Pitch imperfect

My first writer’s conference! Writer’s Digest Annual Conference 2017 in New York. So thrilling.

With the first draft of my manuscript complete, I decided I would pay my registration fee, buy my pricey overnight flights from Vancouver to JFK, and attend the big event to see what I could learn about becoming a published novelist.

I also signed up for pitch sessions with agents so that I could see if any would be interested in my novel. Added to this, I paid extra for a consultation with a writing coach to assess the first chapter of my book and give me some feedback.

I’ll document some of my experiences of the overall conference (which was AMAZING) in a separate blog post. Here I just want to focus on my terrifying/wonderful experience of pitching my novel in one-on-one sessions with literary agents.

I had my pitch (about a minute of speaking) all prepped, and I practiced it on other conference attendees that I made friends with. They all loved it and one of them said it gave her goosebumps! So I was pretty pleased with it.

With the pitch sessions, you sign up for a one-hour slot and decide which attending agents you’re going to target – they recommend five or six. Inside the conference room during my pitch slot, there were long lines to chat to some of the agents, while others had shorter lines. My chosen agents had differing levels of accessibility, and I managed to get to all six of my chosen agents, all of whom were looking for women’s fiction.

The pitches went well. I’m an experienced public speaker so I have some confidence in speaking to pretty much anyone. All the agents said they loved my concept, aside from one who said it wasn’t her wheelhouse but she thought her colleague would love it. The five who liked it said I should send them pages, ranging from 10 to 50 pages, while the other said I should send the first 10 pages to her colleague.

I came out of the room feeling fantastic! I had felt so warmly received and encouraged.

However, the lessons I learned later at the conference and in my one-on-one consultation revealed to me that my manuscript wasn’t ready for agents yet. I had arrogantly thought my first draft was in pretty good shape, but I quickly realized that the beginning was a mess, that I need to change my narrative point of view, and that it was way too long! So I soon understood that I wouldn’t be sending my pages to those agents any time soon.

I also realized, talking to other attendees, that the agents at the pitch sessions will tell most of the writers to send in their pages. Indeed, one could send the first 10 pages to any of them at any time – the only difference is that the query could mention meeting them at WDC 2017. So I gradually understood that the pitch sessions didn’t hold all that much value and it really didn’t matter if I failed to send in my pages right after our chat.

But what a great learning experience! And the rest of the conference offered even more valuable lessons. See my next post for more on this.