Just over a month until the PNWA Summer Conference. July 19th will mark the one year anniversary of when I ventured out into the publishing battlefield with shaky hands and five-inch Steve Madden pumps (poor life decision right there). It feels like just yesterday when people, who are now dear friends of mine, were shoving me out of line in the direction of Vickie Motter. Let me tell you, no amount of public debate, theater, or confidence will make that first pitch any easier. You'll still feel like you're going to throw up all over the poor agent as you stumble through your pitch. After that first pitch though it's smooth sailing. You walk away feeling like a boss with a swagger in your step and a request for fifty pages. I think last year I must have pitched to almost twenty different agents and editors. So here are some notes to bear in mind if you're going to attend a conference based off my experience.
- Research! Like a fool I found myself pitching to anyone with an agent name tag, some of which didn't even represent my genre. It was very embarrassing to say the least but more importantly it was rude. Agents and editors are very busy during these things and I felt like I was wasting their time pitching to them.
- Make friends! Odds are everyone there is a little tense. We're presenting our babies and it's nerve wracking! Find people, even if they aren't in the same genre as you, and network. There is always something you can learn from them. I ended up finding all sorts of great people who now makeup my writers group.
- Comfortable shoes! Learn from my mistakes. You can still look fabulous in flats, and your feet will thank you.
- Seminars. Are. Awesome. These things aren't just about pitching. There are TONS of classes being held every hour and if I wasn't busy in a pitch session I was all over them. The best part is there are classes for everyone and every genre of writing, so be sure to look through the schedule ahead of time to plan out your days.
- Be prepared! I can't tell you how many people I met last year who were pitching unfinished work. These conferences are very expensive and I don't know why you'd bring something to pitch which isn't even done. Hello? You have to go back and edit it all too! Take your time. Get together something you're proud of and ready to show the world.
- Lastly! Take notes! Self explanatory. Especially if someone is requesting material from you! Note how they want it sent and how much of it they want. Last year, a week after the conference, I was getting texts from people I'd met, asking "Do you know what Mr. Agent's submission guidelines were?"
And above all, breathe. It's scary. Believe me. I think of myself as a very confident person, to a fault at times, but the first day of the conference nearly gave me a heart attack. Keep calm. Pitch. Have fun.