Sunday, March 24, 2013

Being Internly: Lessons from Liberty States Fiction Writers' Conference, Part I

I got to shadow my boss at the conference and we're waiting for the pitch sessions to begin when she looks at me sideways, saying "You can write about this, you know. Your blog has been a little...slow lately."

She wasn't wrong. Sorry, guys! Between my personal life and the internship, things have been absolutely crazy. So let's just get right to it, yeah? 

Things I Learned from the Pitch Sessions that You Should Know

1) Bring business cards to your pitch sessions.  Agent Boss used them to keep track of what she requested from an author. Since we both have smartphones, we were also checking out twitter feeds and websites while still at the conference. The cards don't have to be fancy, but you want to have something so you can give the agent a tangible reminder of who you are. Please note that does not include resumes or manuscript pages. If the agent asks you for a hard-copy something, that's one thing, but don't offer anything except a card or maybe a bookmark. 

2) The more prepared you are, the better you look. One author had Googled my boss beforehand and checked out her other clients. So when the author was enthusiastic, it felt like they knew what they were getting into and still couldn't wait. Agent Boss was so in love with this author, she tracked them down again later, and the author handed her a freaking press kit that had sample chapters in it. We actually found a quiet room, sat down, and read the chapters right away. Agent Boss offered representation two hours later. Don't get me wrong, the author had talent, but they were clearly dedicated to making a career out of this and that's very attractive to an agent. 

3) Be ready to go off-script AND you're also pitching yourself.  As soon as the authors sat down, my boss began to pepper them with questions. It wasn't just about the book the author was pitching, it was about the authors themselves. How well did they click with Agent Boss? How did they handle themselves when thrown off-guard? How passionate were they? How well did they answer some questions? Don't get me wrong, if Agent Boss really likes you, but your book is not up to par, she's not going to offer you representation. However, if she's on the fence about the book, but she remembers that you were awesome, well, that's a factor too. 

4) Highlight the unique AND know your genre. One author led with a really unique twist, which made us sit up a little straighter, before going on to describe, basically, the plot to Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Magaret Stohl. Y'know, the hugely popular series, the first book of which was recently made into a movie. I just sat there and thought of all the ways the author could have used that unique twist to create an unique book. One of the things I've learned from this job is that authors will individually come up with the same plot more often than you'd think. So know your genre and, at the very least, try to avoid pitching your book so that it sounds exactly like something that's already been published. 

5) Agents are defensively polite. Agents usually stay for the majority of the conference and the last thing they want to deal with is an upset person. So if you pitch to an agent at a pitch session, they will probably request three chapters, just to be polite. This is good news for you because it means you still have a shot, even if you think you've bombed your pitch. If they request more than that, then they really liked it.  It's natural to be nervous when pitching because you're putting yourself out there, but relax! The agent is going to be polite and professional, and if they're not, then that's likely not an agent you want to have anyway. 

I haven't decided yet if I'm going to cover the editor and agent panels separately, so check back next Sunday to find out. As always, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments.