As the Mad Anthony Writer’s Workshop (April 4-6) draws near, e-mails fly back and forth. Nita, my writing partner, and I help each other put finishing touches on our pitches.
Nita with her Bluebells
In the writing business, a “pitch” is a one-to-three minute elevator speech to an agent communicating what is distinctive about our work in a pithy and compelling way. It is intended to stimulate the agent’s interest in representing our book to a publisher.
Rita Rosenkranz, an agent with her own agency in NYC, comes highly recommended to Nita by two other writing professionals. Nita recommends that I pitch to her. Checking her webpage, I find that she represents memoirists including those with a spiritual theme. You-tube videos of presentations she’s given at other writer’s conferences reveal an approachable woman.
Nita and I spend months preparing, reading books and articles about how to pitch. I take a class. We read what the agents themselves have to say about it. We find no one consistent format. We try out our pitches on each other and others for feedback. I find the whole process nerve wracking and the prospect of giving a pitch intimidating, much harder than writing the memoir itself. I need an attitude adjustment.
I tell myself, “Not everyone pitches to a New York agent. It’s an adventure. I’ll be proud of myself for doing it no matter the outcome. My pitch isn’t perfect and that’s OK. I’ll learn from whatever happens and I won’t die.”
On Saturday morning Rita and Annie Bomke, an agent from San Diego, co-present two workshops.
The first workshop outlines the benefits of working with an agent. The second workshop explains the process of seeking representation in writing by sending query letters and supporting documents to agents.
These workshops end at 11:05 am. My appointment with Rita is scheduled for 11:20 am. I will have a generous ten minutes with her. My pitch takes less than three minutes. I hope I’ll be able to answer any questions she may have. My hands are trembling. I have fifteen minutes to bolster my confidence. I remind myself that I will not die.
Rita puts me at ease immediately when I tell her who has recommended her to Nita and me. She likes to know how people hear about her.
I launch my pitch. She listens intently. When I finish her first words are “Thank you.” I remember that clearly. I am not sure what came next. If she had said something critical, I’d be able to recite it verbatim. However, her remarks are positive, something like this. “Thank you for a well-crafted pitch.” I can hardly believe what I am hearing.
She begins to explore my platform (marketing plan), something agents must consider with all the changes that have occurred in the publishing industry.
At some point she mentions, “Your story has a compelling narrative arc.” (structure of story: introduction rising action, climax, falling action, resolution)
Then she wants to know when the climax of my story occurred. I tell her 1999. She asks, “Why now?”
I’m so at ease with her by this time I tell her honestly, “I needed to gain maturity. I’ve been writing at it for years but not in a way I’d feel comfortable presenting to the public. As I’ve been writing in the past two or three years, I’ve come to see the strength I’ve gained through all the years of struggle.”
She says, “You’re persistent.”
She continues with a tone that says to me she means it, she’s not just being polite. “Send me a proposal but take your time. Work on developing your platform.”
I am ecstatic. My very first pitch ever in my whole life and a New York agent is showing genuine interest. This will go down in the annals as one of the highlights of my life.
I float down the stairs and head for the lunch room. “The Plot Sisters” are there and want to know how my pitch went. I bubble with excitement as I share my good news.
Christina matches my enthusiasm and says with a huge smile on her face, “We have a lot of good writers in Dayton and we support each other. We can be part of your platform.”
I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. A supportive community has always been a lifeline for me.
Now, I have my work cut out for me. As interested as Rita might be, the writing has to be good for her to actually agree to represent me. And the Master Class on Sunday (more on that in a future post) shows I still have a lot to learn about writing memoir. But as Rita pointed out, I’m persistent.
I didn’t die and no matter the outcome, I’m very proud of myself for courageously facing a fear and taking a risk. Isn’t that what LIVING is all about?