Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Agent Pitch and a Free Book Draw

For the benefit of those about to pitch, I thought I’d tell you about my recent pitching experience while at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s (ACFW) conference. Laugh at me or cry with me but please, learn from my experience and excuse the quality of my photos.

My first pitch session of the confence was with an agent who handled everything that I wrote: secular, inspirational, contemporary and historical. I thought this agent was the perfect match for me. When I sat down for my appt, I was confident I could handle anything she asked me. And like I mentioned in my previous ‘
Pick One’ post, she asked me to pick one story to pitch to her.

All my stories were in a multi-sectioned folder with the one sheets on one side and the synopsis and sample pages on the other. I opened the folder and slipped out the one sheet for my contemporary inspirational, When You Least Expect It (When) which happened to be the first section in the folder. The agent quickly read the one-sheet and then relayed the story back to me as she understood it.

Now for those of you in the dark, When is the story about Bobby and Hannah, two single parents, unknown to each other, who move their kids to small town North Dakota to get away from big city crime. Their instant attraction takes a detour when Bobby recognizes Hannah’s daughter as the delinquent he arrested just months ago in Denver.

So, back to my appt, the agent wanted to know how Hannah and Bobby end up in the same town. I was going to say coincidence, but BAC's (born again Christians) don’t believe in coincidence, so I shrugged and said, ‘God led them there’. After all, everyone knows it’s a small world, right? Well, I guess the agent doesn’t believe that because she said that wasn’t good enough. She said there has to be some reason for Bobby to take a job in North Dakota (ND). I said I thought having Bobby want to leave Denver for his child’s safety was good enough. No, she said he could’ve moved anywhere. Why would be move to ND? As the author, I had to make it believeable. She then gave some examples that could work making sure I knew they were just examples and that she wasn’t suggesting I take them as actual advice.

She then said, “You’re not ready. Work on it and keep in touch.”

I thanked her and left.

And I felt devastated. I wasn’t ready? That hurt! My self-confidence didn’t just flag, it dropped to the floor. In a daze, I went down the elevator and through the hall. I was supposed to be in a workshop but it was half over by this time and my heart nor head was in it. I spotted Squirrel (aka Cheryl Wyatt) and followed her into the restroom. She asked what was wrong and I told her. And right there, with women coming and going around us, we bowed our heads and she prayed for me. (This is a very common occurrence at the ACFW conference.) We then split up because it was one of the lunches where you sit with an agent or editor. (See my last blog post to find out how the lunch went.)

But that wasn’t the end of the story because I spoke to many people later on that day and night about my appt. And do you know what? The general consensus was that particular agent has told many writers their work just wasn’t good enough. And the writers went back, revised, and resubmitted to her. Sometimes up to three times. And when it was good enough, that agent took them on and sometimes within hours had a book deal on the table.

You see, I’d listened to the first part about not being ready and missed the parts about working on it and keeping in touch. When I walked away from that appt, I felt the door had closed. But it hadn’t. It was open and waiting for me. All I have to do is try again.

So what I want to tell you conference attendees, or anyone else getting ready to pitch, is that it’s not always a straight yes or no. Listen carefully. Memorize it. Write it down. And then re-read it hours later. Because what we hear in the heat of the moment isn’t always what was said. ‘Cause sometimes it’s a maybe.

For those working on pitching, you might be interested in these posts:

- Mary Connealy (one line book blurbs)

- One Sheets in One Shot
One Author, One Brand

Okay, I’ve spilled my guts here, now it’s your turn. Tell me about an embarrassing moment when you thought you heard one thing but found out later you were way off base. And if you can’t think of anything, tell us something your kid did to embarrass you. Anyone who comments today will get their name thrown in my hat for a copy of Anna Meets Her Match by Arlene James.


Anonymous said...

That was a interesting post. I enjoyed it. Thanks.


Silver James said...

