Disclaimer: This is going to be a long post. But I'll try and make it interesting in a way only I can :)
When I registered for SFWC, I paid the extra $50 for Speed Dating. But when I showed up to the conference on Thursday, I wasn't feeling entirely sure of myself. I was seriously considering not even doing Speed Dating. My newest project is a dystopian….but not like the other dystopians out there. I was afraid that when I told the agents the genre, they'd roll their eyes and think, great, another dystopian and I'd be embarrassed. Kind of like if I were pitching a vampire book when the whole Twilight/TVD craze first started. Then I started thinking about all the people who would be asking me about Speed Dating when I got home. Hubby, my mom, Renee, Janice…the list goes on. They'd be frustrated that I didn't take the opportunity, and I'd be disappointed I took the coward's way out and didn't go through with it. So, I bit the bullet (roughly the size of a 9mm) and committed to Speed Dating.
Now the decision was, which book to pitch? WHITE CITY or my new project? Only one agent was in attendance this year who I pitched WHITE CITY to last year, so I could just pitch my new project on her. After all, I was still having my doubts about my new project, even though I loved it. And, I reasoned, I already had an agent ask for a full on WHITE CITY with an R & R, so it has to be good, right? Plus, I really love Lexi and Seth, and that story is so unique. Why not? But then doubt on that started to creep in. Is WHITE CITY strong enough to have agents ask to see more this time around? Maybe…Mabye? Maybe. Grrr! I was so frustrated.
Then I remembered I wrote my new project in 30 days. I busted my butt to have it edited and polished in 3.5 months so it would be ready to go with me to San Francisco. Why would I want to have all that effort wasted for nothing? And besides, this was its first trip into the real world, what better place to get feedback before I really start to query for it, than here? It'll be like a test market, I told myself. So, I bit the bullet again (this time a 30-06). And so, the decision was made. But a pitch had yet to be written.
For those of you who know me, you know I'm not a pushy person. I tend to be laid back and take action when necessary, but don't want to make people feel uncomfortable or be the one to inconvenience others. Sometimes this personality trait I have a bad thing and good opportunities pass me by; this last weekend, though, at the SFWC, it was to my advantage, and my carefully calculated plan of attack proved sucessful.
There were seven YA agents at the conference (names withheld to protect the innocent). I feel sorry, somewhat, for agents at conferences. Even though they know what the environment holds, something about seeing them always looking over their shoulders, preparing themselves for the pouncing of 500+ budding agents tugs on my heart strings. This is why I don't pitch to them around the hotel unless they specifically break the ice. I figure they probably appreciate one author who's not trying to sell them their book (some of you might disagree with me, and that's fine, but this is my way of doing things).
My plan of attack was this: Small talk that had nothing to do with my book.
The execution of my plan looked like this: It was Friday night, the first full day of the conference. Classes were over. My head was killing me with a nasty migraine. It was about 5 o'clock and I was waiting at the elevators to go up to my room and rest and work on the dreaded pitch (sidebar: the elevators at the Mark Hopkins suck. No two bones about it. They're slow. Down on the lower level where the gym and business centers are, I've waited up to 15 minutes with no elevator, and then end up having to take the stairs to the lobby and catch the elevator there. You'd think that for $300 a night, they'd have some faster elevators. *Whew* that was a long sidebar. Continuing…). I was waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Then, two of the seven agents I wanted to pitch came up behind me, chatting quietly (a man and a woman). We stood there, waiting. I figured this was my chance to break the ice.
Me: So, is your day over yet?
Man/Woman: Smiling Yeah.
Woman: Oh, wait, we have a dinner.
Man: We have a dinner? Nobody told me about a dinner.
Woman: Yeah, it's for the presenters and agents, or something like that. Maybe it's just drinks up at the Top of the Mark.
Man: Huh, no one said anything about a dinner.
Woman: Highly amused now. So yeah, we're done for the day except for dinner.
Me: Food doesn't count as working, though. Neither do drinks. (or something slightly more witty than that, I can't remember)
laughing. You're right, it doesn't.
At this point, I see my friend at another elevator, say goodbye to the agents and leave.
