Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Main Event -- Willamette Writers Conference 2007

I know, it's been a week since the big conference, and the blog has been eerily silent. Well, rest assured this is a good thing. The silence comes from my feverish work in almost every spare moment (apart from a little Wii boxing for tension relief, and quality time with Amber) revising my synopsis and first fifty pages.

Yes, my pitching at the conference resulted in partial requests from each agent/editor. I'm not naming names, but suffice to say that most of the pitches were an enjoyable, if slightly nerve-wracking experience.

A couple things I learned:
  • If possible, don't take your notes. I knew the material well enough to not bring the notes, and oddly it helped me be more at ease, more conversational. No notecard in hand, less to fidget with.
  • Interacting with the "pitchee" is the whole point--if you're just going to give a stilted summary, why not just send a letter? The personal (if short) conversations after one pitch was actually the highlight of the conference for me.
  • Ask questions. Be prepared with specific questions for each agent or editor. I wasn't ready enough on this count, although I pulled a few interesting questions out at the last moment.
  • Ask more questions! I asked for clarification on a few points about what they were requesting, and I'm glad they did. One editor asked for three chapters, then said, "But we really mean about fifty pages." I mentioned this to the next agent who also asked for three chapters, and he said, "No, we just want three actual chapters." If I hadn't asked, I might have cut one short or flooded the other with almost twice what they'd really wanted.
  • Enjoy the experience. This was a unique and exciting time--I'd never had a novel ready to sell before, never met people in the industry, never had trotted my tale out to people who could actually get it published. It's easy to lose sight of this in all the worry and nerves, but as my wife kept reminding me, keep perspective on what this is--a great chance to sell face to face that you won't have too often.
  • Materials--although you probably won't have to hand out copies during the pitch, have the following together:
    • Query Letter--better now than when you're pressed to put a cover letter on your partial.
    • Synopsis--I got requests for a shorter synopsis, about two pages. Thankfully, I'd already drafted one that could be pared down, or I would have been even more slammed this week.
    • 50 pages--like I said, I got requests for three chapter (~30 pages for me), and for 50-75 pages. Glad I had 50 together already.
The pitches were the highlight for me, but there were also some good sessions. I especially enjoyed Larry Brooks with his "Voice" and "Breaking in/Breaking Out" talks. Great information, and he's a really engaging speaker. Also, Liz Gorinsky doled out some excellent sci-fi specifics, along with links to some fantastic web resources.

All in all, I'm glad I went. Now to get those partials in the mail!

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