I read a quote somewhere that said the key to happiness was to have a definite goal, and then to do one thing every single day to move toward that goal. Having face to face conversations with two amazing agents at the Tennessee Writing Workshop was a huge step toward my ultimate goal of getting my story told. The query critique from Chuck Sambuchino was invaluable as well.
I chose this conference in part because it was located within driving distance from Atlanta and also because of the price. This conference was less expensive than some of the others I’d looked at before. I emailed my query letter to the conference organizer a few weeks prior to the event and received an edited version back a few days before. This was great timing because an agent ended up asking for the query letter! I decided to dip my toe in the water with “pitching” and signed up for two sessions with Literary Agents.
Despite my king size bed with 18 pillows I got no sleep the night before the conference. All I could think about was the fact that I had to deliver pitches to both agents first thing! I had time to pick up my name tag and get right into the line of people standing around waiting to pitch their novels! As I walked up I was greeted by nervous smiles from other waiting participants. We had time for brief mini pitches to each other and when 9:40 struck we all walked in together to take our seats in front of our respective agents. It turns out I was much too nervous for no reason! The fact that Victoria Lea was interested in what I had to say and asked engaging questions made it so much easier to talk to her. After I got my first few sentences out without stumbling too horribly, it felt like a natural conversation. After our time was up she requested my full manuscript! My eyes started to water as I stood on shaky legs and got up from her table. I was overcome with relief and gratitude that things had worked out so well.
The success of my first pitch made it easier to give my second. I loved the enthusiasm that Marisa Corvisiero showed for my story. She even asked me to tell her the ending! It was a great conversation and she also made a request for material.
Below I’ve included some tips that helped me get through this process:
- Practice! Out loud in your office, with a sympathetic friend in the car driving to the conference, or on the phone with your mom. Talk about your book to whomever will listen. Every time I was forced to go through it, it got a little easier.
- I had a few notecards in case I got stuck. My pitch wasn’t written out word for word on the notecards but I had the highlights written down.
- Try not to think of it as a “pitch” but more like a conversation you’re having with someone who has simply asked you, “what are you working on?”
- I had 10 minute time slots so we mostly talked about my story but I was asked some questions about my writing background as well. I was asked how long I had been working on my novel and what my goals were for my novel. I did get the opportunity to talk about my other published novel and short story publications.
- My last piece of advice comes from Ms. Marisa Corvisiero, Founder and Senior Literary Agent of the Corvisiero Literary Agency. During the “Writers’ Got Talent” portion of the workshop she reminded everyone not to be nervous because agents are eager to hear our stories and that they need us as much as we need them.
After pitching was over and I had stopped shaking from nervous excitement, I enjoyed the “Writers’ Got Talent,” portion of the conference, in which Brian Klems selected random novel submissions and read them aloud to the audience. A panel of six agents sat in judgement of the material and raised their hands at the point in which they would naturally stop reading the selection because of something they didn’t like. It was great to hear the agents perspective and get some inside information into their thought process. Most of the mistakes people made were things that could have been avoided with better editing. There were a couple of first pages read that the agents critiqued for being unclear as to the direction of the story. For instance a story that was supposed to be a romance but had absolutely no tension or anything sexy on the first page! So the take away is to make sure that first page is polished or the rest of your story may not even be considered.
My last activity for the day was the afternoon Q&A session with Brian Klems that focused on, “25 Questions You Need Answered Before you Seek an Agent or Self-Publish Your Book.”This was helpful because he had very specific answers to many questions I’ve had but have heard varying opinions about. It was nice to get an industry professional to answer some questions I had about platform, social media and even the querying process!
I don’t think this conference could have gone any better for me. I made some good connections with people who can help me with my career, I learned some valuable information about publishing and as a bonus, a few new twitter followers! It was definitely worth the money and the drive. Thank you, Brian Klems, Chuck Sambuchino, and especially Victoria Lea and Marisa Corvisiero!