(Blogger’s note: Summer is on its way — which means, for many, the season of writer’s conferences and retreats. In this three-part series, I share the many things I’ve learned during 20 years of attending writer’s conferences and 10 years of teaching and presenting at them.)
Part One: Meet Me In The Bar, Take One
Like three hundred others, I carried my pitch letter, proposal introduction and sample book chapter into the interview area at the Society of Southwestern Authors’ Wrangling With Writing Conference in Tucson. I’d spent a solid month writing, polishing and tweaking the chapter and proposal intro. I’d also made sure the pitch letter stated everything I needed the agent to know about my book idea, writing style, professional background, ability to reach the market (platform), and knowledge of the subject.
I carried a piece of my life into what is affectionately called “the pit.”
A dozen literary agents and editors were sprinkled throughout the area. It was the afternoon of day one, and already, a glazed look started to reflect from their eyes. It better be good, Bob, I said to myself. The editors and agents heard fiction and non-fiction book pitches from writers who, like me, took their dreams of being published into the pit. In 15-minute bursts, writers presented their material, answered agents’ questions and either were told:
a) “We’re not looking for this particular genre;”
b) “This looks promising, but needs some more work;”
c) “I’ll keep you in mind, but we’re filled up in that area right now—do you have anything else?;” or the far preferable
d) “I’d like to see more chapters and a proposal—send as soon as you can. Here’s my card.”
My first experience was different. Let’s call it “e”. The agent asked me if I knew or talked with the subject of my proposed book; she wanted to know if my book was authorized. I ran to my hotel room, grabbed my cell phone, raced downstairs and called the subject in the agent’s presence. Her eyes lit up. Turned out she was a big fan. “Meet me in the bar tonight at five,” she said.
Back to the Bar