Saturday, August 27, 2016

Only the Beginning: Pitching My Novel


Counting Down to Writer's Digest Conference | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
I began counting down the days in February.
Six months prior to the 2016 Writer's Digest Conference in New York City, I was sitting on my bed on a Saturday morning with a cup of tea and my laptop. Hubby was milling about the room, doing this and that with dogs and laundry and other lazy Saturday morning tasks. Suddenly, something deep inside my soul distracted me from sharing my weekly column on social media. I opened a new window in my browser and searched "writer's conferences."

The timing was right for the 2016 Writer's Digest Conference. It was six months away, but I could go ahead and register — I could commit, right then and there. I looked up through the top lens of my bifocals at Hubby and coyly asked, "Do you mind if I go to New York City in August for a writer's conference?"

Five months prior to this need to push my writing to the next level, I'd heard a debut "New York Times" bestselling author speak at a book festival. Robert Beatty talked that day about going to a writer's conference and pitching his book. His story inspired me. So, on a cold February morning, I registered for my first writer's conference. I also registered for the pitch slam event. Then I began researching how to pitch to agents during a pitch slam.
Pitch Slam Research | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
I stayed in the hotel, took what I had and
what I was learning and made my
pitch the best it could be. I also researched
the agents at the conference and selected
the ones to whom I wanted to pitch.

For six months, I practiced my pitch while I put my novel through another round of editing. I asked folks to beta read and provide feedback. I followed agents on Twitter. I tweaked and restructured. 

For six months, I counted down the days. My office white board had daily tasks listed:

  • Practice Pitch x2
  • Workout 45 min.
  • Journal
  • Work on Manuscript at Least 20 min.

That last one probably seemed a bit thin. Only 20 minutes? Yes, I could find 20 minutes in a day to pull up my manuscript on my laptop and work on it. The 20-minute goal got me started. Most days, once I began, I worked well past 20 minutes, sometimes logging hours as I toiled on chapter after chapter.

During the final weeks before the conference, I practiced my pitch incessantly. Hubby could recite it verbatim, as he'd heard it several times a day for two weeks. My dog, Lily, was also an attentive recipient of the pitch. 

Before the conference, my pitch included a 50-second description of the protagonist, antagonist and general plot, and a 10-second description of the genre and mechanics. I had done my research. I thought I was ready.
Over 400 conference registrants were planning
to attend one of four pitch slam sessions.
This is me at the pitch slam workshop session
the day before the pitch slam.

Then I arrived in New York. After the session on pitch slams, I had some tweaking to do. And, after receiving the final list of agents present for the pitch slam, I had some research to do. Four of the agents on my top-8 list of those to whom I endeavored to pitch were not at the conference. 

I spent my first three days in New York holed up in the conference hotel learning, tweaking, researching and practicing. My revised pitch was a full 90 seconds and included the following:

  • genre and mechanics
  • logline
  • description of protagonist, antagonist, plot and venues
  • comps

And while I had originally intended to dive into the pitch slam without any written version of my pitch, I chose instead to bring along speech notes and evoke all the speech-making skills I'd learned 25 years ago while a speech communication major at NCSU. 

The intense work paid off. Of the seven agents who heard my pitch, six requested my query and a number of pages.
Writer's Digest Conference Pitch Slam | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
I was about halfway between the
front and the end of the line
to enter my pitch slam session
on Saturday morning.

When I returned home, having learned quite a bit about writing, my own book, publishing, marketing, agents and more, I was compelled to add just a bit to my already completed manuscript. You might say I filled in a small plot hole. Other than that three-page tweak, I've decided to give that manuscript a rest.

While waiting to hear from agents, the sequel has decided to emerge. I'm barely one chapter in and thrilled about the process and where this story might take me. In the depths of my mind, the prequel is looming, as are other installations that provide the stories of other characters that emerged in the book that I pitched in New York. 

Will I land an agent? I am a better writer who now has a clearer understanding of the publishing process. So, yes, eventually, I will land an agent. It may or may not be one who listened to my pitch in New York City. But whether one makes an offer or they were all merely stepping stones to my eventual agent, I can honestly say the experience was well worth the effort, expense, work and wait. 
Charles Scribner's Sons Publishing NYC | Navigating Hectivity by Micki Bare
The day I finally got out
to see a little bit of NYC,
I walked right by this
gorgeous building. 

And now that the 2016 Writer's Digest Conference is behind me, I realize it was not the end of my experience with a novel I began writing three years ago. Rather, it was only the beginning.

Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, daughter & writer is the associate editor of Piedmont Parent and author of Thurston T. Turtle children's books. 
Email: mickibare (at) gmail.com
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Copyright 2016 Michele Bare

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