Monday, September 13, 2010

Pitch Imperfect

Yesterday, I was thinking of my first, in-person manuscript pitch. Sad, sad, sad, people.

It took place at a writing conference last year, and I paid $25.00 for a ten minute slot. I worried and worried about selling my story. I practiced in the mirror, meditated, and did good deeds for my neighbors hoping good karma would kick in. I visualized the pitch as a rare, perfect rose in a garden of daisies. (For the record, I like both roses and daisies equally. My preference was merely for effect.)

And? The big moment never happened.

I left my afternoon class at the conference and made a quick trip to the bathroom, mumbling a synopsis of my novel the entire time. Then, I arrived at the appointed pitch-spot. I quietly waited for the editor/industry insider and her current appointment to finish up. Hold on, I said to myself as I recognized the girl ahead of me. She had sat at my table at lunch a few hours earlier and pitched me her book the entire time. Didn't take a bite of the mediocre chicken salad, didn't ask anyone else about themselves. In fact, I'm not even sure I saw this woman breathe during the whole hour. Her detailed description led me through every nuance of her story, and although I found our conversation a little overwhelming, I had to give her some credit. She showed genuine enthusiasm for her work.

The scheduled time for my pitch came and went. It was uncomfortable waiting for the girl in the pitching chair to finish. One minute went by, and then two. Five minutes passed. I tried to make eye contact with the editor, but she kept looking at her watch and the floor. With 2 minutes to spare, my predecessor finally left, and I took the seat. The next writer was already waiting behind me for her turn. Nervous and slightly sick, I made eye contact with my literary lifeline and smiled. Then, I fit my entire story into 60 seconds. Obviously, since I'm still unpublished, it wasn't effective. Like I said, sad, sad, sad.

This debacle did teach me something. I learned that I need to grow a spine, and stand up for myself and my story. Nobody loves it like I do, and it's my job to pitch it well. Self-confidence. Awareness of my tale's unique qualities. Concise communication from my head to another's ear.

It'll come with time and practice. Just like every other good thing in life. To borrow and alter a phrase from AC/DC . . .

To those who are about to pitch, I salute you.

How have your pitches gone? Tell me about the agony and the ecstasy.


  1. I've pitched before, it was very nerve racking! The one thing I've taken from it was to learn and listen to what the editor/agent had to say about my pitch and remember to breath during the session. I think that was my biggest mistake. =)

  2. Well, at least you tried. I've never pitched. I think I'd be a mess. LOL

  3. You know what, I bet you made a better impression than the woman before you. The editor was looking at her watch - not a good sign!

    I bet few people do a good job their first time. It's like needing to interview a few times to get confidence. Good luck next time!

    I've only signed up for queries or first ten pages that agents/editors had in advance, so I didn't really need to pitch anything. When I'm in that situation, I'll be petrified, I'm sure.

  4. I learn something new everyday. I didn't even know such experiences exist! I agree, at least you tried. Even if the end result is not what we envisioned, we are better for having tried - everytime. Are you working at getting published still? I wish you the best! Janelle

  5. I, too, learned something today. That whole experience sounds terribly nerve-wracking, but if you can take something positive away from it, then you are the winner.


  6. I think it's key that we do stand up for ourselves and what is right. Now you'll be prepared for any future run-on talkers. :O)

  7. Aw, thanks for sharing. My first pitch came totally unexpectedly with an agent in a noisy hotel lobby with her phone interrupting. I vowed never to be unprepared again and to hopefully have a stronger presence the next time.

  8. I agree with Theresa, you probably made a bigger impression on the agent than the other girl.

    I've never pitched, but I've practiced on my mother's friends. They liked it but hey, they're my mom's friends. Of course they would.

    And now, you have that experience behind you so at least you won't have the "first time jitters" again.

  9. I've never done it myself. Kudos to you for your bravery. That's too bad about the long-winded gal in front of you!

  10. *hugs* I've never pitched before, but I know I'd be the one tripping over my words.

    But I know next time you'll rock it :)

  11. What a frustrating experience that must have been! It would have been impossible for me to keep my mouth shut. I'm glad you learned something from it :-)

    I've never pitched before, but I have a feeling I would be SO anxious about it.

