Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Conference etiquette: asking for help rather than pitching

I'll be at the Writers Digest in New York at the end of July and I'm going to the pitch slam. Can I just bring a query for you to look at, even though it's YA and not what you represent? I'd like to say hi and get something out of it. And I have to pretend I'm doing something bc I'm helping a friend of mine. (She told me bc I paid for it I'm participating.) I just want to be there for moral support.

If you can find me at the Pitch Slam you'll have traveled back in time about five years.  I'm doing a presentation at the Writers Digest conference here on 7/31/15, but I'm not taking pitches.  Remember, I'm not a fan of pitches at all.

However, to the larger question of asking an agent for help at a pitch session, go right ahead. You do want to be careful though about what you take to heart.  Advice from an agent who's not in the YA trenches on a daily basis can be questionable.

I'll never forget listening to a panel of YA tourists talk about the category in ways that were just plain wrong....and while they were authors, the lesson applies to agents as well.

I critique a lot of pitches for things I don't represent on QueryShark, but it's mostly about form and clarity, rather than "can I include dinosaurs in YA?"


brianrschwarz said...

So, I was sitting here reading this wonderful post and a totally unrelated question that I'm sure the QOTKU will know came to mind...

Can I include dinosaurs in YA?

All joking aside, I had no idea that writers approached agents at conferences for advice. I can't tell if I'm horrified at that idea or just impressed by it.

I mean, there's a wealth of information on the world wide interwebs, and google is a LOT more forgiving than Janet. When I enter questions like "can I include rhetorical questions in a query" into google, it doesn't try to take my arm off when I hit search.

I'm not saying I'd avoid it, but I'd probably do lots of research and have questions prepared. Because with my luck, I'd ask a silly question, the agent would stare at me blank-faced wondering if I was joking, and I'd try to write it off as a joke which would be impossible after vomiting on their shoes.

And forevermore, that agent would know me as the guy who vomited on their shoes. Not a pretty picture. But that's just me.

Colin Smith said...

I remember that article, and the timely reminder that just because someone is an author who has written for a particular market, that doesn't mean that market is their area of expertise. I have written a couple of YA books, but I would turn down any request to sit on such a panel. I've read a lot of YA, but I don't live there. I think I've read a number of the more significant YA titles, but I have by no means covered the range. My reading and writing interests are too diverse to consider myself a YA expert. My next novel will not by YA. And the one after may not be either. So while I'm probably more informed than most (certainly more than the panelists in the article Janet linked), there are YA writers out there who are vastly better able to address the genre.

So, yes, be careful who you ask. :)

Colin Smith said...

And brian--that's "vommenting". :)

Donnaeve said...

This is fascinating, IMO.

Two posts over two days about wrong information doled out to little woodland creatures, a serving of clueless when we are already clueless about way too much.

Advice was given to my crit partner, a YA writer, from an editor who said, "I don't do YA." She still asked for the feedback and then changed the story. She eventually hired a YA editor who read the revision and said, "uh, no, and no, and no, you can't go about the story like this."

I think it wasted a year of her time.

On another note, I always like to read the comments you were getting *back when, and I think the only name I recognized in that 2011 post was Terri Lynn Coop. (TLC) I thought maybe Julia was Julie, but no info on the blogger profile, so doubt it.

*back when I wasn't reading the blog yet.

brianrschwarz said...

Colin - I'm connecting some dots now... :)

Colin Smith said...

I just read through the rant post Janet linked to. I only commented once. Wow. What was wrong with me? Did I have a life, or something? ;)

Donnaeve said...

Colin, I commented too, which looks so weird to me for some reason. It's like a flashback in time. This was the post I was thinking about when I said in my comment yesterday I thought she didn't like them. Spawn of Satan says it all.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey Donna I reread my comments. Ha!
I just commented on another blog yesterday almost the same answer to pitches. I need new material.
My second comment mentioned that the day was my daughter's due-date. That little girl is almost 15 months old now.
Time sure does flap it's wings. Love the old comments though. Funny how things don't change much, unless your kid has a baby :)

Colin Smith said...

