effort was not bad.
But, I quickly learned that this was just one person’s opinion.
When I had first arrived at the conference, I made the acquaintance of another writer, very nice and very funny, who sat next to me in the session. Later that day, she asked me to describe my book to her in detail. As I did, I tried to imagine that she was the renowned literary agent to whom I would be pitching the very next day.
By the time I finished, I knew what she was going to say.
She held up my pitch, waved it in front of me and said, “That wasn’t this.”
She was right. My pitch lacked punch, zip and charisma. I needed words that would reach out and grab the agent by the throat and say, “If you don’t snatch up this book right now, you’ll be making the biggest mistake of your career.”
At that point, all my pitch seemed capable of conveying was, “Excuse me, but I think I might have a story that might be of interest to you maybe, but I’m not sure, so if you’re busy, never mind.”
Later that day, after a glass of merlot and some lovely chocolate dipped strawberries, my critique partner and I took another stab at it. She grabbed my copy, covered in my neat, tiny 4th grade print and started covering a new sheet in her flowing, flowery cursive. She used words like “snarky”, “blackballed” and “disgruntled”.
I was so inspired, I skipped that day’s last workshop, retreated to my room, put on my jammies, hopped onto the center of the luxurious king-sized bed, opened my laptop, spread out my notes and got to work.
At breakfast the next morning, I met up with my friend and handed her a note card containing the latest rendition of my pitch. When she finished, she exclaimed, “That’s perfect!”
That was all I needed to hear. By the time 11am rolled around, I was ready. I entered the conference room, shook hands with my potential future agent and sat in the chair to which he directed me.
Clearing my throat, I pulled my note card in front of me and was about to begin reading when he interrupted me, saying, “Put that away. I want you to speak to me, not read to me.”
Well, okay then…
Certain that I had read it enough times to have it mostly memorized, I did my best to knock his socks off.
He listened intently, asked me a couple of questions about character motivation, then instructed me to send him a 3-5 page synopsis.
I did my best to contain my excitement.
The night before, at an agent panel discussion, one of the agents mentioned that if you’re asked to submit something, be sure to follow through. I thought to myself who in their right mind would go through the trouble of pitching their book, then not provide the material requested by the agent?
After surviving my first pitch, I think I know the answer to that question. For some, maybe it’s enough to be asked to provide more. For others, maybe they’re afraid of being rejected.
But, for me, neither applies.
So, if you’ll excuse my absence for a few days while I dust off and buff up my synopsis. I have an agent to entice…