  12. Oh goodness that sounds terrible! Not your pitch but the fact that you didn't get your opportunity. How unfair. Are you going to the LUW conference on Sat?

  13. I'm doing a pitch in two weeks so I will keep your story in mind! I don't know what I'd do if the person ahead was hogging the time. I guess I'd hope the organizers would do something. And I'd take the time I was offered no matter what.

  14. What is etiquette in that situation? Should you knock on the door to interrupt them? Should you have just brazenly taken your full 10 mins? Asked for a refund?

    Come to think of it, are you supposed to pitch for the full 10 minutes or is there supposed to be some discussion afterward? I'm so far from that stage, I never realized how little I really know.

  15. Carolyn V- I think you said it exactly right. Listen to every word that proceeds from the agent/editor's mouth. Excellent opportunity for writing tips.

    Jennifer- In the pitching arena, I'm sure you would have far more poise than I.

    Theresa- You are so supportive! I appreciate the kind words.

    JW- I'm all for learning experiences. (They are educational, plus they make for funny stories later.) I am definitely still paying my dues and trying to get published.

    Debi- I learn something wonderful and see something lovely each time I visit your blog. Thanks for dropping by.

  16. I didn't know such a thing existed. And what a nerve-wracking experience. Thank you for sharing. I learned something valuable today. I think your spine is just fine and you did terrific under some demanding conditions. Thru no fault of your own, you got trapped at lunch and because of the pitch's set-up couldn't re-channel the flow. It's telling that the agent looked at her watch. She was probably irritated by that writer and also trapped so couldn't unravel the situation.

    I think it was extremely kind of you to tell us what happened. But don't give up... get back on the horse...only sit by yourself in the saddle (at lunch). Hugs!

  17. Diane- You've got it. Next time, I'm going to politely intervene.

    Stephanie- Agent-pitch in a lobby? You've got spunk, lady. What an amazing experience. I certainly want to be prepared in the future.

    Anne- No more first-time jitters alright. Now I have the second-time eye tic. I love thinking of you pitching to your mom's friends.

    Angie- Thanks for the kudos. I appreciate the support!

    Lindsay (a.k.a. Isabella)- Thanks for the *hugs*! I love that. You are awesome.

    Kelly- I need to be more like you, and speak up. I so admire people with confidence! I can see that you will pitch your story with style.

    KarenG- I am going to Roundup. Thanks for reminding me because I thought it was next week. Wow. Time really moves!

    Jan- I'm excited for your upcoming pitch session. You're going to do awesome! Good luck. I want to hear how it goes.

    Vicki Rocho- I don't know the etiquette in that situation, but I was only sitting a few tables away. I should probably have lifted my hand and told them they were going over time. I was just embarrassed and afraid of offending. See, like I said, I'm a nerd without a spine.:)

  18. Kittie Howard- The session I described was a good experience. I'll try it again next year, but right now, I'm preparing to query online and by snail mail. Cheers and hugs back at you!

  19. I faced a similar situation last year. Don't want to bore you with the details, but suffice to say, it wasn't pretty. Like you, the experience taught me a lot about myself. Next time I will be better prepared.

  20. Pitches are terrifying. I pitched and it went OK - but it ended up more of a synopsis really then a compelling pitch. Still, I was so happy to have just got through it!

  21. I have never pitched so I applaud anyone who does. This whole journey is an experience. You're constantly learning.

  22. Fortunately I have not had to pitch yet. I will def have to work on that. I'm not very good at it, not even a little bit.

  23. I salute you for having gone through it and being so resilient. I think of experiences like this as seasoning to add to the cooking of our literary soup.


  24. I'm going to have that version of that song in my head all day! Love it. :)

    Sorry about your moment...we live and we learn. Next time you are so going to kick a$s. :)

    Okay, I'm supposed to be working on my I'm sneaking back out of here.

  25. Oh my giddy aunt!! You poor thing!! That woman before you sounded so pushy I'd have "accidentally" spilled my salad on her lap or something!! LOL!!

    I have no idea about pitching - it sounds completely horrific but if it's what you need to do then you just go for it and good luck!!! You can be that pushy person without the pushiness cos you'll do yours in style!

    Take care