I just re-read my first comment, and I need to make a clarification:

I said: "I have written a couple of YA books..." I MEANT to say: "I have written a couple of YA novels..." I am unpublished, and saying "books" may imply that I am actually published in this (or any) genre.

See, that's what happens when you comment before 10. :)

Donnaeve said...

I didn't notice that, Colin. Books, novels, "fiction novels," :) or whatever. I get it, dare I say "we" get it?

Oh wait. I hear you in my head.

"Donna, the reason for my clarification is in case other agents/editors are reading and assume I've published a BOOK, i.e. a tangible thing I can hold in my hand."

Do I have that ESP moment about right?

Colin Smith said...

Donna: Are you asking whether there's a part of my fevered and hyperactive imagination where I'm supposing some Dream Agents are just waiting for an opportunity to snap me up as their next client, and were weeping into their handkerchiefs when they read my initial comment?

Am I a woodland creature? :)

PS: The only part of my fantasy that I'm sure is anchored in the real world is the fact that Dream Agents read this blog. Of course they do! They'd be crazy not to. :)

Dena Pawling said...

Colin, "dream agent" WROTE this blog :)

But aside from that bit of shameless pandering, I've never pitched an agent in person so I have nothing to add, except that no matter what you hear or where you hear it or who said it, if it doesn't pass your gut test, trust your gut.

Colin Smith said...

Dena: Of course. I just didn't want to state the obvious. Which is quite uncharacteristic for me... :)

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Wow, I am butt deep in starving hogs, but I had to stop by for my daily fix and am I glad I did.

I flipped over to read the YA blog post and was very glad I hadn't gone out in the rain to get the water to make coffee because I would have choked on it.

I'm taking an in depth editing class over the next eight weeks. I know, I shouldn't have. A friend lured me into it and honestly it looks like it might have some things I can use later. But, yes, you knew there was a but coming. One of the first exercises was describing your work.

Epic fantasy though there is a debate it's actually high fantasy and it may be. I'm sticking with epic because as the series zooms out the whole world catches fire.

How old is your protagonist?


No, you have a YA.

Well, then I might as well shelve it because I already have people flinching at 157,000 words and no one will touch a YA at that.

What would it take to get it to 75,000 words?

A fully loaded gun to the head.

Your readers will identify with her problems. Romance, sex, not enough money.

Yeah, she's mainly worried about surviving and you know, that whole coming war that's going to destroy her people.

Now, I think the course is going to be kick butt, but in reading the suggested material on what YA is I was really surprised at how some people define it so shallowly.

I'm going to query my book as epic fantasy and if some marketing department decides it's YA, praise the Lord and pass the biscuits, at least it's with a publisher.

To the original poster. Some presenters at conferences are very kind about giving advice. At Surrey one year I had an open spot and I decided to talk to a poet I admired. She was very surprised and asked me why since I didn't write poetry. I do, but it's not serious stuff. My enchanted salt jar only speaks in rhyme, but that wasn't the reason. I told her I greatly admired her ability to choose exactly the right words to evoke an image and was hoping she could give me some advice on how she does that. She was very pleased and we sat down and did a mini workshop on word choice. Then she gave me some booklets she'd written and I later bought a book of her poetry.

So, it can work. I'm just not sure if I would approach an agent like that. I tend to give them a wide berth. If I see them in a bar, I might offer to buy them a drink, but I let them do the talking and I don't pitch. IOW, I treat them like humans.

I do remember a friend catching Don Maass in an elevator and her saying to him. "Hmmm, here I have Don Maass alone in an elevator and nothing to pitch."

He growled at her.

I laughed.

Julie.M.Weathers said...


