Everyone has a pitch story. Some are good (I sold my first book...it was a miracle!), some are bad (she hated me!), some are pathetic (I got spanked and lectured during my first pitch appointment). That last one actually happened to me. Since the NEC conference is fast approaching, I thought I would pen a blog about my first pitch and list the important life lessons I learned from the experience. In March 2008, just before our NECRWA Conference, I finished my first book. I was filled with enthusiasm. I was filled with elation. I was convinced that my totally unique, no-one-else-is-writing-a-romance-novel-about-Santa Claus idea was going to be received with similar enthusiasm by the agent I was pitching to. As I sat in that dreaded, tension-filled line with a group of cold, clammy writers reeking of desperation, I thought "Why am I so nervous about this?" I excelled at public speaking, I used to teach high school biology, I've given scientific lectures to hundreds of people, I think I can handle one measly agent. People emerged from the pitch room with smiles on their faces (she requested a full! she requested a partial! she is really nice!). I felt a little bit better. This was going to be just fine. Or not. After reading my well-prepared statement about Santa and his sons and all the hot romance going on in the North Pole, I received a lecture about the industry. First time authors do not publish in anthologies. December is the worst month of the year for romance sales. Needless to say, the Christmas theme was not received with warm enthusiasm. And worst of all, when she asked Which author are you like? I was caught totally unprepared. I thought I was supposed to be pitching my uniqueness, not comparing myself to someone else. I stumbled out of the appointment completely shell-shocked.
Lucky for me, I stumbled into a Quirky Lady who whisked me off to a quiet corner and attempted to calm me down. She kept reiterating, "The story wasn't right for her, but that doesn't mean it isn't right for someone else." (Writer's Life Lesson #1). She also helped me figure out a new game plan to market my book, downplaying the seasonal aspect, and emphasizing the sexy, paranormal aspect. We re-titled the story. I was still reeling at that point, but her support was huge. And I have since discovered that she was totally right about finding the right venue/agent/editor for my work. There are publishers actually looking for Christmas-themed, light paranormal short novels.
I was still shaking when I ran into Quirky #2. She whisked me off to another quiet corner and informed me that I was going right back into the viper nest to pitch again. There were still openings for appointments, and I was not going to have my first pitch experience crush me like a small bug. I argued. No way was I going back into that room. I would rather be tortured at gun point then put myself through that Hell. God help me, she wouldn't take no for an answer. She marched me right up to the front of the line, put my name on the list for an erotic e-pub editor (never mind that my story wasn't erotic!) and then she and her friend grilled me for half an hour, polishing my pitch. They were the voice of experience. They were the voice of reason. They were relentless. And guess what? They were right. I pitched to a really nice woman who actually loved my story idea and asked me questions about my manuscript. It didn't matter that my work wasn't right for an erotic e-pub. What mattered was that I ended the conference on a positive, upbeat note and felt good about pitching. Life lesson #2...the support system from fellow writers is enormously important. In fact, it never ceases to amaze me. Total strangers cheer for you when you final in a contest. Published authors actually give you the time of day and offer encouragement. The camaraderie of the NEC and especially The Quirky Ladies makes this writing business all worth it. I know there's a cheering section for me no matter what happens in the pitch room. And probably an apple-tini, too!