Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Romance Writer's of America's National Conference-a First Timer's View of Pitching

Pitching at the Romance Writers of America National Conference can make veteran conference attendees quake in their shoes. As a first timer, there’s a lot of luck involved in getting the right agent/editor appointment for what you’re writing, if you get a choice at all. The rest is up to you.

The alarm blares and my eyes spring open…pitch day. I groan knowing how many appointments are scheduled for me. Zero. Late registrations don’t allow for much planning. Today the only way to get any agent/editor face time is by waiting for opportunities to open. Not everyone shows up for their scheduled time slot. It’s a matter of standing all day ready to spring forward at any given moment to snag an opportunity.

The hardest part of pitching is self-confidence. I know my story backwards, upside down and blindfolded; I wrote and edited the words countless times. It’s whether I’m projecting the story clearly to someone else where the problem may arise. Usually not, it’s why I write, there’s unlimited editing.

A huge confidence boost is laying out a no-fail outfit the night before. Okay, I had two ready, but it’s still easier than stressing over what to wear. The next item to check off is easy makeup application [guys don’t nick yourselves shaving]. Comfortable shoes help, but don’t overdo the comfort level. Flip flops have there place when hanging with friends, not at an important meeting.

The stilettos clip while sprinting across the street to the Marriot Marquee. I’m dressed to impress, my feet can feel comfortable later. The uniformed security guard waves and smiles, as I dash for the elevators with a wave. By now he’s seen me more than most guests from racing back and forth to my room at The Paramount Hotel.

The doors open and its pandemonium. A mass of people mill at the room entrance and I’m not certain if they’re petrified to enter or awaiting appointments. I stand in the long line to sign for pitch openings when I hear, “An opening for so and so, editor.” I turn around, smile and wave. “I’ll take it.”

After receiving instructions, I wait two minutes and sit for the first pitch. My hands shake a little as I remove the story notes from my purse just in case of brain freeze, but my voice sounds confident. Ten minutes later I find myself in line again and in no time returning to speak with another agent/editor. I guess when you jump right into the mix there isn’t time to get nervous.

So far today’s pitch sessions were positive with varying results. My brain is burning out, my adrenaline is fading fast, but I can handle one more time in line. If I have to wait more than fifteen minutes, I’ll have to run to Starbucks as my next stop. Within moments I get another opening for my last pitch.

I introduce myself and begin anew. She picks up a few pages of the story I accidentally grabbed with the notes and begins reading them. I finish speaking and she doesn’t stop reading. She’s smiling while reading and I’m smiling at her smiling. Remember the writing better than I speak thing? She thinks so too and begins asking me what I’m looking for in an agent. Holy cow!

Snapping my jaw closed, I listen to what she can offer me as an agent. Some semblance of my brain is working and I ask who she’s signed lately and what they write. I agree to send her the full manuscript and we shake hands at parting. One final polish and it’s ready to send.

I’m a firm believer in making my own luck and preparing ahead makes it possible, even at Nationals. Was I nervous? Heck yeah, but stacking the deck in my favor with a little confidence certainly helped. Remember to check back soon to see how I made the workshops I attended produce immediate results.

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