Asking experts to read my work is scary. What if an agent laughs and says, “Why don’t you take a creative writing class?” That scenario did not happen when I went to the WNBA Pitch-O-Rama on March 29th. Instead I talked to three YA agents and they all asked me to send them sample pages.
Twenty-four hours before the event started, I discovered that my one-sentence elevator pitch wouldn’t be enough. My pitch, “Fifteen-and-a-half-year-old Sandee Mason wants to find her talent, get her driver’s license, and stop living in the shadow of her big brother, Brian, who has been missing in Afghanistan for the last seven months,” runs about 20 seconds. The last phrase captures people’s attention. I’ve written, rewritten, edited, and honed my manuscript, and I’m still finalizing it, but the Pitch-O-Rama seemed like a reasonably priced way to get some face-to-face feedback from agents and push myself forward, if only I could get the pitch right.
On Friday I rewrote and practiced my newly-expanded pitch. I pretended I was an agent hearing it. On Saturday at the event, we did a pitch practice, which bolstered my confidence. I felt ready to talk to the three agents who expressed an interest in YA, but when we got into the pitch room on the second floor of the Women’s Building in San Francisco, the deafening noise and long lines made me consider bailing.
If not now, when? I asked myself. You don’t lose until you quit trying. Even so, I kept wishing we all knew sign language.
The first agent shook his head when I started my pitch. He asked some questions instead and when the gong rang to end the session he said, “Why don’t you send me your query and the first 10 pages. I don’t know whether I’m going to like it or not.”
That seemed reasonable to me, and I thanked him.
The next agent had an incredibly long line in front of her because she’d told us what everyone in her agency needed. I started my pitch and in the first three minutes, she gave me the name of the agent who would be the best match, wrote her name on a business card, and we chatted about other writing issues. She gave me hope.
I wasn’t able to speak with the last agent until the end of the day. She listened, smiled, nodded, and asked for my query, a one-page synopsis, and my first fifty pages. I told her my synopsis was two pages, double-spaced, and she said that was fine. I loved her flexibility and eagerness. If I’d been listening to pitches all day, I’d be exhausted, but she’s 27. I have stepchildren older than she is.
I’ve already heard from the first agent. He didn’t fall in love with my first 10 pages, but I still have hope for the other two. Now I have the courage to continue seeking the right representation. Pitch-O-Rama is a little like speed dating, but the results can be far more satisfying.
B. Lynn Goodwin is the author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers and the owner of Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com. Writer Advice runs two contests a year. Our 9th Flash Prose Contest closes on April 18th. Our 3rd Scintillating Starts Contest (opening of fiction or memoir) will close on October 15th. Information about these contests is available on www.writeradvice.com.