Ah, selective hearing. Isn't it wonderful? Hang in there. Work on the book and resubmit it to her. My thought on Bobby was that after arresting so many of his son's classmates, when he saw a flyer for this small town/county looking for a chief/sheriff, he decided to apply and got the job. Hannah? She's from that area and returned to family after her daughter was busted. *stuffs Iffy back in her box* Sorry.

Embarrassing moments...

Way back when, The Only occasionally attended Day Camp at the local YWCA on school breaks and in the summer, usually corresponding with my training schedule and/or duty shifts. I received a call one day from the director asking me to drop by for a visit at my earliest convenience. Curious, I said I'd be by shortly. The Only was at a friend's house playing.

The the Y, the director started the "interview" by saying she understood my finances were tight, being a single mother. (Huh?) And while The Only seemed to enjoy her sack lunches, there were times she wanted to eat the hot lunches (an additional expense) provided. (HELLO - PICKY EATER! She always had the choice). She went on to say that The Only had a friend who attended every day. JP haunted the windows waiting until all the kids arrived, hoping The Only would be there. JP had cerebral palsy, was confined to wheel chair, and used a computer sound board to communicate. The Only was the only child who picked him to play on teams, the only child who played with him period.

The director had spoken to JP's parents and they'd offered to fund The Only's attendance as a companion for JP for the summer. Somehow, The Only had given the impression that we were destitute. I didn't know whether to hug her or kill her.

Now, get busy revising! I'm 90 pages away from completing this set of edits and shipping FAERIE FIRE back to my editor. I'm back to work, too!

Karyn Good said...

Great post and links, Anita. Lots of valuable information to add to Jana's for when I attend my first conference. How wonderful to be at conference and have people to talk to about your pitching experience so they could help turn it around to a positive.

As for embarassing moments, I'm the mother of a mischievious, very outgoing daughter who has an intellectual disability - LOL, I could write a book! And I just might some day!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thank you, April. Got you entered. :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Silver! You just got my peabrain flashing like crazy! Thank you so much. Just reading your comment set me off and I hadn't thought to ask if any of you had ideas that would work in this scenario. Duh. You're one of the most creative bunch of writers I know. Shame on me.

Loved your story. My kids are similar in that they have a reputation for befriending the underdog, the lonely and the handicapped. It warms my heart when I hear of kids like that. Makes you realize the next generation isn't as bad as everyone says. And yes, even though The Only came up with her own 'take' on the situation, it sounds like it was beneficial for everyone. Serendipity, eh.

Thank you Silver, got you entered.

Anonymous said...

I am glad that you realized that your door was not closed by no means.

Well lately the most embarrassing thing I have done was while I was substitute teaching. I was subbing for a Teachers Assistant. The teacher needed me to go to the dye cut machine and cut out "short vowel gifts" So I look at this paper and I go to the machine and stare at it.... Look at all the dye cuts, none of them look like a short vowel gift to me. So here I am trying to figure out what gifts that we have a dye cute for that she could possibly want. I then go back to the classroom. Re read what she needed look again. I am still just as lost as I was the first time. One of the other TA's looked and said honey just make her spell it out for you. I go back to the teachers class room. I ask her what exactly it is that she wanted.It was the letters for the words "short vowel gifts" She was hanging them in the hall above a project the kids had made. I felt really really stupid... I mean it didn't actually say hey I want the letters but it is something I should have known.

Anita don't enter me in the drawing I just wanted to stop by and say hello and share my expierence with you.

By the way ladies that book is absolutely wonderful. I loved every minute of reading it.

Anonymous said...

This is Jessiecue by the way I didn't use my blogger email when I posted today so it doesn't look like my normal post. I didn't realize till after I posted.

Susanne Dietze said...

Great post, Anita! The story you're working on sounds wonderful. I loved Silver's suggestions, too. I think Bobby needs the job and wants a smaller town experience for his family.

Your experience at ACFW reminds me a bit of my first pitch appointment, but I am too embarrassed to share the details! I'll tell ya later. But she did question me about the weak areas she saw, and I think my manuscript is going to be stronger for her taking note of them. Of course, I wish she'd hopped out of her seat and screamed, "how brilliant you are! Please be my client!"

