Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pitching at Conferences

Hello! I have an odd question, but in your infinite wisdom and experience I’m sure you’ll have an excellent answer. I was at a regional romance writer’s conference where I was one of the finalists in a big contest. As a conference attendee I got one pitch session, with Deirdre Knight – and that one went really well. As a finalist I got another pitch session – with a different agent. It was a group pitch and I just was not pitching well for some reason. After my pitch, Agent B said, “well, it doesn’t really sound interesting, but send me a partial anyway.”

I was humiliated, of course. Out of seven people she only asked for mine and one other person – other people she either referred to other agents or flat out said “not for me.” This was in late September. I have not sent her the partial, but I’m now thinking I have nothing to lose. Here’s my question: Do I mention in my cover letter that she hated it but wanted to see it anyway? J I could make it funny, but would it be better to lie and hope she doesn’t remember me and only remembers requesting the partial? Such a tricky kind of situation.

You shouldn't feel humiliated. She wouldn't have asked for it if there wasn't legitimate interest; she may just have been tired, or cranky, or in a bad mood, or simply thought your presentation was lacking but she was willing to see if it looked different in paper. Don't mention that she hated it, just that she requested it.

A lot is made in books of the agent pitch at conferences and I'm sure a few sales have come from it, but it's not the main way to approach an agent. Many writers are not good at describing their books (myself included) in person and we're aware of that; the agents who go to these conferences choose to do so because they don't find them as unbearable as I would. If you're not a good speaker, send a query. If you ARE a good speaker and good presenter, go to conferences and pitch away.


Aimlesswriter said...

This would be a hard situation. Would I send the query if an agent said it wasn't interesting? (ouchie to the ego) Not sure. Yes, the agent was probably tired. If I had to sit in a room and listen to pitches for over and hour my eyes would probably cross. But then I'd have to think; she did say "send". So, maybe she does see something there but is too tired to figure it out right now. In the end, yeah, I'd probably send it. Write something like, "It was nice to meet you at (wherever). Here is the partial you requested."

Anonymous said...

Do agents get paid to attend conferences? Is their airfare, food, lodging paid?

Kimber Chin said...

I'm good at pitching other products but for some reason, when I pitch my own books, I draw a blank. My business buddies think it is hilarious and mock me relentlessly for it (isn't that what buddies are for?).

Kudos to authors that can do it.

Deb said...

I had something similar happen at a conference, with a one-on-one pitch. The agent said almost exactly the same thing. Wonder if it was the same agent?

I did not send her the proposal. It seemed to me, after taking time to reflect, that I wanted someone who would be much more enthusiastic about my work than presented in this agent's demeanor and spoken word. It's a business decision, so I waited a while to think it through. I'm happy with the choice I made.

Maria said...

Agents do not pay their way to conferences and lately, I've heard that some may start getting paid to attend (in addition to their expenses).

Of course send it! Just say you met her at the conference (I enjoyed speaking with you at such and such and you suggested that I send a partial. Please find it included.)

At worst, she'll say no. She might actually comment on the manuscript and who knows, she might ask for more! While it's with her, send the manuscript to 10 other agents as well. It helps to have it out. It also helps to have the next 10 on the list so that as the replies come back you have an action plan--more places to send to! Each time, you have the opportunity to include any improvements that have been suggested--or any you've thought of.

If there were other things about the agent that you didn't like, don't send it at all. As another commenter pointed out, this is someone you'd be working with if you signed on with her. If you aren't sure, research more widely. Many agents have blogs or websites. They can be very insightful!!!

Best of luck. :>)

Dennis Cass said...

I'm with deb. As a former agent and published author, I feel that you can't put enough of a premium on the chemistry of the people you work with. Remember that when you're looking for an agent you're testing THEM as much as they're testing you. This agent put you off (and in public). Even if they love the partial, isn't that always going to rankle?

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

I pitched an agent at Backspace. He asked for a partial and 4 months later he signed me. I think it was my total story that interested him though, not just my manuscript.I had my first Huffington Post piece in my hand - like a schoolgirl bearing a shiny red apple. (I define dork.) He liked the HuffPo piece and what is signified. So, it CAN be done via pitching, although as Rejecter says, it's probably not the norm.