I’ve been at this for awhile and have seen my writing improve, made small and encouraging steps toward my ultimate goal of publication, and have come to rely upon the invaluable support of fellow writers. I don’t believe an aspiring writer can encourage people along this path unless he/she has experienced a multitude of pitfalls and the joys of incremental success.
So true. Welcome, Christy!
The Pain of the Pitch
My family loves to watch American Idol. We laugh and cringe our way through the auditions, marveling at the talent and the moxie of the contestants. But I have a confession to make: despite the fact that my husband and kids watch every episode religiously, I take about a four week break between Hollywood and the later live shows. Why, you ask? Because even though I would never dream of entering a singing competition, watching American Idol during those early weeks of the contest is a very close analogy to editor and agent pitch appointments. Watching literally makes my stomach hurt.
While I’ve never faced an editor or agent as fierce and brutally honest as Simon Cowell, they may as well all have British accents and wear v-neck sweaters. Quite simply, they hold what feels like my future in their hands–and they can see and smell my fear. That doesn’t mean I have body odor, it means I have all the telltale signs of stage fright: sweaty palms, cotton mouth, and trembling hands. It doesn’t matter how many times I have re-written and practiced my pitch, when I have to face them across the table and try to sell them my story, I’m like a house of cards on the verge on collapse. And when my almost two hundred rejection letters (for three separate manuscripts) waltz silently into the room behind me, it’s hard not to anticipate the fall.
Do these agents and editors have that much power?
No, of course not. Unlike American Idol, whether I put my best foot forward or fall flat on my back, one pitch appointment won’t make or break my chance to become a published author. Heck, they probably won’t even remember me. No matter how disastrous my performance, I will probably become, in the famous words of Simon Cowell, “completely forgettable.” In this case, I couldn’t be happier because unless they don’t buy what I’m selling, I’ll get the chance to send them a partial, and then my writing can do the talking.
But here’s an important thing to remember: agents and editors are people too. They have husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, sisters, brothers, kids, dogs and cats just like the rest of us. They have to pay their rent or mortgage, grocery shop, compulsively shoe shop (oh, wait–that’s just me), pitch our books to editors or their bosses, and face rejection daily just like we do. So why am I so afraid to talk to these people?
As I recently discovered after spending seven hours in a small airport with an agent, she’s no more intimidating than I make her out to be in my mind. So the next time I wander into a room full of important people and try to convince one or all of them to love my novel, I’m going to think about that agent on the phone with her mother and remember that they hate pitch sessions as much as I do. Maybe we should just relax and talk about…well, American Idol!
Readers, how do you combat your nerves before pitching your story to agents and editors? Have a story to share? The floor is yours.
Photo courtesy Flickr’s Michelle Schantz (Schantzilla)