Pitch Sessions Are Weird

This weekend, I had the opportunity to attend an agent pitch session. This is a very strange experience, and if you’ve never had the opportunity, I do recommend it.  I’ve never been a literary agent, or even in the position to do interviewing and hiring for a company, but I am human and so these are my thoughts on why pitch sessions are weird.

1. They are unnatural, totally forced, and subtly awkward for everyone involved. I think that both parties are feigning congenial and feel certain that it shows. I, personally, am quite congenial, but knowing I had 6 minutes to become Miss Congeniality was really strange. So, everything I said felt equally odd.(And some of it was).

2. With all the time constraints, you can barely remember the title of your manuscript, let alone anything interesting about it. Then, when you spout your over-rehearsed elevator pitch, you hear for the first time how cheesy it sounds. Alas, it is too late, so you smile strangely and and do an internal headslap.

3. There’s way to much eye contact issues. Do I look? Wait, am I staring? Quick, look away! Wait, now I’m avoiding eye contact. She’ll think I’m planning a heist, or something.  It’s tough. Plus, now you don’t know what she asked because you were arguing with yourself over where to look.

4. You might be mortified by uncontrollable sweating, clammy palms, lost voice, have a quivery voice, or other nerve related thing that you cannot control.  You will want to die, but you shouldn’t because it is nerve wracking to be judged like that, and everyone knows it. It’s like competing in a beauty pageant, hoping to be picked, or validated or worthy. Logically, we know that’s silly, but logic plays no role in seeking affirmation. Only afterward do we see clearly that it was just plain weird, but necessary, and that’s all.

5. Imagine now being the agent. Yes, we may think we know her due to our successful cyber-stalking, but we don’t, and she definitely doesn’t know us. To her, we are strangers and she’s just her. She has ticks and oddities like the rest of us, but we only know the interview face, the online presence that she has carefully designed to be professional. We mustn’t forget that agents and editors are people first. She could have spinach in her teeth as easily as us. (she didn’t – in case you wondered).

6. Now, imagine being her, sitting in a strange hotel, in a state you’ve never visited, while women you don’t know, parade a long line of other women to you, one at a time, warning each that she gets only 6 minutes of your time, then a knock of warning that one more remains. How bizarre would that be? Wouldn’t you be thinking, “who am I that they are so nervous? I burnt dinner last night.”“

7. You then sit and listen to pitches from people selling what you don’t buy, selling what no one buys, and some who are interesting. Regardless of content, how surreal would it be to listen to woman after woman and having to decide who is crushed and who is elated?

8. Final thoughts: Pitching is nuts. It doesn’t matter if you are the pitcher or the pitch-ee. It is the strangest thing and everyone should try it. It puts you out of your element, tests your resolve and reminds you that what doesn’t kill us certainly does build character. I’m very proud of myself for letting a stranger judge me. I put myself out there and didn’t let nerves stop me from trying something I wanted to try.

What I learned:

I learned that my inner Susie-Sunshine comes out when I’m nervous. I am a little excitable everyday, but apparently nerves make me more upbeat. It’s possible. You should have heard me.

I learned that I still want to be a public speaker who encourages and empowers women to reach for the stars, break through barriers and achieve their dreams. I knew that deep down, but only when asked spontaneously, “Where do you want to see your writing career take you?” That as naturally as if she’d asked my children’s names, I said “I want to use writing as a way to tell women that they can do whatever it is in life that they want to do. If they want to write, they can write. We truly can do anything if only we will stand our ground and persevere.” In the interest of disclosure because that sounds incredibly noble and coherent of me, I did not plan to say that. I didn’t realize how much it was true until I was saying it. Also, to reinforce an earlier point about nerves and talking, I informed the agent that if she told me that she was quitting her job to become an astronaut, I would believe that she would do exactly that. Yes, I called her an astronaut.

So, if you are preparing for, or considering an agent pitch, do it. You will be proud of yourself. You can do it. You will do great and be so glad that you faced your apprehension head on. Remember that the agent is a lady just like any one of your girlfriends. She understands, and its really odd on her side of the desk too.

Finally, you could get lucky and have just begun a new friendship with your future agent. You simply never know until you try.

Good Luck!

10 comments to Pitch Sessions Are Weird

  • Wow…I’m glad you had a good time. I’ve yet to attend a conference but I’m sure I will next year, and I feel a little woosy when I think about it. A pitch session would probably result in my being speechless and numb, but I’m glad you did well and enjoyed it!!

  • Julie Anne Lindsey

    Charissa! You will do an AMAZING job! You can practice on me!! I’ll listen, but you will knock her peep toe pumps right off, I just know it!

  • I felt the shiver of excitement when I read your Twitter post- the infamous pitch session. Where you in SCBWI, NV? How’d it go? It’s such a weird thing. I find I’m like super woman in those things! It’s a great way to make connections, but I feel it’s still hard to be noticed once all of those people start to descend on the unsuspecting agent like seagulls at the in August. Thus, I’m still in search of an agent… but full manuscripts are out. Let’s see what happens. How about you?

  • Julie! I was at the COFW conference in Columbus, Ohio. It was my first conference and I walked around like a tourist their first trip to NYC LOL. It was very very exciting!My writing career has so many random things going on that one of them simply MUST pan out ROFL. That’s what I keep telling myself! Thanks for your comment! You know, by following my blog, you’ll get in on those book giveaways beginning this week, and you won’t have to do anything! Free books rock :)

  • Oh my gosh, I would have been a wreck! It sounds like you were able to sound like an intelligent human being, and it sounds like you kept your calm. Well done! And good luck, I hope the agent loved your ideas!

  • Julie Anne Lindsey

    Julie! Eee! It was so stressful. In hindsight, I’m mixed between laughing at my impulsivity after practicing so much, on the other, I didn’t throw up on her shoe, so you know LOL!! Thanks for the comment!!

  • Valerie Haight

    Thank you so much for sharing with us what a pitch session is all about. I’ve often wondered what they entail. Two ways to pitch, like ordering online or by phone, right? Well, sounds like you did a wonderful job and I’m so jealous that I couldn’t be there with you, learning from the best. Can you stalk pitch sessions??? LOL!! Seriously, I’d like to be a fly on the wall to see how it’s done before I make a fool of myself. Way to go, Julie. I’m proud of you.

  • Julie Anne Lindsey

    Valerie! You have such an engaging personality! You will crush it like a big, slam dunk, manuscript sold, easy peezy! I just know it!

  • I’m a chump for free books! Who did you meet with?

  • Julie Anne Lindsey

    Hi Julie! I met with Cori Deyoe from Three Seas Lit. She was incredibly zen (or so it looked from my side of things) extremely lovely lady.

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