Julia is my given name, but I only get called that when I'm in trouble.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: The advice I've always read about the "elevator pitch" is to be ready. IOW, it's not up to you to say, "Oh, hi Mr. Maass! Let me tell you about my novel..." But to wait for said talented and observant agent to notice the woodland creature in the elevator and say, "Hello, Mr. Woodland Creature! Are you enjoying the conference? Tell me about your novel!" I don't know how well agents take the aggressive approach. I can't imagine well. Besides, it seems a lot more natural to me to get to know the agent a bit first, buy them a drink, small talk, perhaps talk a little deeper, and if there's a rapport then the subject of your work will come up. An agent who likes you socially will be more eager to hear about your work than one who sees you as the annoying person who's always in their face about their bleedin' novel! :) That's my thinking anyway.

The fact that some people think of YA as all about teens having sex and dealing with their own lives, and some think of it as all about big issues and shouldn't have sex shows you the range within the genre. The fact is there are YA books that fulfill both these images, and plenty more in between.

Julie.M.Weathers said...


Exactly. I liken it to being the proper southern belle. You remain approachable, but dasn't be the one to shove your phone number in handsome gent's hand.

I would imagine agents get tired of being looked at as a commodity. I would. I'm not going to stalk them in their down time.

Jenny Chou said...

Julie: I agree with you - Just because you're writing from the POV of a 16 yo doesn't mean you're writing YA. Maybe in your world 16 is an adult.Or maybe not. It's a great age for a main character in any genre because 16 is a time of growth, and change and discovering who you're going to become and that lends itself beautifully to fiction. I went to a wonderful book signing last night for The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez and her MC is a teen but the book is adult. The Secret Life of Bees. Red Rising. All the Light We Cannot See. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Lots of adult books have teen MC.'s. And lots of teen readers like adult sci fi and fantasy.

On a different note, I don't think I could ever pitch my book in an elevator. Other than online I am quite the woodland creature.

REJourneys said...

Colin: those are my thoughts exactly. I feel talking about my novel is a bit too revealing on a first meeting.

Though, if agents are there to help/hear pitches, I wouldn't feel as bad. Though that depends on the meaning of bad. Sick? Then yes, my stomach would be in knots.

Julie: It should be epic fantasy, if only to be able to call a book epic.

That was my debate early on with my MS. I wasn't sure what genre it was, and even worse, I didn't care who they said the age group was. I have a young voice (which I'm fairly young anyway), so everything I write sounds like a Middle Grade novel, except with scenes/ideas more suited for teens and up.

My problem could just be I'm too young at heart for all the things teens read.

bjmuntain said...

Julie: The first year I went to Surrey, I spent most of my time perfecting my elevator pitch. My second year there, I wound up in an elevator with Don Maass. Yikes. And I stared at the elevator door, my woodland creature 'fight or flight' stalled in perfect stillness, thinking, 'I should pitch. I should pitch.' I looked at him once, and he looked just as uncomfortable, so I stopped looking at him and stared at the elevator door again, thinking, 'I should pitch. He's waiting for a pitch. I can't pitch.' It wasn't until the next year that I had the courage to actually book a pitch session with him.

If the pitch session is already paid for (or if it's part of the conference package), I don't think there's much to lose in asking an agent a business question rather than pitch to them. Let the agent know right from the beginning that you're not pitching, but you'd like some advice on something. I think, if you bring it up right away, it would ease the tension - no longer are you trying to sell something; no longer are they expected to say 'yes' or 'no'. And it might give the agent something different to talk about for a bit (then again, there are some agents who get in a 'zone', and don't want to be brought out until they're finished with all the pitches. Do your homework.)

Yes, as with any input or critique, you want to use your own judgment, and I'm not sure I would ask them to read anything that isn't ready to pitch, but you can ask more business questions. "I've just finished drafting some YA dino porn. Do you think there's market for it?" Or, "I have this idea for a thriller where a woodland creature... um, writer... is being stalked by a shark... um, agent... Do you think it would sell? Or is the premise too unbelievable?" Or, "I've never written children's books - which I see you rep - but I love reading them and I have an idea I'd really like to work on. Where would you suggest I start learning?" Again, you'd want to do your homework ahead of time, to know what questions to ask a specific agent, and what they like to talk about.