This was a good interaction. They may have been on their guard (or not) when I first turned around, but when they realized I wasn't going to pitch to them, they relaxed. A Lot. Interaction number two went like this:
Group of authors and Man agent from prior elevator interaction are waiting in the lobby for an elevator. It's been pretty close to eternity since I pressed the button. Finally, the elevator comes and we all get inside. Five-ish in all. Now, I know from an earlier experience that this agent is staying of floor 3, so I don't have much time to make small talk and be memorable.
Man: This elevator takes forever. You'd think they'd be a little faster.
Me: Tell me about it. I went running this morning and waited at the California level for about fifteen minutes and no elevator came. I finally had to go up to the lobby and catch it there. It's ridiculous.
Man: Yeah, I know. Every time I try to catch one, it always takes forever.
Me: I think it'd be faster to take the stairs, but they hide those pretty well from us.
Elevator dings, agent gets off floor. Engagement two rating: successful.
Sunday morning. We eat a plated breakfast. The agents sit on stage and tell us what they're looking for. Man says to just bring him your pitch and the first five pages. He'll read it and tell you right away if it's for him or not. Woman says same thing, query and first ten pages. How easy is that, right? I head to the business center, print out two queries, Dear Man and Dear Woman. I then print out the first 10 pages of my novel (PS – that cost me about $35, partly because the Mark is ridiculously expensive and charges you $11 just to log on to their computer and $1.64 per b & w page you print. That and the fact that Mac's are retarded, but that's an entirely different blog post).
Now, follow along, the next part may be confusing for some folks:
When I first wrote CASTE (the book I pitched this year), I started it with a scene of Karis in her house making a fire. I read it to Hubby and a few other friends and they said I needed to start it with some action. So, I did. I wrote a new opening that was roughly five pages about a memory Karis has of her neighbors being shot. Then it blended into my old opening, So, the first five pages of my ten pages I printed were comprised of the memory, the second five was the old beginning. (That came out a lot clearer just now than when I told Hubby about it last night, just so you know). I planned to pitch to Man first, so I put his query together with the first five pages. I planned on pitching to Woman second, so I put her query with the second five pages, because when I was done with Man, I'd put the his first five pages with the Woman's second five pages and we'd be good to go. Clear as mud.
Enter speed dating. I was part of the last group to go in for speed dating. Here's the con for that time slot: all the agents are tired and worn out and ready to go home. They've been there for four days, sitting for four hours, listening to countless pitches—not to mention the times they've been approached/accosted by authors outside the sessions. The pro: It's their last session. We're going to be the group that sticks in their heads the best.
You wait in line an hour or so before your appointed slot (even though the volunteers specifically tell you not to), you make friends, you get pumped, you practice your speech, you start to feel confident. Attendees that have already been through the gauntlet of Speed Dating walk by the line scattering words of wisdom. "They're really nice", "So-and-so's line is really long/short", etc. One attendee had an especially good piece of advice. "Man's (agent from earlier) line gets filled up pretty fast, go to him first if you can. Even if he doesn't like your work, he offers you advice on your query or first five pages so you can improve on it for the next agent." This, I thought, was golden. Even if Man says no, I'll still get valuable advice. Score. I planned to elbow everyone in my way so I could get to his line first.
I ended up being second in line. I heard him tell the guy in front of me, "This is good, but it's not for me. Let me suggest this…." They went over their 3 minute limit, but I wasn't worried.
Me: Hi! Hold out hand to shake.
Man: It's good to see you again (Score. Plan of Attack was 100% successful. He remembered me from two days earlier).
smiles bigger. Hands over query and first finve pages. Here you are.
Man: Reading query.
Me: I notice I accidently gave him the one that says Dear Woman but I'm not too worried because they say the same thing. Then he goes to the five pages. Crap! He's reading the last five of the first ten, not the first five! I snatch them back from him and quickly replace them with the correct five.
Wait! Those are the wrong ones.
Man: Doesn't say anything, just kind of looks weird, then starts reading the first five. Why'd you do that? The other ones were better.
Me: Really? Quickly handing back previous pages. That was my original starting and I changed it to add more action.
