Pub Rants


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STATUS: A good day. The final contracts came by FedEx overnight and joy of joy, all pages were included. Definitely makes my job easier. However, I did just get a new contract for another project I just sold. Price to pay I guess for selling but delight, contracts are time-consuming.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? STAND BACK by Stevie Nicks (sometimes I just need my Divas)

Sample pages update: Sara and I have read and responded to all partials up to about April 3, 2006. If you haven’t received a response, hold off for a week before inquiring because I still need to evaluate a few before the response letters go out.

I was at the Silicon Valley Writers Conference this past weekend. I have to say, on the whole, I was pretty impressed with the good pitches I heard. If the writing matches the pitches, there could be some exciting reading happening soon.

On Saturday night, the conference held a speed-pitching session—kind of like speed dating (but for a professional relationship rather than personal). The writer has 3 minutes in which to pitch and make a connection with the agent. Then the bell rings and whisks the writer away to the next person.

On Sunday morning, several attendees asked me what I thought about it.

It’s a good question. I actually needed to process it a bit but here are some thoughts.

What I liked:

1. It forced participants to nail their pitch in the allotted amount of time.

I really do think this is a valuable skill. You need to be able to talk about your work in a succinct but engaging manner. Y’all know that I’ve commented on this blog before that all pitches should be in 2 minutes or under. In a regular pitch session, the remaining time would be spent in actual conversation with the agent (you asking questions, the agent asking questions or whatever).

2. Hear ‘em all in an hour rather than spending a whole morning on pitch sessions.

It’s usually clear in the first two minutes or so of a pitch whether it’s something for me. Get ‘em in, swing ‘em out. The pace worked for me. It was fun, didn’t feel as serious, yet work was getting done.

3. When a writer missed and pitched a project I didn’t rep, I just told her to scoot and head on to the next appropriate agent (and was able to point her in the right direction).

No guilt feelings! Okay, the writer messed up. Move on to the next agent who does rep mysteries (or whatever). There’s no wasted 10 minutes staring at a person I can’t help.

The downside:

1. That’s an awful lot of pitches in one hour.

I did feel a little dazed and confused by the end. I hoped that I didn’t have that glassy-eyed look for the last person. (I also made the mistake of thinking the final bell had rung; I got up to walk down to the bar—of course—and panicked two participants who were still waiting. I apologize for that).

2. Some writers still rambled the whole 3 minutes—giving a roundabout synopsis, not a pitch (and there is a difference).

I have to say that I was firm this time around. Adhering to the rules of the game, I was only going to request pages for projects that grabbed me. If I wasn’t sold in the 3 minutes, I passed on asking for sample pages. I think this might have stunned a couple of people and I know one person was particularly upset with me. Please remember, it’s not personal. There are a lot of published books at the bookstore that don’t grab me but still managed to be published. It’s just not something I was particularly interested in. It doesn’t mean the work doesn’t have value (although I still strongly encourage the writer to work on her pitch).

3. The hour passed in a blur.

I’m not sure how much of a memory I’m going to have about the writer who presented the pitch. Sometimes there is a nice recall connected to the sample pages when I sit down to read them. The pace might not be conducive to that.

In the end, does speed-pitching work? Guess I won’t know until I ask somebody to come aboard from a speed pitch. Truly, the only barometer of success.

An aside, does speed-dating actually work? I’ve been married for years so have no idea…

21 Responses

  1. Bill Peschel said:

    Never tried speed-dating, but I met my wife through the personals (pre-Internet), and I knew in a flash she was for me.

    As for whether she knew, well, you’ll have to ask her. I won’t go there.

  2. joanr16 said:

    Not that this is the typical female perspective on speed-dating or anything, but some of us prefer our solitude.

  3. Angie said:

    My aunt says that speed dating is the way to get all your dating for the year out of the way; in one evening you get to meet all the undateable stereotypes and afterward you can tell everyone that you’ve had 10 dates!

  4. reprehn said:

    Although I agree that you can easily get the gist from 3 minutes, I also like the relationship (if you can call it that) that is built with longer pitch sessions. Certainly I knew in 10 minutes that the agent I pitched to at PPWC wasn’t really right for me. And of course, it wasn’t kristin;)

  5. Laurel Amberdine said:

    Speed pitching sound fun. Three minutes is way longer than I give a book in a book store to hook me. Of course, most writers aren’t as pretty as their book covers. 😉

  6. Anonymous said:

    So not to be stupid, but here’s a stupid question [having never done speed pitching or any other kind of pitching, for that matter.]

    What IS the difference between a pitch and a synopsis?


  7. Beth said:


    How do you feel about written pitches handed to you over the table? I’m talking one short paragraph that’s articulate and gets to the point, and best of all, means the nervous writer doesn’t have to worry about mangling the pitch.

  8. kim reid said:


    I didn’t get that. What I heard: she only requested work that “really grabbed her,” and she wouldn’t know how successful speed pitching is until she signed a client as a result.

    Maybe I missed something.

  9. kim reid said:

    Also, this line sounds like she requested partials: “If the writing matches the pitches, there could be some exciting reading happening soon.”

  10. Eileen said:

    Now if they offered martinis during the speed pitch that might have livened things up. They do for the speed dating option- thus rendering some more attractive than they might otherwise be…

  11. RyanBruner said:


    I have to wonder if you could go into the difference between a pitch and a synopsis. Perhaps give a made-up example of what a pitch and a synopsis of the same project might look like. I’d be quite curious.

    Is a pitch similar to what you’d put in a query letter???

  12. Patrice Michelle said:

    I think of a pitch like a short back-of-the book summary. My understanding of pitching to agents/editors is that you should be able to sum up your story in 25 words or less. That leaves you time to ask questions and the agent to ask questions about the story. Is that the basic gist, Kristin?

  13. Kelly Parra said:

    I thought I’d jump in about the pitch vs synopsis, which I’ll probably say something wrong! (Isn’t that always the way?)

    But I had the chance to attend Kristin’s very informative e-mail query workshop she gave at the Silicon Valley con.

    A pitch is usually a one paragraph blurb–yes, what you put in your query–that sums up the concept or hook of your novel and the factor that will drive the story. One paragraph is what she prefers per her workshop. A synopsis details more of your story, such as plot/turning points, etc.

  14. Anonymous said:

    I think I was Kristin’s first client (the only one maybe?) signed as the result of a conference pitch session, and I agree with Kelly’s explanation. Even though my pitch session was ten minutes, I less than two minutes pitching the story, and the rest was spent on Q&A between us.
    As a result, I took away several ideas that I incorporated into the manuscript before sending it to Kristin. I also got a feel for her work style and personality. Get that pitch down to one paragraph, and you can use the rest of the session for some one-on-one schooling.


  15. Beth said:


    I think of a query as the whole letter (and sample pages) you send to an agent via mail.

    Anyway–doesn’t matter what you call it; I just wanted to know if it had to be verbal. [g]

  16. Anonymous said:

    I attended this conference and the speed-dating session. This was my first and the plus for me was meeting agents face-to-face. Some agents were awesome, and some were a little cold. I walked away with knowing who I’m not going to bother querying in the future and who I’m going to do everything possible to sign with. There was one agent there who read a full before, declined, but wanted to see more. Once I met her, I knew it would never work.