I see any meeting with an industry professional as an opportunity to learn more about the industry. If you pitch, you'll learn a bit more about the market for your work (often, if an agent turns down your pitch, they'll say why, and it's usually to do with the market). You'll use this information in whatever way works best for you: "Maybe dino porn shouldn't be YA after all"; "Maybe the woodland creature should be stalking the shark."

Take every opportunity to learn, and never hesitate to get to know people in the industry (within reason, of course - stalking sharks is a dangerous pasttime). The industry may not necessarily run on 'who you know' the way Hollywood does, but it's always good to know 'who to learn from'.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Colin, you do know we are all sounding like we are begging at the table of you-know-who.
You do know we are scampering around like starving squirrels looking for our God-damn nuts. Hey people, we are writers, authors, columnists, essayists, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. The only shoes we should be puking on are...actually we shouldn’t be up-chucking on anyone’s shoes.
We have worked damn hard, we have observed, studied, learned and communicated that which all the other nincompoops of the world don’t even notice.
I have been doing what I do for almost forty f***ing years. I’ve been published hundreds of times and am lucky enough to have a regular writing-gig in a world of diminishing white-space. I’ve written millions of words, yes millions, some bad, some good, some funny, pathetic and some brilliant. I should NOT have to kiss anybody’s butt in an elevator. I should NOT have to play ring around the rosy at the circle of agent’s tables.
There are times I am very good at what I do and if an agent judges me only by one page of my writing, than that's their loss.
Last week I visited a lot of the blogs Colin was kind enough to link for us and lots I found on my own. Some of you guys are amazing writers and you just don’t know it.
So, no sweating, puking on shoes, nervous laughter or wet pants. YOU have what it takes and YOU have what they want. Stop scampering. Stand tall. Agents are our friends. Well some are anyway.
Have a nice day.

Dena Pawling said...

Carolynn I just got in a judge's face while arguing my motion and ALMOST implied he would be incompetent if he ruled against me. The other attorneys here were goggling at me lol. I didn't get cuffed. I'm waiting for the decision. YOU GO GIRL!!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Dena, whatever the decision, getting in someone's face who wields power over another is a very good thing. You my friend, you go girl, because you already did.

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: Rant noted and agreed with. But there's a balance. On the one hand we are not beggars. But on the other, agents are professionals too, many of whom have worked hard to gain the reputations and the industry credibility they have. We need to respect that. Good writers and good agents have both earned their places at the publishing banquet. I just propose we sit and eat together, and not stare each other down, or play chicken with one another. :)

Dena: Woohoo! Let us know how the ruling goes. :)

Julie.M.Weathers said...


I didn't pitch Donald in the elevator. He was joking with Lisa, but I'm just not harassing agents in elevators, at dinner, in the bar, in the hallways, while they're smoking. I'm just not. It makes for good scenes in a book, but not for real life.

At Surrey, Diana saw me in the vendor's hall. I was talking to a mutual friend who had a table. She waved at me and came over to visit. We'd only been talking a few minutes, she was mostly asking about my youngest son Will who was in Iraq at the time.

I wasn't going to bother Diana, because I was sure she got hounded to death, but was happy she came over to visit. Then lo and behold someone came over and did his best, nonchalant pose author. "So tell me, Diana, what do you think of the current state of publishing?"

She was very gracious. I excused myself and made a note to take classes in being gracious or become a hermit if I ever got published.

I notice the same thing happening with agents. Approaching them in a scheduled session is fine. Outside of that I'm very friendly, but non demanding.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Colin, I absolutely agree.

But, as writers we should not have to sit there and toast our efforts with Pepto-Bismol.

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: Absolutely. Here's to self-confidence and intestinal fortitude! ;)

Donnaeve said...

