Last week I had a pitch appointment with an agent at the RWA National conference in San Antonio. I had never pitched before, so I was looking forward to it with equal parts anticipation and anxiety.
Pitch appointments are typically held on the second day of the RWA conference and are scheduled in 10-minute intervals. Not much time if the conversation is going well, but a lifetime if you find yourself floundering. My appointment was in the late afternoon, so I had all day to make myself nervous and wonder if I was crazy to even think about pitching. Fortunately I had several great workshops to attend beforehand to keep me sufficiently distracted.
Based on what I’ve heard from other writers, there is no fixed format for a pitch appointment. They may start with “tell me about your book” or the editor/agent may have a set series of questions they ask. Regardless of the format, you need to be able to clearly describe your book and convince the person on the other side of the table that it’s something they want to read and sell.
I got to the area of the hotel where the appointments were being held about an hour before my scheduled time and found a quiet spot to relax and mentally run through my story and the possible questions I might be asked. Previously, I had come up with one-line, two-line, and three-line summaries of my story and I went over them, making sure they were as polished and engaging as they could be. I chatted with another writer who was waiting for her own appointment and she assured me that pitching was a piece of cake, nothing to worry about. (Frankly I had been thinking about it more like a colonoscopy – something potentially unpleasant but good for you to do.)
When it was time to check in for my appointment, things took a turn for the unexpected. My name wasn’t on the list. When the volunteer checked again, she couldn’t find the agent’s name on the list either. While the other writers with appointments were alphabetically lined up and herded into the staging area to await their timeslot, I cooled my heels, only to find out that the agent I was meeting had unexpectedly been unable to make it to the conference and her appointments had been cancelled. Something I would have known had I brought my computer (with my email access) to the conference, rather than leaving it at home so I could focus without distractions. Live and learn.
All that anticipation and nervousness for nothing. It was a bit of a let-down. On the plus side, the cancellation email, when I finally got home to read it, requested a synopsis and sample chapters, much like would have been requested at the actual pitch appointment (assuming I hadn’t completely tanked it). So, I missed out on the personal connection and chance to network with an agent, but didn’t go away empty handed.
Now it’s off to polish up the synopsis so it shines before I send it out tomorrow. Fortunately, one of those workshops I attended while keeping my mind of pitching was all about writing a great synopsis.
So, have you ever pitched to an agent or editor? If so, was it what you expected?