Last weekend, I attended the New York Pitch Conference. Just so you all know, I was terrified beforehand and that was after years of putting myself in situations where I had to pitch! I (mostly) got over myself via Women in Film back when I was part of a production services business. They had monthly breakfasts and part of it was everyone in the room got up and gave a pitch about themselves and their project in less than a minute. Anyway, for a normally solitary writer, this was a stressful weekend even though it was a blast, so much so that as soon as I sat down on the plane home, I was asleep. (Had to explore NY in the eve, so didn’t get a lot of sleep either.)
The editors could not have been nicer and remember, they LOVE books. That was evident even in the passing mention of authors they’ve worked with or books in general. One of the great things about the conference is the first day is dedicated to helping you hone your pitch. There’s prep work ahead of time, so you come in at least somewhat prepared. Michael Neff was our workshop leader and organizer of the conference. He knows his stuff and everyone’s pitch was better by the second day. Additionally, we helped each other, trying out changes, brainstorming, and practicing (hey Oxford, not giving up the serial comma, so there!). Great group of people and I look forward to seeing all of their books in print. There were a lot of great ideas in that room, all very different.
There were 18 people in my group and we met with one editor as a group on Friday as a kind of warm-up. After that, there were three more editors in one-on-one meetings (plus our workshop leader to keep things on track), two meetings Saturday and the last on Sunday morning. The editors treated everyone the same, which I particularly appreciated. I’ve been at a writer’s conference where a known author gushed – and I mean gushed – over one writer’s pitch (which was a lot like known author’s books – surprise) to the point where no one wanted to talk after. She was polite but distant to everyone else and it was an uncomfortable experience.
So what about you? Wherever you are in the process, start now getting comfortable pitching your book. Can’t tell you how many midlist authors have said they had to sell several of their own books. I haven’t found another conference quite like the NY Pitch. The opportunity to pitch directly to acquisition editors is golden. It’s not only the person in the room – it’s also the other editors they know. If it’s not right for them and they exchange favors with friends, well, you never know. Other resources that complement the conference (or substitute if you can’t get there) are Lisa Cron’s class (which is sometimes online), she’s coming out with a book and there are other books specific to pitching. Pilar Alessandra has a section on pitching in hers. There’s a bunch of book pitches on YouTube, mostly from Pitchapalooza (not familiar with them). See what other people do and how they are critiqued.
Most of us as writers are far more comfortable in a room with pen and paper or laptop, but think about all those hours you put into your craft. It’s so worth it to do the next step, to do what it takes to get your book out there for readers to enjoy. As I told my friend from the Mailer workshop who needs to finish his book (you know who you are!), you never know who out there in the world needs your book. Books saved my life and I mean that literally.
Oh, nearly forgot to mention, after an adjustment to include a thumbnail sketch for each of my three major characters, editors requested Wrestling Alligators. Stay tuned.