-Fly to New York Saturday morning and back to Chicago Saturday night (18 hour trip)
-Pitch to seven agents at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference
-Three total minutes to deliver pitch; 90 seconds for the delivery and 90 seconds for a response
The other challenge:
-Strategize – Work the room. There are other authors in the room pitching. Lines will happen.
This past Saturday I attended the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York!
On Saturday, I left the baby with grandma and I flew out of Chicago at 5 in the morning. Yes, I was tired. When we arrived in New York, I went straight to the Roosevelt Hotel where the conference was being held. My hubby, Ger, was there with me. He sat with me for 30 minutes telling me that I had worked this hard for so many years for this moment. It was almost time to pitch to agents. His words were beyond encouraging. He left to have lunch with a friend, and I sat there for the next three hours reviewing my pitch and the agents I had been researching.
There were seven agents I wanted to speak with. I will not list their names here. When it was a half hour before the pitch start I went to line up. I went to the waiting area and found the biggest line of my life! I kid. The line wasn’t that big, but it was a line nonetheless. The stressful part about standing in line was that everyone wanted to chat. I didn’t want to be rude. I flew here for one day to do this. This is my dream, my life, what I’m meant to do, and I just didn’t think this was the right time to chat, because I wanted to relish on the words of my pitch. The doors opened. The line filed in and I remember standing in the center of the room in a panic. I had no idea where to go or what to do – even though I had been researching this for what seemed forever. Then, I looked across the room, and there, agent #1 and she didn’t have anyone seated with her! BOOM.
Agent 1: I sat down, awkwardly, held out my business card and started immediately into my pitch. She leaned in, listening, and smiled. Yes, I’ve got this. At the end, she told me it sounded great. She handed me her business card and told me to send her the first 3 chapters. I had a business card and a request, all under three minutes. WOW!
Agent 2: There was a line. One person ahead of me. The person left before the bell rang. I suppose the agent told them they weren’t a fit for their work. I sat down. The agent was pretty stone face, beautiful, but stone face. I went right into the pitch, after again awkwardly handing her my card. She smiled a few sentences into my pitch. YES. At the end of my pitch, she said she loved the idea, that it was incorporating historical facts with the present. I got a business card, a request for the first 3 chapters or 50 pages. This happened all under three minutes.
I got up, and searched for the next person on my list. This was a huge ball room with tables lined all along the walls. There were at least 50 agents from all of the large New York agencies represented.
I felt dizzy.
Oh, I realized – I haven’t eaten – since yesterday and I’m literally running on fumes of caffeine. I just couldn’t eat earlier because I was too nervous. I had my gold star agency in my view, but the line was the longest in the room. I needed to strategize. There was my other gold star agency. I needed to pick a line, and wait.
Agent 3: The longest line of my life! In front of me however was this darling girl who I was really rooting for. She left her business cards in her room, and she jumped out of line to go get them, and I saved her spot. Good human moment points for me. When it was my turn, I sat down. Have I mentioned how beautiful these agents are? Well, they are! This agent, I feel, gave me the hardest hit questions, and here’s why. I sat down, did my pitch, and right after my pitch she says ‘Let me ask you a few questions.’ The first two had immediately given me their cards, but this one was going to make me work for it. Here were some of her fantastic questions:
Agent: Is this more literary or thriller?
Me: Both, my MFA has formally trained me as a literary writer, but I enjoy popular fiction.
Agent: How does the ending conclude? Does it end with our protagonist being redeemed?
Me: Yes, but there are still sad elements. Somethings are always lost.
Agent: Who has influenced you, particularly, for this work?
Me: Jorge Luis Borges. I enjoy magical realism and incorporate those elements into my work.
Agent: Here’s my card…
YES! Another card. There were more questions, but this agent had me there the full 3 minutes. She really seemed business oriented. She seemed like she would be a great boss who would push me to do more.
Agent 4: I approached agent four and was shocked there was no line. I sat down and delivered my pitch. The agent didn’t seem too excited. The agent asked if my book was heavy on the history, and I said it highlighted history without being too heavy. Then, the agent proceeded to tell me that they’re having a difficult time these days selling paranormal work. That surprised me, but I still got a card and a request. Again, this agent didn’t seem thrilled with the work, but I still got a card. I will still send the materials for their review.
Agent 5: I sat down, started delivering my pitch and then realized I made a cardinal mistake – Agent 5 was part of the SAME agency as agent 3. You are not supposed to pitch to 2 agents at the same agency. I figured at this point, I’m here – go with it. I’ll only pick one to formally pitch to if I get a card. I got a card. BAM!
Agent 6: MY DREAM AGENCY. Why? Because they represent my dream client! The line was long. It had been long all session. There were only 20 minutes left and there were still a few people ahead of me. This was likely going to be my last pitch. I needed to deliver. I needed to be great, but I was so nervous and doubting myself. Then, this woman standing in front of me turns around and out of the blue says “You know, you just have to have fun with it.” She was right. I believe God speaks to you through people when he needs to get something communicated to you, and these words helped me so much. I was next. I didn’t fumble with my card. I didn’t fumble with anything. I shook her hand, sat down, and went into my pitch. It was my strongest yet. When I concluded her mouth dropped. She was speechless. She brought out her card and gave me some strong instructions to follow to send my partial. I wanted to cry I was so happy. Her questions were fantastic, and her questions made it seem like this is it, Cynthia, you’ve got an agent, almost.
Agent 7: There were 3 minutes left. Agent 7 had 1 person in line. When that one person was done, I sat down and delivered. She liked the idea and requested more.
Overall, here are my stats:
Number of agents pitched
Number of requests
Type of requests
Partial (First 3 chapters or 100 pages)
I’m excited. I have a lot of hard work ahead of me. I’m in the race, and I see it guys – I see my dream right there waiting for me. I’m going to work so hard to get this.
Dear agent, please represent me!!!