This is why I don't like the whole pitch thing. It's INSANE to get all worked up into knots. I wouldn't do it, if I went to a conference and had a chance. Both Colin and 2N's (and others) made good arguments (maybe not arguments, how about debates?), but I swannee, whether agent or writer, pitching seems more and more like being forced to participate in some bizarre freaky show where everyone is supposed to participate, yet, at the same time they don't really want to, or if they want to, the pressure of that moment in time might potentially outweighs their brains ability to engage properly.

I speak only for myself, of course.

Case in point: The other day I was on the phone with my brother and I had this very open and honest conversation with him about his ex. I said things to him I couldn't have said face to face. It was a great conversation.

I talk much better on the phone (and online) than I ever would in person. Maybe I'll bring my cell to Bouchercon and call all of you who are there.

Colin Smith said...

Donna: We'll sit at a table and text each other, and we'll all feel thirty years younger! ;)

Julie.M.Weathers said...


I think that's good in some ways, but the lady who jumped to her feet and read Janet the riot act in Surrey because she'd been joking is a perfect example of when it goes too far.

"Who are you!! I don't even know who you are? Why are you here?"

On she ranted. You'd think if someone pays to go to a conference they'd read up on who's going to be there and who is teaching or on panels they're attending. You'd also think someone would have enough common sense not to insult a professional like that. We don't have to kow tow to agents, editors and authors, but neither are they there to be harassed and disrespected.

Dena Pawling said...

It's hard to rant on the screen of an iPhone 5 but here goes. Background - I signed a letter today to the CA judicial council, along with about 15 other attorneys, about this judge who overtly favors tenants. This is LA after all. Last week a separate letter went to the presiding judge who has already warned this judge to GASP follow the law.

Anyway low income working poor Hispanic tenants, teeny 576 square foot rent-controlled unit, 2 adults and one 17yo so really 3 adults. Unit totally in violation of LA county hoarder task force standards. THESE PEOPLE CAUSED A FIRE in their unit because of all that "stuff". They had 30 days to get the unit in compliance with the standards. Guess what? Still not in compliance. So legal aid (one of their better attorneys) whines about the poor innocent tenants losing their unit lalalala. They have no money for larger unit lalalala. Okay I get that. I'm not entirely heartless. What about the tenants in the OTHER 15 UNITS in this complex? Does this judge take responsibility for the NEXT fire????????

I can totally see his position. He doesn't want to evict these poor innocent (whatever) tenants from their rent-controlled unit but he doesn't want another fire either. So he waffled. He gave them another 2 weeks to get the unit in compliance.

One thing I like about court is that I know the rules. If I can stay within the rules I can say almost anything I want. Lawyers are supposed to "zealously advocate" on behalf of their clients and I was pretty zealous today lol. I don't know the rules in publishing, if any besides be professional and respect others, so it's not as easy to toe the line. I know pretty much exactly where the line is in court, and when I toe it I'm also using the line's thickness so I don't go over it :)

I'm certified as a temporary judge in LA county and I've heard and decided cases. I know what it's like and how hard some of the cases are. But it's always fun to watch a judge squirm, so long as it's a level playing field.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: Clearly that person doesn't get Writer's Digest! I can't believe anyone would behave like that at a conference, especially not a writer in front of other industry professionals... and especially in front of QOTKU! Janet was one of the FIRST agents I heard of when I started researching getting published!


Colin Smith said...

Dena: All I can say is I want an agent as zealous for my work as you are for your clients. :)

Donnaeve said...

Colin, ha! That would be a hoot.

Jenny Chou said...

Though I would probably ask Donald M. or Janet what they'd read lately and enjoyed because I ask everyone that.

Julie.M.Weathers said...


Oh, I would definitely want you on my side and you're fortunate I wasn't in the courtroom because I would have probably done a rebel yell and said, "You tell him," right before I was escorted out.

I get a bit bone weary of the persecution excuses being trotted out. A dangerous situation is a dangerous situation.

