Pitch Slam–One Writer’s experience

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The Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam is a can’t be missed opportunity to get your work to agents.

On Saturday morning, I had moths chewing through the wool of my stomach. Serious nerves. Anticipation nerves.

So I lined up early. 50 minutes early. I was third in line for the central Park East room.

Three hours to the pitch slam, but the agents were alphabetically split up into 4 separate rooms.

This presents a problem because all my agents are ranked according to fit for my book, but agent choice 1,2,3 are in 3 separate rooms, which forces me to break order and hit whoever was on my list in that room for expediency.

I lined up to go into Central Park East. Met two lovely writers ahead of me. Luckily, we were each targeting a different agent, so no blood shed over our first pitch.

As soon as Chuck Sambuchino gave us the okay we raced to our first choice.

I’ll be honest, I was nervous but I was excited to finally pitch this book.

I had written my pitch a month ago so I went through it pretty well. The agent didn’t like the paranormal element and said to query her.

Instead of debating or arguing, I accepted her response with a polite okay and thanks.

I moved on to my next agent. People were still pouring into the room. I was number 9 in line. Ugh. 24 minutes until I got to pitch.

The other writers were awesome. We chatted and joked our way up to the front.

This agent said strong pitch but not for me.

For some bizarre reason this isn’t ruffling my feathers. I anticipated this book would be a hard sell because it’s a mixed genre book.

I check out another agent in that room but her line is 10 long and I don’t want to miss out on other agents.

So I head into the next room, Central Park West.

I get in line for an agent I think is a great fit. Six people in front of me which means 18 minutes waiting. I strike up a conversation with Kim, the lady in the line next to me. We make the best of the wait, cheering each other on.

This agent and I click. We are laughing at my pitch together. She seems to really enjoy the story. She requests the partial. I start to get up and she invites me to stay and chat since my 3 minutes aren’t up yet. I manage to make her laugh a bit more.

The other agent I wanted to hit in that room has a long line so I decide to circle back. I race out of the room, road runner down the stairs and gallop to the other set of rooms.

I have several targets in Empire West. The top pick has a long line but I figure I have time. The line flies by with the help of a Jessica from CT. We exchange cards.

This agent also likes my pitch and requests the partial.

I jet across the room to an agent who tells me telepaths aren’t for her. Mind you I flubbed my pitch and got tongue tied but i did manage to recover. But valid point. With a polite Thanks, I head for my next target.

This Agent has a long line. Like 9 people. Ugh. But I’m good on time. So I get in it.

When I pitch her she makes eye contact the whole time. I don’t drop my gaze to my notes. Thank God I memorized it!

She says it’s not for her, but then gives me two referrals to agents who would like it. That was so unbelievably kind and above the call of duty.

Only bad call I made all day was sucking on sour candies to keep my mouth from drying out. I stuck the candy in my cheek like a chipmuck to talk and it dissolved between my gum and cheek. This kinda burned that area of my mouth. I alternated sides so both ache. Next conference I’ll stick to mints.

I hit my next agent. Her line is only 4 people. Still good on time, so I wait.

She requests a partial too.

Now it’s a race down the hall back to Central Park rooms to try and snag my next agent. There is a huge line 10 people for the agent in CPE I wanted. That will eat up most of my time left. Shoot. So I check the agent I want in CPW.

Her line is shorter so I go in for her. She is absolutely lovely and asks a few questions even after she requests the partial.

I’m grinning from ear to ear. But when i return to CPE, the agent line i wanted now has a last pitch sign given out. This means the person with that sign is the last pitch. Darn.

Like a New Yorker at rush hour, I speed walk and dodge people trying to get back to the Empire rooms. In Empire East, the agents I want all have writers holding last pitch signs. So I skedaddle into Empire West. I find two agents that don’t have big lines. So I jump in line and pitch one. Get my sixth request!

I have ten minutes left. One agent has no line, but I already have a cold query partial out to her agency. Darn. I scan the room. Everyone has last pitch cards. I race next door. Same situation. I fly down the hall. Same situation. The ones without lines don’t take my genre or already rejected me via cold query. Ugh.

So I stop at 9 pitches with 9 minutes left to go.

I’m helium balloon bouncing on the ceiling. Adrenaline is pumping. Mind is firing on all levels.

I go upstairs, get my stuff and head back to A’s apartment.

Out of 9 pitches, I got 6 requests and one referral. That’s more than I dreamed possible.

Thank you to Writer’s Digest for making this possible.

Also a huge shout out to Emmie Mears who is a delight to hang out with in NY and an awesome fellow blogger. So glad we got to meet and actually have a couple meals together.

