The Pitch From Hell
The Pitch from hell did not go well . . . lol well, it made me laugh anyways.
Folks I think it’s the time to tell the overly dramatized, traumatic, gut wrenching story that was the pitch from hell. To a top agent. Like a seriously, seriously, top agent.
I’ll switch their gender. I’ll use a different name. I’ll color their hair differently.
*Leans in* OR WILL I?
Okay. Okay. I’ve held you in suspense for weeks. Here we go.
The Set Up
It was a chilly day in February. I was at a conference over 900 miles away from my home, in a beautiful hotel full of strange and wonderful people. I had registered to pitch over three months before this. That means I had three months to ready myself, put my words in order, re-read my novel just enough that I was reignited with the spark that made me write the book in the first place.
Did I do anything of this? Well, that might be mistake number one.
Truth is, I was having a hard time thinking about the conference. The mere mention of the C word conjured debilitating anxiety and sleeplessness, so I did what I did best. I repressed and forgot about it.
That would be mistake number two.
It’s important to note that this conference came a month after school and my job started. Did I mention I have four bosses? FOUR. Now, I’m not an expert at this adulting thing but four seems like a lot.
Either way, I wasn’t really prepared. I told myself it didn’t matter. I had just pitched my novel to a publisher so successfully that I was still flying spiritually three months later.
He had been encouraging, and helpful. He told me how to better my book. He gave suggestions and showed a real interest. It was of little consequence that he had no idea what Urban fantasy was as a genre . . . yeah that discredits this part of the story a little bit. Still, I had done it. I had a successful pitch. I had sold myself as a credible author and was complimented on how knowledgeable I was about my own story.
Y’all know this is not a guarantee with a writer? Authors sometimes have no idea what their book is about. Well, this lil’ tidbit came into bloom when I was pacing outside the conference waiting to pitch. Not a breath in my body. Not a stable muscle in my hands. Not a prayer that this would go well.
I was in a little place called Colorado Springs which is about 6,000 feet above sea level. I, being the unfit, padded individual that I am, was having a bit of a time. A bit of time as in . . . I couldn’t walk fifty feet without losing my breath. I couldn’t talk for long periods. I ran 100 feet for an Uber and was panting for two and a half hours later. You know, the little thing called Altitude Sickness? Well, it was kicking my double wide ass.
I called my mom to practice my pitch ten minutes before going in? Could’t make it through ten seconds without panting like a dawg. Oof. Conditions were not optimal.
It should also be noted that I spent the night before awake. Until 2:30 am. At a bar. Tipsy. And with a man I found out had a fiancé just a day after he tried to come up to my hotel room. Classy man, y’all.
In any case, I was sick, sleep deprived, stressed, and hungover. Not. Good.
I stood outside the pitch, my lungs trying to suck in as much air as they could. I was singing a gospel song in my head, an act I typically only do when faced with the great fear that death is approaching. And I paced around the floor, my head snapping up every time that fateful door opened. I practiced my pitch over and over.
Until it really wasn’t a pitch anymore. It was just a string of words I had to say. That was mistake number three. Or four . . . I’m not sure, I lost count.
As I’m pacing, a man walks out looking exuberant. He’d pitched successfully. The agent wanted him to send his query letter over with the first twenty pages. He was flying.
Emboldened by this show of excitement, I lifted my chin a little higher. I had God on my side after all, how bad could it be? The agent would be NICE. She’d respond and be vocal. We’d fall into a conversation about my book and she’d see that it really was an amazing read. She’d love it just like I did, because I’m destined to be a writer and writers have to get agents to love their books. It was all going to work out. It was going to be perfect. I just had to catch my damn breath.
I turned as my name was called. The frail looking woman guided me down the hall, the rush of adrenaline failing me with each step.
Oh God, I was even more nervous walking into that room than I’d been in the waiting area. So I did what I did best. I smiled like I slept with a coat hanger in my mouth instead of the rum and coke I hadn’t managed to brush out that morning.
“Hi, Ms. Pullmer,” I said, beaming from ear to ear.