My dear old father had one of his pines topple in a bad storm and it took out part of the roof on the bar next door. They made him cut down two more trees which he was not happy about. Forest service guy advised him he should cut down the other ones around his house before they fell on him and killed him. "Nope. Those trees were here when Columbus set foot here, they'll be here when I'm gone."

He was only carrying that safety stuff so far.

Amy Schaefer said...

Just poking my head in to wave at you all from a safe distance. Here in Paradise, we have been hit with A Nasty Cold, which I suspect arrived by way of Carkoon. The kids have school holidays at the moment, so the three of us have spent the week snuggled up on couch, each with a book in hand, trying not to sneeze on each other.

Poor Donald Maass. The man must hate elevators like poison. Imagine having people give you that deer-in-headlights look every time you step into the lift. I'm sure he could describe the full progression of facial expressions exhibited during the writer's "to pitch or not to pitch" struggle with perfect accuracy.

Christina Seine said...

What a great conversation today! To the OP, I'd say GO FOR IT. The worst thing that can happen is that Janet will bite you with those sharky teeth of hers, or laser-beam you into a puddle with her eyes.
And also, OP, what an awesome friend you are, going to a conference with a friend for moral support. Friends like you are worth their weight in Barnes & Noble gift cards!

And now for the inevitable anecdote: last year I went to a conference in Portland, and made lots of nice new friends. I did pitch a few agents, but didn't get to pitch all of the agents I wanted to pitch because of scheduling problems with the conference computers. Anyway, I was having a lovely old time, chatting with my new friends, when one of them made a comment that implied she knew me from before? I said, HUH? At which person that person turned their name badge around, and I saw to my chagrin that the person was a super, duper ultra cool AGENT whom I’d pitched a while back for a different project! I went from calm, happy and relaxed to speaking something that closely resembled pig-Latin Klingon. Said agent was extremely nice, but later when I went back to my room I had to apply my entire stash of emergency chocolate. What a dork I was. And I knew it.
The point is, agents are human too (mostly), and can be quite enjoyable to be around (just add chocolate). In my case, once I knew I was speaking to AN AGENT I sort of froze up, and missed an opportunity to hang out with and maybe learn something from her. The silly thing is, as a reporter, I’ve met and interviewed rock stars, explorers, billionaires and presidential candidates, and never once have I lost my cool like that. That was just a job though. My writing, this WIP of mine, is so very important to me. I guess that’s why at things like this I turn into a tribble. I’m getting better, though.

Colin Smith said...

Question for Janet based on all the above:

When you meet an unagented writer socially (i.e., not because they've scheduled time with you at a conference), do you expect them to talk about their novel? Are you waiting for them to initiate that conversation? If they keep the conversation casual, are they missing an opportunity to talk about their work to you? In other words, how do YOU like writers to approach you? Not that you're a benchmark for all agents, but you're the only agent in the room talking at the moment. :)

bjmuntain said...

Julie - I understood that's what you meant. I just meant, I was in your friend's shoes, and I was too chicken to say anything anyway. I much prefer pitching at scheduled pitch sessions. Even when we have a lunch with an agent at our table, I'm still uncertain about talking about my novel - yet one person at my table a couple years ago was published a year later by the editor sitting at that table.

Also - I have never thrown up over this. I rarely throw up. If I throw up, you know it must be food poisoning.

I do get nervous. I get nervous about a lot of things. I get nervous getting up in front of a group of people. I get nervous talking to authority figures. At my last job, I'd get nervous talking to my boss, even though he was the kindest man you'll ever meet. I get nervous talking on the phone with anyone but a good friend. And I get nervous at job interviews - which is how I see a pitch session.

However, if I let my nerves dictate what I do, I would be a sad little hermit who never leaves the house (I'm almost there, anyway, but...) So I face my fears and my nerves and do whatever I can to put myself out there. I sing at church - sometimes solos - twice a month. I've given talks at a couple (non-writing-related) conferences. I've given training to groups of people. I started traveling anywhere for the first time when I turned 40 - and I went to New York City alone. I've convinced employers that I can write and managed to get writing jobs in different sectors. I started going to Surrey the year after my first trip anywhere - by myself, not knowing anyone, even the roommate I'd connected with online. I went to the BackSpace conference in NYC a couple times. I'm scheduled for a couple other writing events this year. And I pitch agents. Because I'm not going to let my nerves keep me from being a professional writer.

