A Pitch–and a Hit! (Sort Of)

The 2013 Ozarks Romance Authors convention is a week from tomorrow. Know what that means? Time to get ready for my agent pitch!

Batter Hitting Baseball

Nothing to stress about, right? After all, I’ve pitched this book before. Well . . . sort of. Here’s what went down.

I walked into my first-ever pitch session with two pages of story notes clutched in my shaking hand. Notes for a story I’d only begun plotting in earnest two weeks before.

When I signed up, I assumed I would be pitching the contemporary romance I’d been working on for the past year. It still wasn’t finished, but the conference organizer assured me it was okay to practice pitch an unfinished novel just for the experience—as long as you’re upfront about it.

As the conference approached, I realized I would never finish this novel. It wasn’t the right project—or genre—for me. If it was going to be a practice pitch anyway, why not pitch the book I really wanted to write? Um, because I hadn’t even started it yet and only had a rough idea of the plot? Yeah, that little voice of reason inside your head can be annoying, can’t it? Ignore it. I did.

I hated feeling like I was wasting the agent’s time. Guilt and nervousness make a really unpleasant combination, by the way. But I ignored my roiling stomach and walked into the room. The agent stared back at me, disapproval radiating from her face as I explained this was a practice pitch for an unfinished novel, and that I’d been told that was okay.

“No. You don’t pitch a novel until it’s complete.”


Now what?

I couldn’t think of a single thing to say.

Finally, the agent sighed and said, “You’ve got ten minutes. You might as well talk.”

So I did. I’m not sure what I said, but I guess I stumbled through a semi-coherent version of the story, because at the end she told me it was right up her alley and to send it when it was ready. I actually got a manuscript request (a partial, anyway) out of that debacle.

Now I’m getting ready to pitch that story again for ORAcon 2013. I’m still working on revisions, but at least the manuscript is mostly complete this time.

What about you, my writer friends? Have you pitched to an editor or an agent? Are you getting ready to?


34 thoughts on “A Pitch–and a Hit! (Sort Of)

  1. Allison

    Erm, that agent was a the tiniest bit rude anyway, so *raspberry noise* about what she thought when you said it wasn’t finished. It’s an awesome book andit’s going to get a ton of attention from agents before long!

    My first (and last) agent pitch was nerve-wracking, but you remember. I made myself do it, I promised myself I never had to do it again, and I survived. I did toy with the idea of pitching The Convict & the Cattleman last year, but I had so much to do, I didn’t have any time to pay attention it. I’m glad I didn’t, actually, or I probably wouldn’t have a contract now. Clearly online pitching is more my thing. 🙂

    Good luck this year!

    1. S. D. Keeling Post author

      I remember watching you rehearse your pitch back in 2011. That was one of the first ORA meetings I attended. It made me determined to have something to pitch the next year!

      I actually still love that agent. I had a great time chatting with her at lunch. Then again, I haven’t sent her my manuscript yet, so maybe I’ll feel differently after she’s had a chance to reject it. 😉

  2. Samantha McMillian

    I have never pitched to an agent in person and wouldn’t know where to begin. And frankly I would be terrified, yet even so, I still wanted to try to pitch something at ORAcon this year. I don’t have anything to pitch though. I’m hoping to have something for next year though.

  3. Beth Carter

    I’ve pitched several times–the first was at a conference in Ohio. I actually broke out in hives, rehearsed in my room and made myself go through with it. Once I walked in the room and started talking, I was so prepared that I relaxed and had fun. The agent requested a partial but later passed via a very nice, personal email. I got up my nerve at that same conference and asked if I could squeeze in a second pitch to another agent. It was right before lunch, she looked at her list and of course my name wasn’t on it. I knew she was drained and probably starving and cursed myself for my timing. But she listened politely and requested a partial. She later sent a lovely hand-written rejection about how hard it was for her to decline. We’re friends on Twitter now.

    Since then, I’ve probably pitched to four other agents in person–all requesting partials. If this is the agent who I also thought was rude, she intimidated me too. She asked if I had questions for her and I couldn’t think of any. I just wanted it to be over. She requested a partial but I never heard back.

    Like Allison, I tried the online pitching a few months ago and snagged a contract! I’m glad I’ve gone through the pitch horror, though. It’s fun to have these stories to tell. I have more. 🙂 Everyone should force themselves to do it.

    Good luck, Sharon!!!

  4. S. D. Keeling Post author

    Hives! Eek! I hope I won’t make myself that nervous.

    You obviously did a great job of sticking to it and trying different approaches until you found a home for your novel. Congratulations, again!

    1. Beth Carter

      Thanks. And the anti-anxiety meds helped. I recommend them. Not to push drugs but…sometimes they are necessary, like, for pitches! 🙂

      Also, counted up and I’ve pitched to at least eight agents in person because OWL also has them every May.

      1. Beth Carter

        And eight agent pitches sounds like a lot but it was four agents per year at various conferences. Then, I set my novel aside for three years to concentrate on happy things like children’s lit. I was surprised to get a hit so quickly after resurrecting it. Goes to show we never know who’s going to like our work. Great post, Sharon.

      2. S. D. Keeling Post author

        After eight pitches, you’re a pro, right? I pitched at the last OWL conference, as well. So far I have three manuscript requests (one partial and two fulls) from two pitches. Another agent saw me posting about my pitch on Twitter and asked me to send it to her, as well. You just never know where the right connections are going to come from!

  5. Ellen Harger

    Thanks for writing this. I’ve been a bit panicked about even taking a pitch slot. Now I’m decided and will pitch my completed manuscript that I self-published this spring. Unless that’s a no no. TELL ME QUICK.

    1. S. D. Keeling Post author

      Do it! You’ll definitely need to mention that you self-published it already. I’d say be ready with sales figures. For some publishers that will be an issue, but you don’t know until you ask!

      1. S. D. Keeling Post author

        I’d say only if it was written by a professional reviewer. It can be hard to predict what will or won’t impress an agent or editor, but I doubt they would be interested in reader reviews.

  6. Chuck Robertson

    Let me jump on the bandwagon here. I’ve heard the story before. It’s a list of things not to do. My guess is you won’t do them again. 🙂

  7. Cara Bristol

    I’ve pitched in the past at other conferences and was hoping to “pitch” at this one. Unfortunately, it did not work out and I won’t be able to attend ORACON. I’ve published 10 books already without an agent, but I have some publishing issues I was hoping to talk over with a agent. So I wasn’t going to “pitch” as much as I was going to discuss.

  8. lisawellsauthor

    I’ve pitched several times. It always makes me nervous, but I’ve never had a bad experience. The agents have all been very nice.

    I follow a lot of agents/editors on twitter. They HATE to be pitched an unfinished book. It comes across as unprofessional. Like you’re just playing at being a writer. Yes, I’ve pitched unfinished (almost finished) books, but I’ve never fessed up to it to them. I would never pitch one that I’ve just started. I’m happy you survived that practically unscathed. 🙂

    1. S. D. Keeling Post author

      I’ll blame bad advice lol. I wouldn’t have pitched an unwritten book for real (although it seems it turned out to be pretty real after all), but it was supposed to be a “practice” pitch just for the experience. The agent and the conference coordinator just weren’t on the same page about practice pitches.


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