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Do You Have a Pitch Conference Success (or Horror) Story to Share? : Conversation question • Page 2 • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Do You Have a Pitch Conference Success (or Horror) Story to Share?

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
Maine Writer
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Re: Do You Have a Pitch Conference Success (or Horror) Story to Share?

Postby Maine Writer » Mon Nov 10, 2008 1:11 pm

I never really thought much about these conferences, but maybe someday I'll go - maybe Hawaii. Until then, I'll keep writing, and dream about the day when some agent takes interest in my writing.

Jamesaritchie
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RE: Do You Have a Pitch Conference Success (or Horror) Story to Share?

Postby Jamesaritchie » Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:13 am


jrtomlin
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RE: Do You Have a Pitch Conference Success (or Horror) Story to Share?

Postby jrtomlin » Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:22 am


Jim Lamb
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Re: Do You Have a Pitch Conference Success (or Horror) Story to Share?

Postby Jim Lamb » Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:00 am

This appears to be an old thread, but I would like to add an experience I had. This took place at my first Maui Conference and I was as green and as new as one could be. I bought four pitch sessions blindly, three agents and one editor (pitching to editors is not the best thing to do until you have a specific reason to speak with them or you have a marketable non-fiction proposal--IMHO). Here is what I would like to pass on to anyone that is planning to attend a conference. Before you go, do your homework because you can waste the $40/pitch in less than 10 seconds.

The bell rings and I hurry inside the hall. This is my first pitch ever--of any kind. I am trembling when I get to the table and there's Jeff Kleinman waiting with a smile. I shake his hand and I begin with my carefully composed, newbie, "What if..." pitch even before my butt touches the chair. Ten seconds in, he puts up his hands and asks me to stop. To paraphrase, he says, "I'm sorry, but I don't handle any work where children are in peril. I have kids and I just don't read that kind of story. Didn't you read my bio?" Nine minutes and fifty seconds remaining at $4/min and there's nothing else I can say about my book. I want to add that Jeff, being the pro he is, made those minutes worth every penny because of the advice he gave and how I should prepare myself for the rest of the conference. Whether he intended to or not, he changed my path as a writer and I owe him for that.

Preparation before you go to a conference is key. Over the years, the pitch sessions got easier and they are a great way to get firsthand information about what an agency/house is looking for and the type of people these agents/editors are. Many authors are found through pitch sessions, but not always directly through the pitch, but rather the connections and friendships formed. Having a requested submission is so much better than sending an unsolicited query--still, the prose will be the deciding factor. Ties and contacts are made even while standing in line waiting for that bell to ring. In my opinion, pitch sessions and conferences are an investment in one's career--especially, John and Shannon Tullius' Maui Conference due the caliber of writers, presenters, and publishing professionals associated with them.

As the Boy Scout slogan goes, "Be Prepared."

~ Jim

jrtomlin
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Re: Do You Have a Pitch Conference Success (or Horror) Story to Share?

Postby jrtomlin » Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:13 am

Jeff Kleinman, I've heard, is a really nice guy although he doesn't handle what I write. It sounds like he gave you some sound advice. I attend some conventions that I can attend without spending a fortune -- since I don't have a fortune to spend. Maui would be WAY out of my price range but the Willamette Writers Conference and the PNWA Conference both work for me. I find them well worth it for the contacts and most have workshops that are inexpensive as well.

Edit: Dean Wesley Smith recently wrote an article titled "Paying the Price" in which he discussed that if you're going to succeed at something on a professional level that it will have costs. It may be costs in attending workshops or writing when you'd rather watch television or not spending time with friends because you have a story to finish. Success isn't free.

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Re: Do You Have a Pitch Conference Success (or Horror) Story to Share?

Postby TerryRodgers » Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:30 am

I'm planning on attending my first pitch conference at the end of March in NYC. The cost of the 4 day conference includes 4 pitch sessions. The pre-conference homework is to write your pitch, of course, by looking at no less than five novels of your type. I have been working on my pitch for the last couple of months, using authors like James Rollins, Steve Berry, Greg Loomis and A.J. Hartley. I'm assuming one page single space, unless anyone out there that has been to a pitch conference thinks it should be longer. Should this be written like a synoposis? Besides the pitch, which may by a rough pitch based on the critique of the editor in each pitch session, what else should I bring along?

RambleDown
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Re: Do You Have a Pitch Conference Success (or Horror) Story to Share?

Postby RambleDown » Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:30 am

Oh man, do I have one to share.

So I had this idea for a game show and had teamed up with the former show runner for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Don't ask me who I had to sleep with, but we managed to set up a pitch meeting with the president of a major studio's TV division in NYC. Well, him and his right-hand-man who will forevermore be known to me as Parrot. Why? Because when El Presidente would say:

"I just don't know about X element."

Parrot would say:

"Yeah, I just don't know about it either."

Everything. Every single time he opened his mouth, he'd say exactly what his boss just said, but with a slight change up in the words, just so you didn't think it was EXACTLY the same.

So anyway, there I was, explaining how the whole show works, throwing out ideas for a host, assuring them that the licensing issues were all sorted out. It was going well. They were getting more and more excited as I went through it. Dollar signs were going off. All those wonderful things. Then:

EP: "I love it."

Parrot: "Yeah, me too, I really love it."

Me: "Great. So--"

EP: "Except for [The Major Hook and original part of the show]."

Parrot: "Yeah, that is a bit of a problem."

Me: "Uh."

El Presidente goes on to tell me that we have ourselves a deal if we'd only take out the part of the show that makes it original. "I could make a phone call right now, and you'd have yourself a show." Just take that part out. THE thing that makes it fresh. THE reason I got excited enough to concoct the show in the first place. And lemmietellya, inventing a game show is insanely complicated. Explaining it? Twice as complicated. Seriously, try to imagine the pitch for Jeapardy way back when...

So what happened? I held the line. No matter what they said, I said I would not take that part out. We ended the meeting with EP and Parrot telling me to think it over and get back to them. I followed-up with an e-mail explaining why I felt it needed to stay as part of the show.

And that was that. There are other reasons why you have not seen this show on TV (yet), but essentially, had I not done this, you would've seen it.

Here's the moral of the story: Say yes to El Presidente and Parrot when they tell you have a deal if you agree to change something. Make it work. I could have fought for it later, or at the very least, I would've had a show attached to my creditless name.

I was young and foolish. Lesson learned.

You may laugh, but what would you have done?

Jim Lamb
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Re: Do You Have a Pitch Conference Success (or Horror) Story to Share?

Postby Jim Lamb » Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:55 am

TerryRodgers, your pitch is not a page single or double-spaced; it is a few carefully crafted papragraphs that you say to the agent in a minute or less. This must contain your hook, your genre, word count, and main concept. From there, it is an exchange of questions and answers. Most agents do not want to read anything (Dan Lazar was an exception for me, but he spelled that out in advance.) Be prepared to answer these questions: "Why did you write this book?", "What makes your story different?", "What format do you envsion? (e.g. hard cover, trade paperback, etc.)", and "What books are similar to your book?"

Hope this helps,

(Ramble Down, I can only imagine how many times you've kicked your own butt on that one.)

~ Jim

TerryRodgers
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Re: Do You Have a Pitch Conference Success (or Horror) Story to Share?

Postby TerryRodgers » Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:33 am

Thanks Jim. So it's like an oral examination. So I should write all my notes on 5 x 7 cards and study them right before the exam.

RambleDown
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RE: Do You Have a Pitch Conference Success (or Horror) Story to Share?

Postby RambleDown » Tue Mar 10, 2009 11:44 am


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