Do I have to pitch? No, but I've learned a lot about talking about my book going to pitch sessions. I've learned what the agents and editors want to hear when I sell them on my novel. I've learned how to put my query into speech, and how to make quick changes to my sales pitch according to cues from the person I'm pitching to. I still have to learn to be able to hear my work read aloud and to read it aloud myself, but that will come when it comes, as I get more confident.

And this is why I encourage people to go to conferences, to talk to agents and even pitch to them. It's a part of learning to be a writer. And it's a part of learning to sell your book. And when I find a publisher to publish my book, I've got my marketing plan started (something I learned at one of my writing jobs).

The idea isn't to kowtow to agents. The idea is to learn how to sell your book, and get used to the idea that your book is a product to be sold. The idea is to do whatever it takes to reach that dream, even if it's uncomfortable or even terrifying.

By the way, I still have to go to the bathroom to pee immediately before mass or I'm a nervous wreck singing the whole time. I still need copious notes when talking in front of people or I can't talk. I still need some quiet time before a pitch session to get my nerves under control - I need this quiet time before job interviews, too. And yes, I cry when I get a speeding ticket, because authority figures scare the crap out of me. But practice makes perfect and builds confidence (though I do try to avoid the speeding tickets).

And Dena: Yes. It's so much easier when you know what you're doing. When you know the rules and you know everything you have to do and can do. When you have some sort of structure to cling to. Which is why I still have problems talking to agents or bosses or authority figures of any kind when not in a structured environment. But I'm learning. As long as there's a chance to pee beforehand.

bjmuntain said...

(By the way - I also get incredibly nervous posting here, and I worry about my posts every time I post. I suppose not being able to delete the posts is a good thing, huh?)

Julie.M.Weathers said...


I really like Donald. I enjoy visiting with him. Lisa was joking with him and he joked back. I'm sure someone else might have gone, "Oh my stars! I offended Donald Maass!!!!"

I didn't pitch him because I don't think we fit. He scares the pee waddling out of me. I love him as a teacher. I enjoy visiting with him. As an agent, I'm afraid I'd have to be so perfect it would be very stressful. I may be totally off on this. If so I apologize.

Colin Smith said...

bj: That comment took courage to post, and it was very worthwhile. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I personally still don't like the concept of pitch sessions, but I respect your point of view.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

BJ, You're fine. No one bites sans the occasional shark bite and that hasn't happened in a while. Though we do raise a toast to Jimmy Bob Bad Manners occasionally over that grammar correcting rant.

Woodrow Call sort of sums up my views on rude behavior.

I was extremely irritated when the man interrupted the conversation between DG and myself, not because I'm special, but because it's simply incredibly rude. My six-year-old grandson knows better. When Cool Author leaned on the table in his best, Cool Dude Hand On Hip Pose and it scooted out from under him Diana may have pretended she didn't notice, but I, being a heathen, guffawed.

I was much more irritated about the rude lady in the class. There's no call for that nonsense.

If a person is simply trying to get the most out of their conference, that's exactly what they should do.

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

Hey, I saw that Tawna Fenske commented on that ranty pitch post - that's all the validation that our Shark needed, I bet! :D

Susan Bonifant said...

I just got here for the first time today, and clearly, the adults have left the pool, so I'll just jump in.

Colin, you are so lucky that you can use the word "bleedin" without a single raised eyebrow from anyone. I just will never be able to do that.

Carolynn with 2NNs, what you said is, well, perfect.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I needed a break from editing so I'm watching Janet's favorite movie.
"You're gonna' need a bigger boat."
Love it.

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

Yes,Carolynn, yes! Just imagine what we can accomplish without letting fear get in the way.

