Monday, March 30, 2009

Pitch Session Highlights

I thought I would break out my conference experiences into sections throughout the week. Today I'll be talking about my pitch session experience.

I had the second pitch session of the day for the agent I spoke to. I had prepared a three-sentence summary of my novel, as well as a longer synopsis, both of which fit on one single-spaced page. The synopsis took me two minutes to read out loud when I practiced it. I also had prepared six questions for the agent on a separate page, and three general information questions.

I left the seminar I was in about ten minutes before my pitch session. I had tried reviewing my summaries but couldn't concentrate, so I paced a little bit and stopped by the drinking fountain a few times. (For some reason drinking fountains - what we call "bubblers" in Madison - help clear my head. I don't know why.) Her first session ended a few minutes early, so I waited a minute or two until the guy who was pitching after me showed up, and then I went in.

And went straight into meeting mode. Hallelujah!

Our palms were dry, our handshakes about equally firm. This is always a good start. I sat down and opened my portfolio. The conversation started out a little slow on my part - I wasn't quite sure what the etiquette was. She asked me if I had a novel, and if it was complete, then what genre it was in. My answer was "paranormal, which means if I was looking for it in Barnes and Noble it would be under horror. I don't find it particularly scary, myself." I read her the short summary - not my best reading, unfortunately. Word of advice - GO SLOW. Don't try to read at normal speed.

Then came the unexpected question - something along the lines of why am I excited about writing. I asked if she meant in general or this project, and I'm assuming she said the latter, although my mind had hit "unexpected question so I'm going blank now" so I don't actually remember. What I remember answering was that with this was the first story I'd been able to stick with for this long, and the more I worked with it the more excited about the characters I got, and developed all this backstory, and that was what the next novel was going to be about. She noted that I had plans for future books, asked me the novel word count, and asked me to send the synopsis and first three chapters. Yeay! Then it was my turn for questions.

Whew. I was ready for this part.

My first question was whether they used an agency contract or if contracts were done book-by-book. (Answer, agency contract with a 3 month time frame.) Then I asked about the terms, which were the very standard 15% domestic, 20% foreign, but no charges to the authors - they do almost everything digitally, so no need for photocopying or postage fees. That also covered my third question (fees) so I then asked about whether she was looking to handle books only or short stories and/or articles as well. (Answer, just books, but if I needed advice on a contract or something she could help.) I also asked about her opinion of e-publishing (growing industry, although still has some stigma attached) and what she was looking for in an agent-author relationship (basically, someone who knew what they wanted and where they wanted to go, who was willing to listen to advice even if they decided not to follow it.)

Then, since we had a few minutes left, I asked one of my general questions, which was: If I write a short story using my own intellectual property (IP) for one publisher, can I write a different short story using the same IP for another publisher? The answer is probably not - particularly if it's using the same characters. The first publisher will probably have first right of refusal if they have published a story with those characters previously. This should be spelled out in the contract somewhere.

That's kind of what I thought, which makes me glad I had decided not to submit any short stories based off my novel. I'd love to, especially once the novel is going to be coming out, but until then I'm going to have to hold off so I don't confuse the rights. Ah well.

Tomorrow I'll talk about some of the seminars I went to.

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