Thursday, May 20, 2010

You, Too, Can Win Friends and Influence People

Special Announcement- Interview with author of The Mark, M.R. Bunderson, next Wednesday. We're going to talk about how she chose her publisher, if authors have a responsibility for how they portray romance (lots of that in the blogosphere, (e.g. Kiersten White) this week.) and more!

I now feel qualified to write about pitches since I have now done one. Wait, I mean, I am just barely not unqualified and such a newbie at this, but I have some experiences/thoughts to share.

I am one of those writers who writes because I am not the world's most gifted gabber. I stumble. I am bad at a party. At meeting people. At thinking of approriate questions to ask people. But if you want to talk to me about a Big Idea, I have a million things to say.

Take this info and put me in a writer's conference meet-n-greet. It took me a few minutes, but I got used to talking to the other authors. Tip- Just ask, "What do you write? Tell me about your book," and you're set!

Once I listen to someone else talk for a while, then I'm a little more comfortable and can give a semi-intelligent description of my book. Except I couldn't talk in a coherent manner at the meet-n-greet, probably because I was short on sleep and a bit (haha!) nervous about my pitch. I was surprised none of their brains fell out trying to follow my practice pitches.

Enter Mr. Agent, standing alone. I decided to just get over myself and meet him. Actual simulated transcript of our conversation:

Me: Oh, snakes. What do I say?  Uh, hi. I'm Kelly Bryson. I have a pitch with you tomorrow. Do Not Giggle. Don't do it!

Mr. Agent: *nods*

Me: Uhhhh, Uhhhh, Uhhhh. Uhhhh. Wow. My mind just went blank. Did I just say that? Oh, man, say something smart, quick. How do you like Atlanta?

Mr. Agent: Well, I've only been to the airport and here. *glances out the window where we can see the planes landing, maybe 300 yards away.*

Me: Riiiight. So, where do you live?

Mr. Agent: New York. I can walk to most of the major publishers in less than 5 minutes. *said with excitment, like he can't believe his good fortune, not in a snotty way at all.*

Me: That's great. We went to New York once... *proceed to tell really brief yet non-scintillating tale of our 20 hour visit to NY*

Mr. Agent: Umm, I think I hear someone calling me, excuse me... (Not his words. My extrapolation based on deepest fears. He didn't say much at this point.)

Okay, we also talked about some books he listed as favorites that I also love, and briefly about him running marathons, but I considered this conversation a DISASTER. I lay in bed that night thinking. I don't think I can do this anymore. Maybe writing is not for me.

So here's how The Pitch went. For those of you who don't like thrillers, it had a happy ending.

Me: You're not going to bite are you?

Mr. Agent: Haha. *not very amused. Not grim either, just waiting.*

Me: So, did you get a run in today?

Mr. Agent: Oh, yeah, I did. But the treadmill wouldn't go fast enough.

Me: Holy crap. He's fast! Wow, you must be really good.

Mr. Agent: Oh, no. It only goes up to four and a half miles an hour.

Me: Haha. Are we done with small talk? Can I move on? Yes, he's ready to move on. So, are you familiar with the mythology of Lilith? He's nodding, good. In my book, Lilith is still living in the Garden of Eden, stealing girls out of the modern world and raising them as her own children. She erases their memories of their pasts for two reasons: one, to protect them from the abuse they suffered and two, so that they will be pure enough to nurture the emotionally sensitive geroth trees, whose fruit gives them eternal life. He's nodding. Okay, just don't screw this up. But the brainwashing and mind control... Dang. I only meant to say one or the other there. Oh well... don't last forever.

Eventually, the girls know that they will remember their pasts. When they do, Mother forces them into an eternal Sleep, since they can't die anymore and can't stand to live with their perfect recall of the past. Mother takes the bodies and dumps them back in the modern world and steals a new child, and the cycle continues. Lara, my main character, is tired of losing her sisters, and travels through a portal in the caves to the modern world, where she hopes to discover a way to truly heal her sisters. He's engaged, got eye contact, nodding along, all good. In this world, the FBI realizes that something is going on because...

Mr. Agent: The kidnappings.

Me: And the bodies that Mother is dumping. He nods, as if to say of course, the BODIES. The FBI agent assigned to interrogate her, agent David Hatton, is an expert in nonverbal communication. He realizes that the suspicion and hostility of the other agents are physically harmful to Lara and that she is incredibly sensitive to emotions. So, to both protect her and to gain her trust, he "rescues" her from the field office and takes her to a secluded area. They end up falling in love and Lara has to choose between the worlds, between staying with the man she loves but who has betrayed her, or to return to the garden and the safety that Mother offers.

Mr. Agent: That's great, but you lost the conflict with Mother.

Me: Wow. He was really following my story. No, no, it's in there. That's the big climax.

Mr. Agent: Do you have a writing sample?

Me: Y-y-y-y-es. Stares out window while Mr. Agent reads the first few pages. Way worse than getting a shot. I always look when I'm getting a shot, but I couldn't watch this. 

Mr. Agent: Why don't you mail me 50 pages? Hands me his card.  

*Thump* (That's me, hitting the floor.)

So, that's pretty much it. I did ask a follow-up question and then I high-tailed it out of there before he could change his mind.

The next few minutes are really hazy, but I made it downstairs to where my hubby waited in the hotel lobby. After he realized I was serious, his question: Can you buy me a car?

Hmmm. I'm not sure if he understands how lengthy this process can be!

So, even socially awkward people can get up there and explain their book and get good results. And I didn't turn red, so that was a bonus. I hope you don't freak out like I did before, but it can be done!


  1. At least you didn't blurt the story of how you ended up in the 51st street police precinct on your first trip to New York. True story. She thought I was crazy.

  2. Haha. I love it, Karen. I think it's a fight-or-flight response. Less oxygen going to the brain bc you're preparing to run;)

  3. Way to step outside your comfort zone, Kelly. My mom stepped outside her comfort zone the other day - and landed me an invitation to submit a manuscript to a Shadow Mountain editor!

  4. Thanks Krista- all in all, a very good experience. And what a great Mom. Is she looking for other authors to promote? LOL

  5. What a great story! Thanks for sharing your interview and so much about your novel. It sounds like something I'd like to read.

    And aren't husbands funny? ;o)

  6. Thanks Myrna! I'd love for everybody to read it;) It's kind of embarrassing, but I wanted to say if I can have a successful pitch, then anybody can.

    And husbands are very funny. I don't think I would need him to come to subsequent conferences, but I didn't want to drive 3 hours home alone, regardless of if the pitch had gone well or poorly. And I go to his triathlons, so he owes me. LOL

  7. Way to go! And congrats on getting a partial! I hope it goes somewhere for you!!

  8. Good for you for speaking up! I would have run to the bathroom!

  9. Kelly- What an amazing story concept-very creative and intriguing! I can see why the agent asked for the first 50 pages. I really hope good things keep coming out of this. And your scene with the small talk & pitch - you handled it better than I would have. I am terrible at that stuff.

  10. Elana- Thanks! I hope one day to have news like yours! Congrats on your deal!

    Lydia- I ocnsidered it;)

    StephD- Thanks! *blushing* I'm jus trying not to ruin the great idea with the writing. Haha!

  11. You are really taking the bull by the horns missy. Love it!