Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Speed-Pitching

STATUS: A good day. The final contracts came by FedEx overnight and joy of joy, all pages were included. Definitely makes my job easier. However, I did just get a new contract for another project I just sold. Price to pay I guess for selling but delight, contracts are time-consuming.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? STAND BACK by Stevie Nicks (sometimes I just need my Divas)

Sample pages update: Sara and I have read and responded to all partials up to about April 3, 2006. If you haven’t received a response, hold off for a week before inquiring because I still need to evaluate a few before the response letters go out.

I was at the Silicon Valley Writers Conference this past weekend. I have to say, on the whole, I was pretty impressed with the good pitches I heard. If the writing matches the pitches, there could be some exciting reading happening soon.

On Saturday night, the conference held a speed-pitching session—kind of like speed dating (but for a professional relationship rather than personal). The writer has 3 minutes in which to pitch and make a connection with the agent. Then the bell rings and whisks the writer away to the next person.

On Sunday morning, several attendees asked me what I thought about it.

It’s a good question. I actually needed to process it a bit but here are some thoughts.

What I liked:

1. It forced participants to nail their pitch in the allotted amount of time.

I really do think this is a valuable skill. You need to be able to talk about your work in a succinct but engaging manner. Y’all know that I’ve commented on this blog before that all pitches should be in 2 minutes or under. In a regular pitch session, the remaining time would be spent in actual conversation with the agent (you asking questions, the agent asking questions or whatever).

2. Hear ‘em all in an hour rather than spending a whole morning on pitch sessions.

It’s usually clear in the first two minutes or so of a pitch whether it’s something for me. Get ‘em in, swing ‘em out. The pace worked for me. It was fun, didn’t feel as serious, yet work was getting done.

3. When a writer missed and pitched a project I didn’t rep, I just told her to scoot and head on to the next appropriate agent (and was able to point her in the right direction).

No guilt feelings! Okay, the writer messed up. Move on to the next agent who does rep mysteries (or whatever). There’s no wasted 10 minutes staring at a person I can’t help.


The downside:

1. That’s an awful lot of pitches in one hour.

I did feel a little dazed and confused by the end. I hoped that I didn’t have that glassy-eyed look for the last person. (I also made the mistake of thinking the final bell had rung; I got up to walk down to the bar—of course—and panicked two participants who were still waiting. I apologize for that).

2. Some writers still rambled the whole 3 minutes—giving a roundabout synopsis, not a pitch (and there is a difference).

I have to say that I was firm this time around. Adhering to the rules of the game, I was only going to request pages for projects that grabbed me. If I wasn’t sold in the 3 minutes, I passed on asking for sample pages. I think this might have stunned a couple of people and I know one person was particularly upset with me. Please remember, it’s not personal. There are a lot of published books at the bookstore that don’t grab me but still managed to be published. It’s just not something I was particularly interested in. It doesn’t mean the work doesn’t have value (although I still strongly encourage the writer to work on her pitch).

3. The hour passed in a blur.

I’m not sure how much of a memory I’m going to have about the writer who presented the pitch. Sometimes there is a nice recall connected to the sample pages when I sit down to read them. The pace might not be conducive to that.

In the end, does speed-pitching work? Guess I won’t know until I ask somebody to come aboard from a speed pitch. Truly, the only barometer of success.

An aside, does speed-dating actually work? I’ve been married for years so have no idea…