She gave a tight smile and extended her hand to the seat, “Hello.”
“Oh it’s really wonderful to meet you, are you enjoying the conference?” I said situated my paper in front of me and my bag to the side.
She stared at the paper a moment too long before responding. “It’s fine,” she said. End of sentence. End of smiling. Her face fell into a stoicism that looked like a doctor about to give terminal news.
It was Over Before It Began
She’d made her decision then. I knew it after the fact. I remember the look in her eyes right when she saw my scrawl of penmanship on that wrinkled piece of paper. Her decision had been made before the first word slipped out.
I smoothed over my paper and explained that I wanted to tell her about my book. I named my character. I said the first two lines of my pitch . . .
OH GOD THEN I BLANKED
My breath failed me in a mix of altitude sickness hell and a panic attack.
I stared at my paper, begging the words to give me my place back. I started again. And Another time. And finally on the third time I made it halfway through.
Ms. Pullmer was not having it. She flipped her black hair over her shoulder and gave an almost irritated shake.
“How long is the novel?” She asked.
I have never not wanted to answer a question more in my life than this one. “Almost 60 thousand,” I said. “But I swear my beta readers said it was a full novel. Nothing else needs to be added, it would just be fluff.”
She refused to make eyes contact as she sipped her water. “I only represent books in my range. Add 20k words and send me a query letter if you want.”
“IF you want”
GIRL JUST BITCH SLAP ME ALREADY. GET IT OVER WITH.
I stared at her, completely dumbfounded at the last three minutes of my life. “Is it over?” I asked her.
She nodded, her lips pursed in a thin line, “Yes.”
I gathered my bag and my crumpled piece of paper. I held myself together pretty much until I got to my hotel room. Then I sat on the edge of my bed, my bag still on my arm, my piece of paper in my hand. And I cried.
The Lost Dream
My dreams of being an author were just as distant as they were when I first arrived. I heard stories of people getting picked up by the top four houses. Rolling with Jim Butcher at lunch. Making life long connections. Getting job offers. Finding new customers for their books. And I had just had a disastrous meeting with a best selling agent. One who would never remember my name and, if she did, it would be out of pity.
Yeah, those ten minutes were pretty hard.
Then you know what I did?
I PICKED MYSELF THE HELL UP.
IT WAS ONE WOMAN”S OPINION YOU CRAP BUCKET, IT MATTERED LESS THAN ANYTHING ELSE THAT HAPPENED THAT WEEK.
It mattered less than that time I got hemorrhoids.
You know why? Because one person can’t make or break you. People might think they can, but they can’t. It’s you. People may cut you a break and help you along, but at the end of the day it’s you who’s writing those books.
It’s you who’s waking up before their kids do.
It’s you who’s fighting depression, time restraints, laziness, and procrastination every day.
It’s you who’s got the dream.
It’s you who has to fight for it.
And anyone, ANYONE who made you feel like you were only a success because of their influence . . . idk just kick ‘em in the crotch real hard. Doesn’t matter the gender, it’s gonna hurt.
I was due for a bad pitch. I was getting a little cocky, that’s all. The Lord was like- hey. let me humble you real quick and I was like okay. Bet. That’s great. Do it again if you need to ‘cause humble Kate is way better than haughty Kate. Trust me, my family will shout that from the rooftops.
The truth is though? I’m not worried. It was a bad pitch. I’m going to have a lot more of those, but also have a lot of good ones.
Here’s what I AM doing for my next pitch though
- Study the art of verbal story telling
- Read my novel before the pitch
- Don’t memorize words if it’s a 10-15 minute pitch. Have a conversation.
- Engage the agent. Don’t just talk at them. Ask questions …. somehow- figure out before publishing this blog? (Oops)
- Bring can of air into the pitch room in case of panic
So peeps, keep writing. And if you can’t keep writing, start reading. And if you can’t do that watch Netflix. Go to a museum. Consume art in any form, because in any form it’s inspirational.
Bye y’all, stay saucy.
XOXO - Kate