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33 Responses to Pitch Slam–One Writer’s experience

  1. Wow, that’s amazing, congratulations! I’ve never heard of being able to pitch to agents like this – is this unique to the States or do we have these in the UK too? Sounds so exciting. I’ve got my fingers crossed for you with the follow-ups!

  2. Lindsay Holland says:

    That sounds so promising!!!!! Good luck!!!!!!!

  3. It's the little things that make life great.berry says:

    How stressful . Sounds promising. Keep fingers crossed. Good luck.

    • The anticipation was the worst. Once I started pitching it was boom boom boom. Down to business. My fellow writers helped tremendously by chatting in line and giving encouragement. Wonderful people there.

  4. Jenny says:

    You had an awesome run, Kourtney! I don’t know if I could have done that. I’m so nervous talking in front of people, especially about my book.

    Please keep us posted if any of those requests turn into fulls. How exciting. Bravo to you. Love your enthusiasm.

    • Jenny, the only way I got over my shyness was writing organizations & conferences. Talking to other writers about my book. Gauging their reactions. It was great practice and helped me fine tune my pitch. Pitch Slam is the last stop on a long train ride. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. crubin says:

    Thanks so much for giving us insight as to what goes on in this “pitch slam”. I would love to check out that conference next year. Good luck with your submissions!

    • It’s such a unique experience, I had to document it. I’ve been to a few conferences that had 1-3 pitches scheduled that lasted from 5-10 minutes. After doing two Pitch Slams, I think it’s my favorite way to pitch. filling up ten minutes leads to an inordinate amount of rambling on my part and eye glazing on the agents part. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’m still in the city on my iPad so I won’t be sending partials out until next Monday when I’m back at my laptop. But I’ll definitely let you know how things progress. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. jmmcdowell says:

    Like Jenny said, please keep us posted on what happens! You are totally going forward!

  7. winsomebella says:

    I am so impressed with what you accomplished and the attitude you take with you. Loved reading how something like this works–thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks so much. It’s so hard when you’re in it to stop and appreciate what you’ve accomplished without yet having any tangibles, like an agent. It’s such a one of a kind event, I decided it needed an entire blog post. ๐Ÿ™‚ I highly recommend it as a final conference. After you’ve gone to another one to hone your pitch and workshop your manuscript. This is the place to try to get the agent not to do the prep work.

  8. ottabelle says:

    I’m so happy for you! I would be so nervous doing that. I don’t know if I even could, because of all of the other people.

    You also kept your chin up, even though it started rocky. That’s amazing too. And you had a great turn-around!

    • It’s really nervewracking. Oddly enough, cold querying and garnering rejections helped me learn to not take it too personally. Going to writing critiques at conferences and with writing organizations like RWA and Backspace helped me prep for this too.

      But I still got nervous. I just reminded myself I haven’t failed until I give up. And I kept going. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Laura says:

    I can’t imagine how insanely nervous that would make me! So much great news !! good luck and congrats!

  10. snagglewordz says:

    Success! How are the adrenaline levels now? I felt mine rise just reading the post! Such a promising exercise, wishing you even more success on the next step. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Been hungry for two days. Nerves killed my appetite at the conference. Still content. I love the time after a request and before a reaction. Swarming with possibilities. Thanks so much for your support and kind words. It’s nice to not be in this alone!

  11. Thanks for the mention! I haven’t gotten around to blogging about my experience yet, but expect me to drop your name!

  12. So stoked for you! Congrats on your success. Wishing you oodles more. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Very cool. Congratulations! And what a fun blog post to read : )

  14. 4amWriter says:

    Great post Kourtney, I went to the pitch slam last January (2011) and had a blast too. That year they had all the agents in one room, not four. I think I like how they set it up this year better–sounds less like a cattle drive!

    Good luck with your requests. I hope something pans out for you.

    4amWriter aka Limebirdkate ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Kate, I was there in 2011 too, but for a different manuscript. I loved it. I hated the cattle drive aspect, but I liked being able to scan the room and check out all the lines without running to the other end of the floor. Thanks *fingers crossed* an agent will fall in love and propose. ๐Ÿ˜›

      If not, I just keep cold querying.

  15. kathils says:

    OMG I was breathless just reading that! LOL Was your pitch basically what your query would have been? Or did you formulate something totally different? Congrats on the partials, I hope something comes through. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks for stopping by K.L.! I honed my query at the Backspace Agent-Author Seminar conference. We sat in groups of 8-12 writers with two agents. I revised it overnight based on feedback and got lots of positive responses on the new version. Once I had the best query I could, I tweaked a couple lines but basically went with the query as my pitch. I made sure the query had a mix of long and short sentences so that it was easy to say aloud too. Thanks so much, I am cautiously hopeful. Last year when I did Pitch Slam, I got requests on my other manuscript, but it didn’t lead to representation.

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