Reading rapidly. Flying through the pages. Yeah, these are better. Oh yeah, much better. Yeah, this is good.
Grinning like an idiot. Good to know. I'll toss the other beginning.
Man: Yeah, this is good. You know, I rep YA, all kinds; but I don't normally do dystopian, but this has a very fresh twist on it. I want to see it. Email me the full, and make sure you put in the email that you're the girl from the elevator. (Score number two, I'm elated)
Me: And with the blue hair.
Man: smiles. That's right. I didn't notice it as much today because it's up. It was down the other day.
Me: Thanks, Man. It was nice to meet you. Shakes hand. I'll email you the full.
OHMYGOSHICAN'TBELIEVEITANDITHINKI'VEFORGOTTENTOBREATHEANDISMYHEARTSTILLBEATING?ITHINKSO,YEAH,THEREITIS,IT'SSTILLBEATINGANDHEASKEDMEFORAFULLANDTHISISTHEFIRSTTIMEI'VESENTTHISNOVELOUTINTOTHEWORLDANDTHENUMBERONEAGENTTHATIWANTFROMANAMAZINGLITERARYAGENCYJUSTASKEDMEFORAFREAKINGFULL!!!!!! Then I took a breath. :) (for those of you that don't want to try and figure out what I was saying, here it is with spaces: Oh my gosh I can't believe it and I think I've forgotten to breathe and is my heart still beating? I think so, yeah, there it is, it's still beating and he asked me for a full and this is the first time I've sent this novel out into the world and the number one agent I want from an amazing literary agency JUST ASKED ME FOR A FREAKING FULL!!!!!!)
Then I went to the next agent I wanted. She was at a table with three other agents from that agency. AND THEY LOVED IT! I gave them my pitch and the two girls on the end looked at each other.
Girl 1 to Girl 2: Do you like it?
Girl 2: I really like it. You?
Girl 1: Yeah, I really like it. I want it.
Girl 2: I want it too.
Girl 3: Uh-oh, they're going to fight over it. Laughs.
Me: It'd take a Twix bar to win me over. Everyone laughs.
Girl 2: You can have it, Girl 1.
Girl 1: Great. I'd like to see more.
Me: How much more should I send you?
Girl 1: Send me the full.
Me: Great, I can do that. Then we spend the rest of the 3 minutes just chatting, which was awesome. BTW, this is the agency that Beth is signed with, so that'd be pretty cool.
Then I go to the table right next to these three ladies to pitch to Woman (from elevator with Man at very beginning of conference). I sit down and Girl 1 from table next door elbows Woman and says, "This is a really good one." (Wow, this Speed Dating is turning out to be such a good experience for me, I'm so glad I pushed myself to do it). So, I gave my pitch, and Woman loved it. She said, though, that whenever she's at conferences, she never asks for fulls, she always asks for partials to make sure she likes the writing and voice. But she did tell me that she didn't have a dystopian on her list…yet.
I went to two other agents who really liked it and asked for partials. Then I went to the last top agent on my list. She was eating a cupcake. These poor agents, they don't get to pee or eat. Their left to resort to scavenging and scarfing between rounds. I sit down, and told her to keep eating, that I wouldn't consider it rude. I gave her my pitch and she said, "That's really good. I really like that. You made me stop eating my cupcake." Then she asked me for a full.
LIFE IS GOOD, PEOPLE!
Who's to say anything will come from any of these, (who's to say that nothing will?) but man, it still feels good. My novel is well received and is grabbing some interest. This is a great start! (I'm grinning from ear to ear right now, still on cloud nine). I hope that something happens. So, let's summarize:
Two agents: Partial requested.
One agent: Wanted full, but always asks for partials at conferences.
Three agents: Wanted fulls. I made one stop eating her cupcake, made two agents fight over it, and made one--who doesn't normally rep this genre--like it so much, he asked for it anyway.
Again, life is good my friends, life is good.
PS – I noticed there were times when I changed from past to present tense. Sorry. I'm not going to go back through this insanely long post and correct it. :) I blame this error on the fact that my current book is written in first person.