Friday, July 24, 2009

Pitching an Agent in Person...Yikes!

I'll take a cue from Alan's very informative post of yesterday...Hello. I’m Galen Kindley, and yes, it takes grit to stick my picture up there. Ugh. Rather than bore you with my non-history, here’s a link to my Bio page. BUT, trust me, save yourself the trouble. Just stay here; it’s not worth the mouse click. I’m the world’s most boring person. There’s even an acronym for it: TWMPB. So, stay where you are. You’ll have more fun and discover news you can actually use. So, where the heck is Elizabeth? Captured by Mediterranean pirates? Ha. She wishes. No, turns out Elizabeth is bonded to a brutal schedule. What’s that Bob Seger line about, Deadlines and commitments? Well, she has plenty of those. But, being the trooper she is, she wants to keep her very fine blog up and running. Accordingly, she’s asked some extraordinarily talented bloggers—and one ringer--to stand in for her. Yep, you guessed it…I’m the ringer. Your lucky day. Elizabeth has a soft heart for stray dogs and the hopelessly indigent. Only way I can explain my presence. Nonetheless, I hold Elizabeth in high regard and don’t want to sully her Blog with my unkempt drivel. What to do? How to act? What to say? Naturally, I looked for an internet answer. It is, after all, today’s oracle at Delphi. I found a post at the highly respected ProBlogger about, “How to be A Good Guest Blogger.” I ignored it. Too much trouble. Back to square one. Hmmm. I can’t actually write interesting or entertaining copy, so that’s out. Desperation loomed. Then, it struck me! Since I am without principle or scruples, I looked about the internet for some quality work I could steal plagiarize, bootleg, copy present. After some digging, I came upon the very interesting post below by Shirley Kennett, the 2009 ThrillerFest Chair of the International Thriller Writers organization. Bingo! Front row seats. As my attention increasingly turns toward writing conventions, and as I’m always interested in landing an agent, Shirley’s post seemed timely. I read it. Liked it. Thought you might like it, too. Conscience did get the better of me. I actually spoke with Shirley about “presenting” her post. She graciously authorized a reprint. The article is a bit longer than I normally post, but, the content is so good, it merits the space. What I’ll do is present it in two parts. Today’s part is shorter and deals with how an agent should NOT be pitched. On Saturday, I’m hoping you’ll find your way back here for part two, the meat of the information…the correct way to do things. So, let’s take a look at how not to accomplish your mission. (Your computer screen fades to black, then returns with you standing in a semi-dark hallway, outside an office door, in a far away town, in a hotel to which you’ve never before been. You’re…gulp…waiting your turn to see an agent. You made an appointment. You’re committed. You can’t run. You can’t hide. You’re stuck. On the good side, you’re nattily dressed. You’re hair is neatly combed. You’re teeth are recently polished. Oh dear, but not the shoes. Doesn’t matter, you’re not gonna put your feet on the agent’s desk….nor your teeth, probably. You slap yourself, trying to stop the silliness pinging about your brain. The door opens. A man in tears walks dejectedly through the door. He stumbles past you without an acknowledgement. Before you can react, the sound of your name hangs loudly in the air. Robotically, you step into a small office. The agent…see mean looking person below…is seated behind a desk looking…well…mean. Glowering might describe him, and why not? He’s heard 25 worthless pitches and it’s not yet noon. You nod. Maybe he nods in return; maybe it’s your imagination. Definitely your imagination. With a sweaty palmed hand, you reach for a chair adjacent to his desk. You timidly pull it back. It scrapes annoyingly on the floor. The agent cringes. You give a half-heart smile. Your brain shouts, “Oh my God, he’s looking at my shoes!” Shirley takes you home from here... You sit down, your manuscript in your white-knuckled grip. The agent eyes your manuscript skeptically, which increases the pressure of your grip. You wait for the agent to introduce himself and ask what your book is about. There it is, the dreaded question, and it hangs in the air between the two of you. You're up. You're on stage. It's your big moment. You clear your throat, set the manuscript on the table, and get started. "Well, my book is about a man who gets involved in some nasty stuff." The agent blinks and you realize he hasn't yet taken the 600 page pile of papers, the sacrificial offering on the table. "Um, his name is Jason Wired, and at the beginning of the book his wife gets kidnapped." "Okay," the agent says. "I wrote this book because my niece's best friend knew someone who got kidnapped, so everything is authentic. When Jason tries to find out who kidnapped his wife, he gets into deep trouble." "Why didn't he go to the police?" the agent asks. You're stunned to have a question to answer, especially one that's a slightly weak point in your story. You avoid eye contact, trying to think of a good answer. "He doesn't trust the police." "Why is that?" the agent says, sitting forward. He must be sensing some meat on the bones of your story. "Uh, I don't go into that a lot in the book, but in my notes the reason is his father was a crooked cop. I …" "I'm not really interested in this type of book," the agent says. You feel an opportunity slipping away and make another try. "You don't understand. This is a great book. All my friends say so. It would be a mistake to pass it up." The agent looks beyond you at the next person waiting. "Next, please." You get up and begin to slink away, feeling the sting of personal rejection. "Excuse me," the agent says. "You forgot your manuscript." This is the nightmare version of pitching to an agent in person. Let's start changing that to a dream scenario instead. Part Two on Saturday! Okay, today was kinda for laughs. Tomorrow, we get serious and deal with how this pitching thing is properly done. For example, we’ll look at the formula: Sell your story + Sell your character + Sell yourself = Successful Pitch! Shirley breaks each part down, describing how to do each factor properly. I promise plenty of good, practical, useful information. Hey, anyone that uses a formula is seriously serious. As a bonus, there’ll be none—well, not much--of my commentary. Deal? Deal. See you tomorrow, right here on Mystery Writing is MurderIt won’t be the same without you. .