I'd love to be entered for the book. Thanks!

srdietze at sbcglobal dot net

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Karyn, I'm thinking someone should write a post and put all the links to our previous conference and pitching posts together so they're all in one spot.

And yes, the nurturing I receive from other writers is more important that the conference workshops. But then, I order the CD's of the workshops so I don't miss out on those, either.

Re your daughter - I can imagine some of the 'fun' you've had with her. I used to volunteer at a disability centre across from my high school. I found miscommunication and the lack of it was the most frustrating and entertaining aspect of the work. :)

Thanks Karyn and yes, I've thrown you in the hat, too. LOL

Silver James said...

Anita, rural areas quite often advertise in big city departments for police and fire chiefs when they have openings. You can set up all sorts of interesting conflict, too, as Big City Ways(tm) clash with Small Town Reality(tm).

I should also clarify, for those who don't know me, The Only's dad and I have been happily married for going on 27 years and while things have been tight occasionally, we've never been "destitute." She had other things she wanted to do but we arranged for her attend three days a week to play with JP. With a set schedule, JP wasn't so anxious about her arrival so it worked out for all concerned. FYI, Only graduates from college next spring and marries the following January. :D

Helena said...

A week from today I'll begin scurrying around the conference halls in Surrey (with a Master Class), then Friday the workshops, blue pencil and pitch sessions start in earnest. So, hearing about your pitch experience is interesting, encouraging, and scary -- all rolled up together.

On behalf of all the conference attendees who are sweating this out in various locations, a big thank you to all of you who have researched, posted up links, and relayed important advice to us.

Will report back after Surrey (with the embarrassing situation you tried to extract from me today, I'm sure!).

I like Silver's suggestion; I think it's very logical. I think the question from the agent illustrates that often we miss some little, or not so little, logistical point that might throw some readers off the storyline because they go wondering about this one item.

I had my hero phoning the heroine after she travelled to another city, and one of my writing group members said, "How did he get her phone number?" It was a good question, because she didn't even know until she got to the other city where she was going to stay! (This was before cell phones for those of you who were jumping up and down with the answer.) So, obviously I hadn't thought out the whole communication thing that well. It often takes other eyes to spot the holes.

Thanks again, Anita.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Jessie, a couple things occurred while I read your comment:

- I'd been wondering how the temp teaching was going

- they use die cut machines in school now? Cool!

I feel your embarrassment but I don’t think you should have been. I know what the machines are for and I’ve seen them and their accessories and they look complicated. It’s a relatively new crafting tool and couldn’t have been in school use very long. The teacher shouldn’t have assumed you knew how to use one. At the very least, she should have been clearer with her instructions.

I don't think I'll ever find a book you haven't already read. Good to know you liked this one. :) I truly haven't read an Arlene James book yet that I didn't like, either in the Love Inspired or Silhouette lines.

Thanks for stopping by.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Jessie - I knew it was you when you said not to enter you in the draw. LOL You're about the only one who says that because you've read 'em all. :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

BTW - Jessie's comment reminded me that my giveaway ties in nicely with a harvest festival going on over at the Steeple Hill thread on the website this week.

I didn't know about it until this morning because I've been in my cave, but if you want a chance at more free books, head on over to:

and no, I can't remember what Haley said about creating a hyperlink in comments. sigh

They have a 250 word writing challenge with a $25 B&N gift cert to the winner.

There's also a Steeple Hill chat tonight at 8 EST (6 Sask time) where more books will be given away. And if you've never been in a chat room before, it's real easy and fun. Spelling mistakes and grammar errors are encouraged. LOL
You'll find it on the eharl community main page. Just let me know if you have probs getting on.

And now, back to my regular post...

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thanks Susanne, but reading your comment reminded me that I'm supposed to be working on my historical and not my comtemporary story. sigh.

