On the conferences agenda was a One Page Book Buy session. You provided one double-spaced page of your novel, novella or non-fiction book for the agent and editor to read. They would then tell you what you did right and what you might do to better to get those in the publishing world interested in reading the rest.
By the time I arrived Thursday afternoon, I intended to participate in the One Page Book Buy and not pitch.
Now, a sequence of events occurred to exasperate and please me. As well as teach me a lesson.
First, I met a wonderful mother-daughter duo who inspired me. The daughter planned to read the first five pages of her novel during the open mic on Thursday evening. We were sitting together when Lou Turner came around with the sign-up sheet. Merit put her name down and Lou asked if I wanted to read. I informed her of my decision about the One Page and she told me the agent and editor wasn’t expected to attend that evening; the next day’s session wouldn’t be affected. I added my name to the list.
I knew my chapter needed some polish, but believed it would hold people’s attention. So, mouth dry and nerves jangling, I stood before the crowd and read, totally focused on the pages I held, blocking out the faces staring at me. After the final word, a round of applause. One woman called it powerful. My confidence rose a few degrees.
For some reason, I decided to go ahead and pitch the book to the agent on Friday morning. This is a paraphrasing of the conversation:
Exasperating to say the least. She kept cutting me off before I revealed what the story is about. I realize, I should have started with two sentence description: “Yancy and Beth lost a great love when Wyatt Abney died. When they meet again twenty-five years later they throw their families into turmoil and along the way discover whether they’ve truly moved on or merely moved forward.”
Agent: What’s your genre?
Me: Women’s fiction.
Me: The Widows of Wyatt Abney
Agent: Word count?
Me: Around 70,00 first draft.
Agent: Oh. You shouldn’t even be pitching at this time. You need at least 85,00 words.
Agent: What’s it about?
Me: Two teenage girls are in love with the same boy…
Agent: Wait. This sounds like a young adult novel, but you said it was women’s fiction.
Me: The bulk of the story happens when the characters are adults…
Agent: You should start with them as adults, otherwise readers will think it is young adult.
I put the pitch behind me and moved ahead with the One Page Book Buy. A woman read each page out loud and then the agent and editor commented.
Guess what? After mine was read, the editor and agent wanted more. The same agent who practically ripped me to shreds earlier in the day.
Lesson learned. I’ll know better the next time I pitch.