Pitching MG Fantasy at WDC 2014
WDC 2015 was three weeks ago. How is that possible? It seems like the email inviting me to register came in only yesterday. Of course, I’m terrible at time, BUT STILL!
Anyway, it was another fun con, filled with knowledge absorption, laughs with great friends in our spot in the hotel bar, and tons of new faces–one of which asked me to do a ‘How my pitch went’ write-up for this site. I didn’t pitch this year because I just completed the first draft of my new novel and it’s nowhere near ready for agents’ eyes, but I did pitch at WDC 2014. What follows are some hazy details from that event, and a little secret about pitching that might make it less stressful for some.
Hazy details from WDC 2014
I arrived at the convention around two-thirty PM on Friday, a wide-eyed WDC rookie, focused on the Pitch Slam I’d attend nearly twenty-four hours later. I checked-in and then headed to the hotel bar to review the agents list in the attendee program. Not long after I one/two/three starred the agents I wanted to speak with (three stars being ‘must-hit’ and one stars being ‘if-I’ve-hit-all-my-three-and-two-stars’), two other writers joined me, and we distracted each other until it was time to head to the pitch boot camp.
If you don’t know, the pitch boot camp is a fifty minute session designed to make everyone freak-the-hell-out over their pitches. That’s my description, mind, not the official tag line. Seriously though, by the end, half the audience looked terrified. Not “Oh god, they’re doing what in the Fantastic Four reboot?!” terrified, but “Gah! My pitch is all wrong!” terrified. A lot of people didn’t sleep well that night, I imagine. I wasn’t one of them, but I do public speaking for a living, so am comfortable talking (read ‘performing’) in front of strangers. That changed by the time I got into my pitch session, of course, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
For the rest of Friday night, I worked (read ‘drank’) with several talented writers with whom I’d connected, talking about our books, running pitches, and enjoying the camaraderie you only get at these types of events. A good time was had by all.
When Saturday morning came, several of us ditched the sessions we’d planned to attend to again practice our pitches (BEWARE – this is a trap born from pitch anxiety. Go to your sessions!). The tension had ramped-up among the group (my own included), and we each took turns pitching and offering feedback. Eventually, the first of us scampered off while those of us in later Pitch Slam sessions settled in like relatives huddled in a waiting room while a loved one has exploratory surgery. When she returned, exhausted yet exhilarated, everyone accepted (more or less) what we’d halfheartedly told each other all along: It would be OK.
And then it was time to line-up for my session–the third and final of the con. Twenty minutes and several theme park-like back-and-forth line turns later, I was in front of my top-of-the-list three-star agent.
Which, in retrospect, was stupid.
It was stupid because by then my adrenaline was through the roof. Even though I’m trained to speak confidently and calmly in both one-on-one and group situations, all the pitch rehearsing (read ‘overanalyzing’) had me deep in my own head. Voice/body language/content/agent selection/timing–all these were kicking each other in their figurative faces behind my eyes. It’s a miracle I was able to smile and get two words out. Later, I looked back and realized I should have spent my ‘settle-down’ period with one of my one-star agents. Not that my first pitch went horribly, but it could have gone better, and once I’d gotten it out of the way, I’d locked-in.
Live and learn, as they say.
The rest of the session glided by without any drama, my only worry being whether or not I’d get to hit every agent on my list. As it turned out, I did (RECOMMENDATION – map out ten-to-twelve agents, but expect to talk to seven-to-ten because you’ll need to wait on line for some of them). If you’re keeping score, five agents asked for a submission, and two kindly passed. Well, one kindly passed. The other was very abrupt–which I was cool with. And at the final buzzer, I left the room feeling pretty good about how I’d done.
Afterwards, back at the hotel bar (where else?), everyone I spoke to had similar results. That was awesome, but a little strange, I thought. How could everyone achieve nearly identical results when some had pitches clearly better than others? Hmm.
The little secret
That brings us to the little secret to live pitching “successes” (as measured by how many requests you get) I teased earlier. Here it is:
As long as you’re not, (A) pitching outside agents’ representative genres, (B) pitching something entirely unoriginal, or (C) a complete ass-hat to the agents, you will get asked to submit. This is because it in no way hurts the agents to ask for a few pages since you could query them through their websites, anyway.
That’s right, be decent and professional, and not completely wrong for them, and you’ll get requests.
Please note, I’m not telling you this to make you think live pitching is useless. It’s not. It’s great, in fact. No, it’s to let you know you don’t need to lose your mind over the pitching process. You don’t need to go sleepless the night before, only to enter the session in a stuttering, caffeine-fueled, thin-nerved state. Instead, prepare, relax, and just talk about your book. This lets you take advantage of the big difference between pitching and querying–you. Smile and show your passion for your work, and you might even have a bit of fun. That was my experience, anyway.
Well, that’s it. I hope my tale helps, and I encourage everyone with a book to go to writers conferences, meet other writers, and pitch away 🙂
Thanks for reading!
You can check out Ron’s Pitch for THE WHISPERING GATE here.
More about Ron below:
I have a BA in English Literature, am a member of SCBWI, and have been writing seriously for four years. My love of storytelling has proven helpful in my day job as a corporate trainer, but the fairies can be a pain. They love to mess with the projector.
You can find Ron at http://rdelaneyjr.com/
2 thoughts on “Ron Delaney Jr. remembers his pitch from the 2014 Writer’s Digest Conference”
Two follow ups from my conversations with Ron.
– About the title:
The title at the time was THE WHISPERING GATE, but I’ve since changed it to SECRETS OF THE FAIRY CROWN. I found agents were pigeonholing my book into ‘portal fiction’ (an informal fantasy sub-category where characters go through a gateway to another world), which it’s not. I’m glad that happened, though. The new title is a much better match for the story.
– And about Ron’s path to publication since he pitched:
Of the five agents who requested submissions, four passed and one never responded (which is fine because her agency’s web site notes no response equals a pass). Looking back, I understand why there was no interest, as I was guilty of a classic new writer mistake – querying too early. Way too early, in fact. When I sent out pages, the book was only in its third or fourth revision, and no where near as polished as it is now. Today, I continue to query it, but have moved on from that world (for now) to work on a new story I’m excited about (going ghosts this time, 🙂 ).
Overall, great post Ron. Thank you for sharing your story!
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Man, I love hyphens 😀