The thing is, I entered When in the Finally a Bride contest before I went to Denver and picked one genre. And the results will be out in the next couple days. And if I final, I'm going to need suggestions to improve it before it goes to final judging. Sheesh. Here I go again!

Good to hear you're considering the advice given at your pitch appt. Of course you don't have to, but advice from a professional in this business should always be taken seriously.

And I don't think you should be embarrassed by her pointing out your weak spots. This story has finaled and been through 3 or 4 crit partners and still this agent found where the story could be improved.

Yup, got you entered. See you at the Inkwell. ;)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Silver, thanks for coming back and explaining. Now I'm curious if The Only said anything to make them think you were a single mom. It's nice that it worked out, though.

Congrats on her upcoming nuptials. (sp?)

27 yrs, eh? That's a loooooooong time. I know. I hit 33 yrs in a couple months. Yikes!

Anonymous said...

There dye cut machine isn't like one of the new ones. This is I guess you could say older type. Its not really a machine, Umm how to explain it. Its kinda like a cutter and you place the shapes in it and pull a lever down like you would on the paper cutter machine. They dyes are a spoonge type rubber thing with the blades inside them, so when you pull the lever it makes the blades come out and cut the paper in that is laid underneath it to the shape you want... I guess the reason that I got embarrassed was because I was looking at the shapes of trees, toys, blankets, etc trying to find short vowel gifts when she wanted the letters to write the words. She and I both laughed it off but I will never forget it. I hope you do well with the challenge you have entered. Also thanks for reminding me about the chat tonight. I so would have forgotten. I remembered yesterday but I had already forgotten today. You may one day run across a book I haven't read but I wouldn't hold your breat on it.. Hey I bet it will be when you publish your first manuscript and you have to mail it to me because you know it will be one I haven't read because it won't be out yet... HE HE HE. Gotta love me. I am gonna head and read Unexpected Gifts now. I have been waiting on it and it finally decided to land in my mailbox today. I was starting to think it got lost. Have fun with your blog today! Stay out of that cave you are going to get sick on us.. Miss I have been having a cough so I am going to run around in a cave in 32f weather. Did I mention she did not have a coat on? Sorry I am using Facebook to tell on you.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Helena, I almost didn't post about this agent pitch but in the end, I kept thinking about how much I've gained by other's talking about their similar experiences.

So, you're welcome and yes, I'll be eagerly awaiting to hear how yours went, too. :)

Thanks for taking the time to share your insights.

The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

I’m a Canadian romance writer searching for an agent for well over a year now so this is very helpful, thanks. Now I’ve found your blog I’ll visit often.
All the very best,

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hello Simone, I'm so glad you found us. I checked out your blog and noticed you like reading Mary Balogh's books. You may be interested to know Mary will be guest blogging with us this Saturday. She's also giving away a hard cover copy of one of her books so you might want to come back and visit then.

Again, thanks for visiting us.

Anita Mae Draper said...

I put the names of all those leaving a comment yesterday into a hat and when hubby came home for lunch I had him pick one and the one he pulled out was...


Congrats Susanne, I'll be sending you an email.

And thank you everyone else for stopping by and participating. I really appreciate you spending part of your day with me.

Debra E Marvin said...

Late to the party, but I'm glad I visited. Hey, Anita Mae, I think I told you this before but I'd forgotten about your book WHEN because I've been thinking bout Emma. Point being I love that book, and I remember it b/c I judged it.

I completely understand how we cling to the hardest or strongest part of any critique or discussion rather than all the good stuff. You know you have a great foundation and she just wants to see some tweaks with the plot. That's a very positive thing. You know you are close to being ready, right? not miles away from it! Not ready may mean next in line or at the end of the line and you must believe in your heart that you are near the front. I do. I know you are.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey there Inky sister Deb, I'd also forgotten you judged When. Otherwise, I would've been bawling on your shoulder in Denver, too. LOL

Thank you so much for the encouragement. I know the only thing stopping me I have to sit down and finish Emma's story, and I have to work on When to get the kinks out.

I appreciate you stopping by and speaking up.