Monday, July 27, 2015

PNWA Conference 2015

I attended the annual Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, just as I did last year. This is a great opportunity to pitch one’s manuscript to agents and editors.

But first, I had to get in. When I pulled up to the parking garage, one car was right ahead of me, and one was at the gate that should go up. Nothing was happening. Finally, a woman in the car ahead of me got out and talked to the driver at the gate. Then she came back, made eye contact with me, said “You need to go back,” and got in her car.

Great. Great communication skills. I hope she’s not a writer.

Those of you who follow this blog might remember my unpleasant experience at this same garage at night back during Norwescon.

As usual, the main events were the pitch sessions. Those of us who signed up would be allowed to pitch our manuscripts to agents and editors, four minutes at a time. It’s best to summarize your novel in just one minute, then let the professional ask you questions for the rest of the time.

Instead of trying to summarize the whole plot, try to point out what’s unique about your character, then describe how that character encounters the first major conflict in the story.

People gather twenty to thirty minutes before a pitch session. This is a time when many desperately go over their pitches. When the doors open, it’s not quite as bad as the start of a rock concert. It’s more like when a Costco opens.

Inside, people fan out and find the editor or agent they want to pitch to first. The first people in line get to stand with their toes on a white line, just like in school. When a bell rings, they can go forward and pitch to that agent or editor. When the bell rings again, they have to leave and let the next person come up. The first person is free to get in line for another agent or editor.

I was first in line for the editor I wanted to pitch to. All I can say is it didn’t go well, and that person was not interested in my vampire parody. But I got in line for another editor. She was somewhat skeptical about my science fiction novel Day 10K, but she said to send her the first ten pages. Then there was time to get in line for an agent. She liked my idea for The War of the Worlds and Fairies, so she said to send her the first chapter.

So, mixed results. But you can’t get these results without trying. These editors and agents who go to these conferences want new clients. And they want to meet with you in person, to see that you’re not some guy living in his mother’s garage. If you’re a wannabe writer, don’t you want to do this same thing? 


Abigail said...

I was a little skeptical of the power pitch format at first, but despite all the waiting in line, I liked it because I got to talk to more agents/editors than when we had to sign up for 1:1 appointments. But there was a prodigious lot of waiting in line.

I thought 4 minutes was enough time. I made my pitch very short and let them ask me questions. I also got a variety of responses, from enthusiastic to ehhh, but hey, even one yes is great! Like you say, no one can ever say yes if you don't pitch it.

Stephanie Faris said...

I wish I could find a conference buddy in the Nashville area to go with me to SCBWI! That's what we all need in the blogging community--conference buddies! Those things are not as much fun alone, right? But getting there and navigating around is always the toughest part for me!


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