Learning to Pitch. A Writer’s Nightmare?

Baseball on Fire

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Before I went to the Ozark Creative Writers Conference, I had a little discussion with Elena Dillon about my manuscript. I told her I wasn’t going to pitch my novel. She encouraged me to try, for practice if nothing else. I still hesitated.

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:

Agent: What’s your genre?
Me: Women’s fiction.
Agent: Title?
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.
Me: Ok.
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.

Baseball Shattering Glass

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

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.”

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.

  • Hi Missy – I saw a post on a site called BookBlog where you offered to host authors and post their interviews. I was looking for your contact information regarding that when I happened to get immersed in reading parts of your blog.

    I did the pitch thing too, once, and I could tell that one of the “agents” hadn’t even read my 5 pages before she came to the event (like she was supposed to) and just started giving me generic comments and feedback very nervously, obviously trying to hide the fact that she didn’t do her end of the assignment. I wouldn’t have minded if she was just honest and then gave me general advice, but it’s a bit annoying when someone starts to give you authoratative suggestions on something they haven’t taken the time to understand first.

    So don’t feel bad, happens to all of us, and yes, you could have improved your pitch, we always can, but you also seemed to be dealing with someone who was not ready to really know your work first before giving her comments.

    Hang in there, it’s all part of the process! 🙂

    Preeti

    P.S. And let me know if there is a private place I can contact you, I am at contact attt 3ChipsOnGod dotttt com.

    • M. Frye

      Preeti, I’m flattered you got lost in reading my blog. That gives me reason to keep going.

      I learned alot from that pitch session – about myself and the process – so I’m okay with the experience.

      I’ll get in touch with you about the interview.

  • I think you did great! I hope you don’t feel like I led you astray by encouraging you. Practice is good and now you realize they are just people not all powerful beings. They make mistakes and don’t know everything. She should have just listened! I hope you are glad you did it. Good job!!!!

    • M. Frye

      Oh, Elena! I don’t think you led me astray at all. I’m very glad I did it.

  • Missy,

    I think the best possible thing for you came out of this session. You learned how to pitch a book and your writing was intriguing enough that agents asked for more. That’s a win/win for sure!

    If we don’t try these things, we won’t ever learn what works and what doesn’t. Good for you for trying and best of luck with the book!

    • M. Frye

      Thanks, Debra! It was a good, if somewhat exasperating, experience. I’m certainly more prepared now.