Thursday, June 16, 2011


You’ve most likely read more than one article about deciding which editors and agents might be interested in your story; crafting an impressive short pitch, long pitch and (the all-important) elevator pitch; what to wear, what to say, and what not to say; how to relax, how to take notes, and the importance of practice—and more.

I decided to share something new: Lessons Learned from my ‘disastrous’ First Pitch. Ever. 

I attended the 2008 RWA National Conference with my sister, who is also a romance writer. We were both Pitch Virgins. We ended up assigned to pitch to an agent we’d never heard of because…okay, I forget why. Stuff happens at conferences.

Anyway, we looked up our pitch target, Nathan Bransford. Turned out he worked for Curtis Brown, a reputable agency that’s been around forever. And he’d been writing one heck-of-a-funny industry blog for a couple of years. He was looking for all types of romance. We both relaxed a little after getting familiar with him through his blog.

When the time came for me to pitch, a Writer Who Will Not Be Named came unraveled all over the Conference Volunteer because somehow we’d both been slated for the same time slot with Mr. Bransford. I suspected  WWWNBN would see blood on the floor before she'd give up her spot.

I figured that mistakes happen, and no single pitch appointment is going to make or break my career, because I won't let it.  The mistake wasn’t the poor volunteer’s fault. So I smiled and told her to give WWWNBN my spot. After thanking me profusely, the volunteer promised to make sure I got a chance to pitch to...someone.

I waited with my sister for her pitch appointment. A few minutes later, the WWWNBN exited the Pitch Room with tears streaming down her face. Apparently the appointment she’d wanted so badly hadn’t gone well.

The volunteer who’d dealt with WWWNBN's tantrum approached me with a smile on her face. She was so grateful that I’d defused the situation that she’d spoken to Mr. Bransford, who graciously volunteered to give up part of his lunch break to hear my pitch.

I thanked her for her kindness, then bought Agent Bransford a roll of Lifesavers candy from the hotel gift shop (in case he was starved for lunch) as a token of my appreciation.

When the time came, we laughed together over my choice of candy. I pitched my not-yet-finished book to him and he asked me to query him when the book was complete. He told me to jog his memory in my query letter that I was the writer who brought him Lifesavers when he was starving, because he’d never forget that.

He forgave me for pitching an unfinished book; he learned I’m no diva; and he remembers me in a good way!  Who could ask for more from a first pitch?

So relax! Stuff happens.
Could be good news, could be bad news. You never know!


Paty Jager said...

What a great experience and it sounds so like you, Sarah!

I pitched to an agent at San Francisco who loved my horse necklace. We got off talking about horses more than my book but that was okay because I'd been told sometimes those encounters work better than real pitched.

Later that same day when I took a break from the conference and went to a kind of inside market?? Not sure how I got there or what it was. I was sitting drinking ice tea and watching the people when the agent came walking by with a tray of food looking for a place to sit. So I offered a spot at my table and we chatted some more.

I ultimately sent her my stuff and she graciously turned it down as too close to something she had. But I'd like to think I made an impression on her that if I comment about the horse necklace and the conference she'd remember. I don't know if I'll ever find out.. but it would be interesting.

Sarah Raplee said...

I bet she would remember, Paty! And yes, I DO have a tee shirt with a picture of a glass of water that says 'half full.' LOL

Who wants to be thirsty all the time?

Genene Valleau said...

Sarah and Paty, thank you for sharing your stories! Boosts my faith that we don't always have to wait forever for the Universe to hand out perks to those who are gracious.

Sarah Raplee said...

You're a woman after my own heart, Genene!

chanceofbooks said...

What an awesome story Sarah! What happened when you finally sent the query? Great advice wrapped up in a funny tale!

Sarah Raplee said...

cloudy, by the time i finished the book, Mr. Bransford had written and sold a middle-grade novel and retired from agenting to write full time.I'm still pitching the book, LOL.

Irony, they name is publishing!