The big event for me going into the second day of #WDC15 was going to be Pitch Slam, essentially speed dating with literary agents, selling them on my current book. Not everyone who is attending the conference is pitching. There were 4 sessions and afterwords I was thrilled to have had the first one of the day at 10am because I think I might have lost my mind if I had to be the last one of the day. I wanted to get through it, waiting all day and agonizing on the pitch, having it run through my head would have cost me time listening in other sessions. Or just not going because I was nervous.
For once one of the most dreaded activities at a national or regional sales meeting in my day job life came in handy. In pharmaceutical sales, we have selling simulations at meetings. Taking place in ballrooms or convention area rooms, there are partitioned, curtained off “office” spaces and a rep usually in tandem with another rep, goes office to office in a selling situation. Sometimes there will be a true professional physician you are detailing, most often with a new detail aid, piece, brochure. The time allotted for the call will vary, usually there is a more lengthy call of 5- 10 minutes and then one that is about 3 minutes. We get graded by the physician who will then turn those sheets into training department who will send onto your manager in most cases. No pressure! sometimes we don’t have doctors but have other managers and folks for the training department who will play the role e of the doctor and either way it is nerve wracking even if you are a seasoned representative. You just never know but it is always great to have it behind you. We do a lot of role playing activity in these meetings call POAs, Plan of Action is one acronym for the abbreviation, that consist of detailing with a partner in a workshop.
When Pitch Slam session was offered and I read it was a 90 second pitch with 90 seconds of feedback, that 90 second pitch an “elevator speech”, language I have heard many times, I figured I can do this. Who knew that selling simulation actually had application anywhere else in my life? It is one of those things like high school algebra. You are sure you will never need that or use it in real life. Guess what, pharma version of algebra did actually prep me for this session that I considered to be one of the pivotal moments of my life!
Because I was up till 2am working revising and timing the pitch, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make the 9am session going on before it. As I said many attendees are not going to be pitching so sessions continue during the Pitch Slam times. I wanted to attend the session on writing the query letter but I had heard that people line up an hour before the pitch session because once you are in the room you will hurry to the table of an agent you have selected to see and possibly have to wait in line for them. It was important to look at the profiles of the agents to see what they rep and what they are specifically are looking for. At the previous day prep session it was suggested you get a top 4 or 5 because that might be all you see depending on the reps popularity lines could be long. You can see how quickly an hour will go if you are spending a good deal of it not pitching but on queue.
Sure enough when I got to the waiting area at 9am there was already a line of about 25 people deep, the first in line was a teenageish boy with his mom. I overheard him telling someone he was pitching a dystopian world YA (young adult) novel but it was different of course than others out there. Hmmmm. A woman lined up behind me and we chatted for a moment and then she asked if I wanted to practice my pitch with her. So I did. It was good to say aloud, not too loud to someone else and be timed. First count 1:47, second time through 1:29 seconds. Whew! think i had it. And she liked it. Hers was historical fiction based on a real story set in Louisiana. She had me at Louisiana as I love that state and books set there. More about her later.
I had scouted the profiles of the agents who would be at my session for those that had memoirs in their stable of book genres they represented. I narrowed to 6-8 targets, hoping to get to at least 5. When they opened the doors the line moved quickly in with a sense of urgency but enough decorum that barely kept people from running like the 4am doors at Wal-Mart on Black Friday shopping. In the pitch you give a title, genre and word count and a logline, the first sentence to try and hook them into the rest of your elevator speech. I would have been thrilled to have just one agent say my book pitch didn’t suck! Instead by the end of the frenzied hour, waiting in a few lines several folks deep, I had seen 5, one whose profile said memoirs but wasn’t really what she was looking for, she was the first and I didn’t know until after the pitch. She liked it though and i was glad for the practice. Better luck with the next four who all wanted manuscripts from 50 pages to the whole thing. The best line was from the last, “I think you’re a bestseller, and I like bestsellers!” Well, to say I floated out of there would be an understatement. Cloud Nine is too low as well!
I found Ms. Louisiana, as i will call my pitch practice partner along with Ms. Pennsylvania, both had also had great success in the pitch and it was like getting that bid on Bid Day from your first choice sorority and squealing and running to the bus. We were those girls in the middle of the Roosevelt Hotel lobby. It had been a long while since I felt that good about anything. Euphoria! I am confident I can safely reveal who these two Ms. gals soon. They have winners I know we will see on a bookshelf and it started here!
I couldn’t make the next session, it had already started when we were let out of the Pitch Slam. My two new writer acquaintances headed off to tend to their own private thoughts and I had an hour and a half before the next session i wanted to make. Found i was suddenly hungry i went to the street to find lunch, and at the bar and grill next block over celebrated over a great burger and vanilla martini. Giddy. Best burger and martini ever!
The rest of the day’s sessions were great with author Susan Shapiro (just finished her latest book my signed copy of What’s Never Said while on vacation, great!),editors Jessica Strawser, Editor at Writer’s Digest and Zachary Petit, Editor-in-Chief Print Magazine discussing submissions and connecting with editors for publications. Engaging and enlightening, it was perfect for the first session after my out of body experiences of the morning! Next I sat in on Nina Amir’s session on creating an author career plan, with nuts and bolts strategies to work not just publishing that book but what needs to happen around the book and me as an author to keep relevant and the career moving forward. Last session of the day was author Rebecca McClanahan’s discussion on creating memoirs, “crafting real life stories” which is up my alley. Frankly it was hard to choose from all the session offerings in each time frame during the day because almost all had something I could take and use in my writing life.
I have a writing life, a key takeaway from the day. Additionally, i am on my way!