Ninety Seconds Stark Terror

The Pitch Slam—or Pitch Slap—is that moment in a writer’s life when you are for the first time across a table from a living, breathing literary agent.  For the writer, this person is more important to you than your beloved, your mother–even your dog.

The hardest part of writing a 350-page novel is writing the three-paragraph query letter that summarizes you, your story, and why you’re good business potential.  Now you  deliver a version of it in 90-seconds.

Your heart beats so loud it drowns out the buzz of the 500 other hopefuls crowded into a chilly hotel meeting room. Under their breath they are all reciting the memorized 90-second pitch—the summary—the highlights, the peaks they hope will excite the attention of the literary agent.

Beep—the gong goes off. Where you were fourth in line, suddenly you’re up. You slide into the chair and you start talking. Fast. Shut up after 90 seconds and answer the agent’s questions.

For the agent it’s a cold-blooded business decision. You are both sizing each other up, like wolves meeting on a forest path. The agent is asking: Can I make money off this work? Is she crazy? Is she a diva? Can she write?

Why are you the person to write this book? Why now? Who do you write like? Are you anybody out there in the real world? Why would anybody buy your books?

The first agent I pitched interrupted me to ask which detectives I knew in the Santa Monica Police Department.  The next one handed his card over and growled at me to read the Submission Guidelines before I sent anything. The third smiled sweetly and said, “Sounds interesting. Send it to me.”

So I guess it’s three for three. It wasn’t worse than a spinal tap. Actually, it couldn’t have gone better.

This life-changing event took place at the Writer’s Digest West 2012 conference in Hollywood October 19-21-2012. A mix of sessions offered opportunities to learn the craft of telling a story, either in novel or screenplay format, and how to sell your work.

My brain is still fizzing with excitement at everything I learned.  Conferences are expensive, but so worthwhile.

I was invited into a mystery writer’s group in Santa Monica.  This is a big deal to me. Writers need beta readers, especially other mystery writers.  I met some people I like I hope to get to know better.

I learned that I have to ask you, my readers. I need reviews. If you are willing to review my books on Amazon and Goodreads, ask me and I’ll make a copy free to you.

Just ask, they say. I’m asking.



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7 Responses to Ninety Seconds Stark Terror

  1. Leslie Bricker says:

    Three for three is amazing–kind of like batting a thousand? Apparently you ‘pitch’ as naturally and as entertainingly as you write.

  2. Mar Preston says:

    Thanks, Leslie. It was the farther thing from “natural” speech I can imagine.

  3. Dan says:

    Sounds like work, work, work. First you have to brain bleed to write it, then sell, sell, sell. Is it fun?

  4. Mar Preston says:

    I might answer you differently on another day, but as I sit here trying to figure out which of the great ideas I heard about at the conference I should do next–today’s it’s all work. Sometimes I wish I could just let myself relax with a crossword puzzle.

  5. Helga Schier says:

    Love the summary, Mar. I was at the same conference. I didn’t pitch, as I’m and editor, not a author, but I heard the hearts beating as hopeful writers rehearsed their pitches. Yes, terror it is. Like your first day in high school or your first date or your first day on a new job. Just that important, too. But rest assured that agents really do want to find a manuscript that’s a good fit for them, and once they do find it , they’ll be in your corner. Best of luck!

  6. BC says:

    Good for you having the courage to attend! Nothing scarier than being judged. Your experience reminds me of agent related things I experienced long ago. BC

  7. Rosalie says:

    Mar! You are entertaining even when you write ABOUT being a writer! Tell us that you contacted those three people immediately afterwards. And, remember, we are all good-news junkies, so when the good news come in … we’ll be expecting it! Rosalie

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