Sam Hawke said...

We don't have a lot of opportunity in this corner of the world to go to events like this. (Nowhere near enough agents to even service the authors we have already, let alone prospective ones). But if we did, I cannot imagine summoning the courage to pitch in person. Even among trusted friends I can't describe my WIP without turning into a stammering mess.

I think the more I care about something, the harder it is to talk about.

Julie.M.Weathers said...


Honestly, I was such a basket case talking to the Del Rey editor if she hadn't already read the 30 pages, she would have never requested. I'm normally pretty outgoing. We can be sitting in the bar and it turns into a stupid story telling session in a heartbeat regardless of who's around.

Pitches? I detest them. The Tor one, for some reason wasn't bad. I started talking. He asked me a few questions, asked to read the pages. He requested and then we talked about Celtic women warriors, burial mounds, marketing and why I should try to get it down from 165,000 words.

I'm not good with pitches at all. I should be, but I'm not.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Pitches, like query letters, are a thing I never heard of until I got myself mired knee deep in research about how to actually get these things I've been writing published (up to 6 forms R's on the 9 initial queries sent!). When instructed to reduce a thing to its basest of parts, I have the unfortunate knack of making it sound completely dull, and also sometimes somehow being far too brief and bereft of details.

Though I was frankly tickled at the story of the temptation to pitch Mr. Maass in the elevator ("elevator pitch", get it?) (I'll let myself out)

AJ Blythe said...

Sam, actually we do - I pitch every year (at least, I did until I took Janet's advice, now I use my pitch time to ask other questions, take my query etc). A lot of the Aussie pubs will take direct pitches/subs as well.

You can email me at anitajoy at live dot com dot au if you want to find out the deets and not bore those from the other side of the world.

Actually, I've had a better reception to my writing by not pitching at my pitch sessions :)

bjmuntain said...

Julie, maybe it's just the Tor editors that make it so easy. It might be that Tor will accept unsolicited/unagented manuscripts that make them so easy-going. I've seen pictures from the 'old' days (before 90+% of submissions were e-subs), and the Tor offices were built of walls of submissions (at least it looked that way.) It could take them two years to get back to you, if your work was in the slush.

I pitched a different Tor editor, myself. I sat down at her table. She said, "Send me your full manuscript." Then she asked me where Saskatchewan was, and we had a bit of a discussion about Canadian geography.

I'm sure she did that for all the pitchers - tell them to send her their full ms, then ask them simple questions to help their confidence.

And once an editor says, "Send me your work", it's no longer unsolicited. With a publishing house like Tor, that could mean your work gets looked at in 3 months instead of two years. (And yes, I know someone who got a response two years after sending her manuscript in.)

Julie.M.Weathers said...


No idea. I know an agent commented on their walls of manuscripts. I didn't send to him because I got in revise mode based on requests and then life bit me in the butt and I felt too much time had gone by.

If I don't have an agent by this fall I'll go back into pitch mode at conferences, but I am not looking forward to it. At all. I enjoy conferences, but not the pitching.

b-Nye said...

I like pitches...the grumpier the better.

bjmuntain said...

Julie, if you go to Surrey this fall, let me know. We can meet up, have coffee or something, and share pitching stories. Laugh a bit, cry a bit, and hold each other up when we're wobbly in the knees with nerves.

And if it makes you feel better, I'll slip in behind the agent and give her bunny ears while you pitch.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

BJ rofl

We have several who are contemplating Surrey. You can join in the group if you like and don't mind nitwits like me. The rest are more normal. I am prone to breaking out into storytelling mode when I get a few beers, however.

I'm praying I have an agent by then and don't need to pitch. Please, Lord.

Christina Seine said...

Hey, I was thinking ... all of us furry woodland minions who are going the NYC conference should get together and hang out and share scary JR stories at the bar.

bjmuntain said...

Julie, the more the merrier. We've got to get together. SiWC is a great time to meet up with writing friends. :)