This past Saturday, I attended Books Alive!, the Washington Independent Review of Books writers conference held annually in the DC area. While there are panels and talks like every conference, the thing about this conference that attracts so many attendees, I think, is the chance to pitch your book to agents. I met with four of them: by far the most nerve-wracking exercise of my writing life.
I’ve been working on my book pitch for months, since before AWP in February, but I was still really nervous. What if I left something out? Or worse, what if I forgot my lines? Or even worst, what if they interrupted me with a question about my book that I didn’t know the answer to?
All of the agents would be sitting at desks in the room, and it would be very similar to speed dating, not unlike what I’d done with editors at the Barrelhouse conference the week prior. We got six minutes with the agents to deliver our pitch, ask any questions we might have, and to basically see if we hit it off or not.
As I entered the room for the first time, my heart nearly blasted out of my chest.
I sat in front of my first agent, a girl who seemed about my age, maybe even younger, actually. She introduced herself to me, then asked what I was writing. I said, “Should I just jump into my pitch?” My hands were shaking. She said, “Sure.” And I did. I delivered my pitch! I didn’t forget my lines! I didn’t choke!
“You did great!” She said.
“I feel so much better,” I said, audibly exhaling.
Then she said my story sounded interesting and she asked me to send her my first 20 pages and a synopsis! It’s a big deal for an agent to ask to read pages; they can decide later if they’re not interested, but their request for pages shows initial interest.
My second meeting went well enough. The agent was nice, but she doesn’t really represent memoir unless the author is a celebrity or has a really extensive platform. Same for my third meeting.
But the fourth one requested pages, too! She was really conversational, and after I’d given my pitch three times, I was nowhere near as nervous, so I imagine that helped.
So, two out of four agents requested pages. 50% is not bad at all!
My next step is to edit the beginning of my book to make sure it’s a real hook/line/sinker. Progress! 😀