3 Reasons Why You Should NEVER Pitch at BEA

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I've said it before—and many other people have said it, too—but it always bears repeating.

Do not go to the BookExpo America trade show to pitch your book or self-published book to a traditional publisher or to an agent.

The only exception to this rule are well-known authors who get into the trade show by invitation of a publisher, and are already networking/connecting with publishing professionals.

BEA is not a candyland of publishers and agents offering you a sweet opportunity to get your project noticed. It is NOT like shooting fish in a barrel, it is NOT fun, and it is likely to KILL your chances at a deal.

Three reasons why:

  1. Agents/editors do not like to be pitched on the show floor. Most have to take care of existing authors/clients and have many other obligations and meetings while at the show. We're also dirt-tired, thirsty, and cranky as the day wears on.
  2. The trade show is for and by publishing industry professionals. That's why it's called a trade show. You wouldn't go to a trade show for lawyers and prospect for a new lawyer, would you? You don't go to a trade show for publishers and do prospecting, either.
  3. If you decide you're the exception to the rule, and decide to pitch anyway, you'll have trouble finding the right people to pitch (very few editors actually attend BEA—it's mostly sales/marketing/executives), and once you DO find them, they will likely put a black mark next to your name, diminishing your chances of success later.

I've attended BEA for five years, and each year I am pitched on the show floor by people I don't know. I never enjoy it, and I have never pursued or signed a project as a result. The meetings that HAVE been productive (usually with authors and their agents) are those where an appointment was made well in advance of the show.

Apparently, BEA has recognized there is a contingent of attendees who are not bringing "value," and they have cut down the "miscellaneous industry professional" category by 1,350. You read more on BEA show director Lance Fensterman's blog. (And it will be a smaller show this year, for many reasons.)

Recognizing that many writers were trying to use the trade show in hopes of advancing their careers, BEA partnered with Writer's Digest in 2003 to create a one-day conference for writers with an opportunity to pitch editors and agents. And so the BookExpo America / Writer's Digest Books Conference was born.

This year, even if not attending, you'll be able to follow along on Twitter: #wdbea09

A few of my favorite breakout sessions this year include:

  • The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass — based on Don's all-new book for us this spring. Don is known as a superlative speaker on the craft of fiction. Not to be missed.
  • Self-Promotion & Social Networking by Alice Pope — one of our most active editors in social media will teach writers the ropes of using Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to help grow your career.
  • The Closet Writer's Workshop: How to Write Fiction That Sells by N.M. Kelby — we're very proud to feature award-winning novelist N.M. Kelby at our conference for the first time this year. Later in 2009, Writer's Digest will release her craft & technique title, The Constant Art of Being a Writer.

The conference will also feature past favorites Christina Katz, with a super session on platform building; editor Chuck Sambuchino, who will help you practice your pitch; and yours truly, speaking on do-it-yourself publishing options. Plus nearly the entire Writer's Digest crew will be there! We can't wait to meet you. Read more about our program and pitch session.

Registration is still open! Click here.

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