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Prepare to Pitch!

by Stephanie Casher on May 7, 2006

Wooo Hooo! I spent the weekend attending the SVARWA’s Prepare to Pitch! Conference in San Jose. Along with three tracks of seminars on everything from Plot to Marketing, each attendee was also guaranteed an 8 minute appointment with an editor or agent (we listed our top 3 preferences when we registered) and an opportunity to participate in “Speed-dating” where basically all the editors/agents are situated at tables around the room and you have 3 minutes to pitch before you have to yield the seat to the person behind you. Face time with agents and especially editors is priceless for newbies — in an industry where most people won’t look at anything “unsolicited”, this is our chance to become solicited. A very, very big deal.

There’s me with my pitch cards in my very best ‘business casual’ gear, getting ready to go down and wow some editors, lol. Since I recently got that MS request, I went into this event with my confidence pretty high. There wasn’t that anxious feeling of “my career is riding on this pitch!” But I was still super-nervous. I could NOT sleep the night before. I tossed and turned, having nightmares and waking up every hour or so to see if it was morning yet. Was up bright and early for Saturdays 8:30am start, and it was pretty much nonstop all day. Longest. Day. Ever. Brain fry doesn’t even begin to describe my mind come 9pm that night. 12 straight hours of schmooze, and if you know me, you know that’s a nearly lethal amount of socializing, lol.

The food was amazing. Just had to make sure I mentioned that because they fed us three full meals, and usually meals prepared at conferences lack in quality due to the quantity of people that need to be fed. But we had Chicken Caesar wraps and roast beef sandwiches on sourdough bread (among other things) at lunch, and tri-tip, roasted chicken AND salmon at dinner. Way better than I eat at home ya’ll. There was also assigned seating, so every meal you were at a different table, and every table had an editor, agent or keynote seated there. Super-cool. I had lunch with Anna Genoese, an editor at Tor, and got to ask her all the questions I wanted to ask during lunch. (PS: I want her job — can’t you just see me as an acquisitions editor? I can!)

My most important meeting of the day ended up being the most random, unexpected thing ever. During the Editor’s “What’s Hot!” panel on Friday night, I fell in love with one of the editors, Hilary Sares. Just my kind of woman – you know, the smart, straight-up, take no prisoners type. For example, she had the most quotable line of the evening:

Don’t bring me your manuscript and tell me it’s your Baby… Cause I’m gonna pluck that baby’s eyelashes out…

Freakin’ LOVE Her.

She was easily the most sought-after person at the conference, and of course all her appts. were full. But after my 8-min appt., I noticed she was sitting downstairs in a corner, and appeared to be meeting with folks informally. No time limits, just chatting with anyone who had the patience to wait around for the chair beside her to vacate. I jumped on the opportunity, as I would LOVE for her to be my editor. But the MS request I got just this last week was from another editor at her publishing house. Hmmmm… So I waited for my turn, sat down and pitched my dilemma to her. She was awesome. AWESOME. She wanted to hear all about my book, gave me lots of insight about what/when I could expect to hear back from this editor, and answered a lot of nagging questions I had about things like multiple submission etiquette and such. And then she closes with this:

“Tell you what, I want you to send me your manuscript cause I want to read it. Now I can’t undercut another one of my editors, so if I like it, I can’t buy it. But what I can do is walk it down to _____’s office and tell her ‘You really need to buy this book.'”

Can you F-in believe that? What kind of an editor offers to read something they can’t even profit off directly just because they want to see you succeed? An awesome one, that’s who!!! If she likes my book, she could be hugely instrumental in moving me from the bottom of the pile to the top of the pile. Cause it’s all about who you know, right? Needless to say, that meeting was the HIGHLIGHT of my whole weekend, and made the whole trip worth it. I was flying so high after that…

I ended up getting requests for not one but TWO full manuscripts at the conference, and one partial. Not bad for a day’s work, eh? I am really starting to feel like a writer now, and it is a TRIP! Pitching books, collecting business cards, meeting industry professionals — I’m so excited for the Black Writer’s Conference in Dallas this summer! This is absolutely what I’m supposed to be doing…

I can’t end this recap without giving a shout-out to my conference buddy Liz Devitt. Liz, also from Santa Cruz and a fellow Capricorn, also ROCKS. She successfully pitched a historical set in Santa Cruz in 1908, a young adult fiction book, and a proposal for a nutrition book for teens. We hooked up and she became my drinking buddy, dinner date, and pitch processing partner. So much fun! After we both successfully pitched to Hilary, we celebrated by having a drink, wandered upstairs fashionably late for dinner, managed to end up right at the front of the long-ass line for the dinner buffet (Oh the timing – LOL!), ended up too drunk for speed-dating, yet psyched each other up to pitch anyway (LOL!) and then celebrated in the bar afterwards after we both kicked ass, yet again. She was also a highlight of my weekend :-) It’s true, things really are more fun when you have someone to share it with…

When I finally got back to Santa Cruz, well after midnight, I was so exhausted I could barely make it up the stairs… Longest. Day. Ever. But I’m well rested now and ready to tackle all the tasks in front of me. I’ve got manuscripts to send out and a prequel to finish and a career to launch. It’s so exciting! Go Me!!!

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